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Global and Domestic Travel

Updated 5/11/2020

University-Related Travel

In the current climate and growing concerns related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), there has been an increase in the need to cancel or reschedule travel internationally and domestically.  Many conference organizations are taking precautionary measures and canceling conferences within the United States.  In addition, many travelers are not comfortable traveling during this time. 

Below are guidelines we have developed for faculty and staff related to travel if you are a traveler or the proxy for a traveler needing to cancel or reschedule travel.

1. Is university-sponsored domestic or international travel permitted at this time?

No. On March 15, 2020, Northwestern announced that “[E]ffective immediately and until further notice, we are also prohibiting all University-related travel without exception. This includes both outbound domestic and international travel.” On April 23, Northwestern announced an expansion of its restriction on University-sponsored international travel—for graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff—through July 12. Furthermore, University-sponsored student international travel—for both graduate and undergraduate students—is prohibited through August 2020.

As a result, no University-sponsored domestic or international travel scheduled before July 13 should be planned, booked or paid for by students, faculty or staff. (Updated 5/11/20)

2. Can I make travel plans for the summer or the fall?

Beyond the recent cancellation of all Global Learning (undergraduate study abroad) summer programs, both affiliated and un-affiliated, the University announced a prohibition on other types of University-sponsored international travel on April 23. This prohibition on University-sponsored international travel extends through at least July 12 for faculty and staff, and until August 2020 for students. For faculty and staff considering travel scheduled for after July 12, we do not encourage making any financial commitments at this time.

Staff wanting to plan summer or fall travel should confer with their supervisors. Undergraduate and graduate students wanting to plan fall travel should confer with the appropriate faculty member, department chair, unit director, advisers and the Global Learning Office to establish a timeline for decision-making that aligns with University directives. Deans are responsible for ensuring that their students are aware of these restrictions, and department heads and chairs are responsible for ensuring that their faculty, researchers and labs are made aware of and adhere to these restrictions and expectations.

For planning purposes, it also makes sense to track border closures and restrictions as external factors are most likely to impact any future travel plans. While this information changes rapidly, a good place to start is the destination country’s embassy website and by checking these resources:

(Updated 4/23/20)

3. What should I do if a conference I was scheduled to attend is cancelled?

  • Contact the conference organization and request instructions for how to obtain a refund of your conference fees.
  • If you have purchased a flight and/or booked a hotel room, contact the travel agency or provider that you booked through. The travel agency or provider will assist you with the cancellation of your flight and/or hotel arrangements.  Minimizing the cost should be the goal.

    The travel agency or provider will advise if the airline has adopted a flex travel policy and be able to confirm the amount of your refund.  Note that the flex policy may not support all charges associated with canceling your travel so there may be cost associated with the request.
    • If you want to confirm if the airline you booked has adopted the flex travel policy, you can visit Northwestern's Travel Program website. Once on the page, find the appropriate airline, click on the link and review the airlines policy.
    • Please visit the Northwestern Travel Agencies page to review the contact information for Northwestern University’s preferred travel partners which are Egencia, Travel 100 Group, and Intra World. They will do whatever they can to facilitate changes to or cancellation of travel plans in the most cost effective way (airline waivers, etc.).

      If your itinerary isn’t eligible for a refund, the airline may provide you with a credit in the amount of the existing booking to be used within one year of the original booking date.

4. Will the University cover any costs associated with canceling or changing travel plans?

Every effort should be made to minimize the costs associated with canceling or changing travel plans.  Any costs that cannot be avoided will be covered by the University if it is for official business. Reimbursements will be made for expenses according to the travel and entertainment policy.

At this time, schools and units are expected to absorb unanticipated expenses within their existing operating budgets. Departments should work with their Dean’s Offices to discuss any additional funds that may be available, or any school-wide policies that are being put in place to address concerns connected to the virus.

In additional, all Dean’s Offices are able to leverage the Resource Planning Process to request additional support for significant operating expense increases through the Resource Planning Process.  If a Dean’s office deems it necessary, they can submit an urgent request to Budget and Planning.

