What to Do if You’re Stranded During Coronavirus

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Who knows how you got here.

Maybe your car broke down 500 miles from home, and all the local mechanic shops are closed. Maybe you were traveling to visit your brother, and his city went into lockdown when you were halfway there. Or maybe like Jared Leto, you just emerged from a 12-day meditation retreat to hear about this COVID-19 thing for the first time. 

In all seriousness, getting stranded is scary during these turbulent times. You’re in an unfamiliar place, far away from loved ones. There may be flights available in your area, but traveling by plane may not be your preferred option given the current coronavirus climate. At Wanderu we empathize with tough situations like this, and want to do everything we can to help. 

If you’re stuck some place and aren’t sure how to get home, here’s a rough guide for what to do next. 

1. Don’t Panic

Look, we wouldn’t blame you if the present situation provoked a sort of paralysis. These circumstances are new and largely unknown, and will naturally create anxiety. What you need to do is turn that anxiety into action. 

The first step is to achieve some clarity of mind. We recommend a free meditation on YouTube, or with an app like Headspace. Keep it short — 15 to 30 minutes — just enough to get centered so you can tackle the problem at hand.

2. Know That Buses and Trains Are Still Running

Yes, some have reduced service, but most of our carrier partners — from Greyhound to Amtrak and Megabus — are still braving the roads and rails to carry you home. (For an up-to-date list of travel alerts, visit our COVID-19 blog post.) You can search on Wanderu to see what’s available from wherever you’re at. 

Perhaps you’re concerned about cleanliness, and rightly so — riding a packed bus doesn’t exactly qualify as social distancing. That’s why many carriers are taking extra precautions to ensure your health and safety, from thoroughly sanitizing the vehicle’s interior after every ride to keeping empty seats between passengers. You can learn more about the cleanliness measures being taken here

3. Request a Rideshare

It’s possible you’re in a place that doesn’t actually have any bus or train service available, so it’s time for an alternative plan.

You should be aware that Lyft and Uber are still operating in most locales with increased scrutiny on drivers keeping their cars sanitized, although both have suspended their carpooling options. Taking a rideshare all the way to your destination is probably unrealistic because of how much it would cost, but you should do some searching on Wanderu to see if there is a city nearby that has bus or train service.

By combining forms of ground travel, you can get home without wiping out your bank account.  

4. Consider a Rental Car

You can do something similar with a rental car, though you should know that most rental car companies charge extra money for you to drop their vehicle off in a different city. Whether you are commuting to the closest city with bus and train service or decide to drive all the way home, see if you can negotiate some kind of waiver or discount with the rental company before signing any paperwork. 

Given the current coronavirus conditions, many companies are amending their typical policies to help people out, so there’s a chance you can broker a deal with a sympathetic manager in some way that saves you at least a little bit of cash.

5. Put a Plea on Social Media

Yes, Facebook and Instagram are typically where you portray a fictionalized version of your life, designed to provoke FOMO. But dire times call for dire measures, and now more than ever we must come together as a community, even if it’s just digitally. 

If you’re marooned in the middle-of-nowhere, post something on your social accounts detailing the situation and asking for help. Maybe someone in your network — say, that friend from fifth grade you haven’t talked to in 15 years — has family nearby that would be willing to drive you somewhere. Maybe your cousin’s mother-in-law has a rental property in the area where you can crash for a bit. Lots of people are looking for ways to help right now, so put your problem out into the universe and see what comes back. 

6. Find a Cheap Hotel or Homeshare

If all else fails, it may be time to hunker down where you’re at for a while.

Is this ideal? Of course not, but if travel isn’t available then you might not have a choice. Luckily, prices for hotels, and homeshares like Airbnb and Vrbo are super low right now since people are avoiding non-essential travel. If you get to the point where staying put is your best option, here are a few questions to ask before booking:

  • How is the hotel or homeshare host cleaning during coronavirus? If you’re looking at a hotel, there’s no harm in calling the front desk in advance to ask what sort of measures are being taken. Platforms like Airbnb also allow you to message the host before you make a formal reservation. 
  • Is the hotel or homeshare near a grocery store? Doing Doordash for every meal is gonna add up quickly, so see if there’s a supermarket nearby where you can snag supplies.
  • Does the room have a refrigerator? You’ll need a place to put your perishables, unless you’re intending to have Cup Noodles for every meal. (Hey, we don’t judge.) Even a small mini-fridge will widen your available food options.
  • How’s the Wi-Fi? Most hotels and homeshares have working Wi-Fi as a requisite these days, but if you’re stuck working remotely or plan to FaceTime family and friends, a reliable connection is a must. Take a look at prior reviews to see if anyone has mentioned connectivity issues in the past, or if you prefer, add this to your list of pre-booking questions. 

We’re living through an unusual, unsettling moment in modern history. It’s more important than ever that we have compassion for each other, thinking about both those who are most vulnerable to the epidemic, those affected by the economic impact, and all the rest of us who are just trying to stay sane. If you need additional assistance with your travel plans, we encourage you to reach out to our customer service team by clicking the word bubble in the bottom right-hand corner of the Wanderu Help Center, or by messaging us directly on Twitter or Facebook.

Are you stranded internationally? If so, there are additional matters to consider like cross-border travel bans and potential quarantines. To learn more about what to do in such a situation, check out this article on “What to Do if You’re Stranded Abroad When Crisis Strikes.”

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About the author
Tyler Moss

Tyler Moss

Tyler Moss has danced on tables at Oktoberfest and petted alpacas in the Andes. He prefers to eat at restaurants where the menu is in a language he can’t understand, and likes bars where the lighting is dim and the drafts are cheap. His writing has been published by Condé Nast Traveler, The Atlantic, New York, Outside, Atlas Obscura, Playboy and other fine venues.