Students that paid personally for Northwestern affiliated travel who receive credit for canceled travel will not be reimbursed by the University. (Updated 5/11/20)

5. How do I cancel non-conference travel arrangements?

If you have purchased a flight and/or booked a hotel room, contact the travel agency or provider that you booked through. The travel agency or provider will assist you with the cancellation of your flight and/or hotel arrangements.  Minimizing the cost should be the goal.

The travel agency or provider will advise if the airline has adopted a flex travel policy and be able to confirm the amount of your refund.  Note that the flex policy may not support all charges associated with canceling your travel so there may be cost associated with the request.

  • If you want to confirm if the airline you booked has adopted the flex travel policy, you can visit Northwestern's Travel Program website. Once on the page, find the appropriate airline, click on the link and review the airlines policy.
  • Please visit the Northwestern Travel Agencies page to review the contact information for Northwestern University’s preferred travel partners which are Egencia, Travel 100 Group, and Intra World. They will do whatever they can to facilitate changes to or cancellation of travel plans in the most cost effective way (airline waivers, etc.). 

If your itinerary isn’t eligible for a refund, the airline may provide you with a credit in the amount of the existing booking to be used within one year of the original booking date. 

6. Should I purchase trip insurance when planning travel in the future?

Trip insurance is not allowed from a policy perspective, and most insurance includes an exclusion for pandemic related incidents anyway.

7. If I booked my travel through one of Northwestern’s three contracted agencies (Egencia, Intra World Travel or Travel 100 Group) and cannot successfully negotiate a cancellation or change, who can I contact if I need assistance?

You can contact Procurement and Payment Services at 847-491-8120 or procurement@northwestern.edu.

International Health Insurance

8. I am abroad right now and have purchased Northwestern’s GeoBlue student health insurance. Does it cover me if I get sick?

Yes, if you purchased Northwestern’s GeoBlue for Students health insurance, you are covered for your medical expenses abroad including physician office visits, medications and hospitalizations. Plus, there is a new remote service called Global TeleMD can connect students with a medical doctor by phone or video call for a same day medical consultation. Read Remote Care Services for details on how to use this service for no additional charge.

GeoBlue does not provide evacuation coverage for students who simply wish to return home earlier than planned.

If you had GeoBlue and returned home unexpectedly, seek domestic coverage right away. If you have immediate medical expenses before your domestic plan begins, contact globalsafety@northwestern.edu to discuss options.

9. I am an employee on University business covered by Northwestern’s GeoBlue health insurance. Does it cover me if I get sick?

Yes, you are covered for your medical expenses abroad including physician office visits, medications and hospitalizations. Read more about the policy and complete a one-time registration at GeoBlue for Employees. Pre-registration will expedite claims and services during travel.

GeoBlue does not provide evacuation coverage for employees who simply wish to return home earlier than planned. If you had GeoBlue and returned home unexpectedly, seek domestic coverage right away.

10. I purchased Northwestern’s GeoBlue for Students and then my trip abroad was canceled or shortened. Can I get a refund?

Students who need to cancel or shorten their GeoBlue coverage in light of cancelled travel related to the spread of COVID-19 should email enrollment@geo-blue.com with the following information:

  • Name and date of birth
  • A sentence stating you are a Northwestern student
  • GeoBlue certificate number
  • Reason for cancellation
  • If requesting a partial refund, please include proof of return home travel (such as a copy or screen shot of your new flight itinerary)

Copy globalsafety@northwestern.edu on your cancellation email so they know that the university approves of the cancellation. (Updated 5/11/20)

11. I have unrecoverable travel costs associated with my canceled or shortened trip abroad. How do I get my money back?

Many airlines are providing flexibility with regard to travel costs, so call the airline first. If an airline requires proof of cancellation, a University message may be appropriate. For example, staff or faculty that have to cancel summer business-related flights can provide as reference the April 23, 2020 message, “Summer Programs and Activities Will Be Remote.” (Updated 5/11/20)

Campus Shuttles

12. What is the current campus shuttle schedule?

Visit Transportation & Parking's service updates page for shuttle schedule changes.