About a year ago, Sarah Sanzari and a group of five friends decided they wanted to take a trip abroad together. Given different work schedules and priorities, hammering out the logistics proved to be complicated. But last May, the six women, who are all in their 30s, hunkered down in Sanzari's Upper East Side apartment for a planning session. They worked out the details and settled on a 10-day trip to Japan, a country all of them had had on their travel wish list for a long time because of their interest in the culture and the food. They booked their flights to Tokyo for March 26th, 2020.

"We’ve really been looking forward to it for a long time," Sanzari told Gothamist.

It's now unclear if they'll go through with it. Since the coronavirus outbreak, the friends have been furiously texting one another. "We’re a little bit divided," she said. "Some of us are more nervous than others."

The coronavirus has become an unexpected wild card that is forcing many travelers to rethink or cancel their plans and wreaking havoc on the travel industry. The contagion, which originated in China and has now infected more than 83,000 and resulted in at least 2,858 deaths, has spread to countries in every continent except for Antartica. A recent surge of cases in South Korea, Italy and Iran have troubled World Health Organization experts about a possible pandemic.

Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness, said that in recent weeks friends and family members have been calling and texting him with their travel dilemmas. Like other health experts, he is advising people to stay current on the news and to consult official health authorities' websites.

"It's a very fluid and dynamic situation," he said, adding, "Your doctor is not in all that much better a position to advise you."

With that in mind, here are some guidelines and factors to consider.

Check the list of travel advisories the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued.

People traveling from the U.S. should first consult the CDC's coronavirus website for travelers. Since January, the CDC has recommended that Americans avoid all nonessential travel to China. On Monday, the agency added South Korea to that list as well. The CDC recently identified Iran, Italy and Japan as countries where older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel.

The CDC has warned those going to Hong Kong to avoid contact with sick people and to practice precautions such as washing their hands frequently for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

The agency is currently monitoring the situation in three other Asian countries—Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand—where there have been cases of coronavirus but not sustained or widespread enough to meet the criteria for a travel advisory.

Given the evolving nature of the outbreak, travelers should check the CDC's website frequently for changes in its travel guidance. Sanzari said that she and her friends were waiting to see if the CDC raises their level of warning for Japan to advising against nonessential travel for all Americans. In that case, she said, they would abandon their trip.

An equally difficult quandary is facing people who have booked trips to countries not currently on the CDC's watch list but which are likely to see some spread of disease.

Dan Chen, a risk manager who works at an investment bank in Manhattan, said he had booked a nine-day family vacation to London during the official spring break week in April. "My kids are very into Harry Potter so this is an ideal location," he said, adding, "This is trip we’ve been looking forward to. I really want to visit London. I’ve never been there before."

There are currently 19 confirmed cases in the United Kingdom, albeit all from people infected abroad. Chen said he planned to cancel their trip should the cases "multiply exponentially" over the next month. He has not checked with the airlines but he confessed he is prepared to lose money on the flights. In the end, he said the safety of his family was more important.

Find out if the museums or other sightseeing locations you want to visit are still open.

The viral outbreak has forced the temporary closure of festivals, concerts and cultural institutions. Due to the outbreak in northern Italy, several popular sightseeing destinations in Milan have shuttered, including the Fondazione Prada, La Scala opera house, and the Duomo di Milano. The Venice Carnival ended two days early, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection said it would close until March 1.

In Japan, where schools will be closed for a month, many museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, others in Nara, Kyoto and Fukuoka are all off-limits for the time being. The Japan National Tourism Organization has a 24-hour hotline for tourists to address any questions, including those concerning the coronavirus. (For those calling from overseas, the number is +81 50 3816 2787.)

Similarly, South Korea's culture ministry on Monday announced the temporary closure of 24 national museums and libraries, including the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, and the National Museum of Korea. On Thursday, the massively popular K-pop group BTS canceled four concerts that had been slated in April at Seoul’s Jamsil Olympic Stadium.

One Gothamist reader named Jack said he and his fiancée were planning a trip to South Korea in May to celebrate their engagement. "We’re sort of playing it by ear," he said. They had already canceled one leg of the trip in hopes of changing the date, and are now monitoring the news carefully. If there are still widespread closure of museums by the time they go, that might be the tipping point.

"If we do end up going, we’re talking about thousands of dollars each, and if you can’t do the things you want to do, it makes it less compelling," he said.

'I don't want to end up like those people in Japan': If you are headed to a region where there have been outbreaks, consider the risk of being quarantined.

For now, the CDC has been screening all passengers from China at the airports. Those who are not showing any symptoms but who have visited Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, have been asked to undertake a 14-day self-quarantine.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has called on the CDC to expand its screening to include other countries that have significant cases like South Korea, Japan, Italy, and Iran. While it's not clear yet whether the agency will broaden its containment approach, the federal government has vast powers when it comes to quarantining anyone “reasonably believed” to have been exposed to an infectious disease. The 40 Americans rescued from the infected Diamond Princess cruise ship were forced into a two-week quarantine.

As with the Diamond Princess case, there is also the possibility of being held in lockdown while on vacation, which is what happened to some 700-plus guests recently who were staying a hotel in Spain's Canary Islands that saw four positive cases of coronavirus. One British tourist described the experience to the Guardian as "the holiday from hell." On Thursday, the third day of the quarantine, some 100 Tenerife hotel guests were cleared to leave.

Stories like that of the Diamond Princess, which one passenger described as a "petri dish," have made cruise travelers especially jittery. Brian Sanchez, a 27-year-old city worker who said he saved for months to book a cruise to Bermuda on Norwegian Cruise Line, said he is worried about the worst case scenario. The ship is set to sail from New York City in early April. By then, he worries that the city may have confirmed coronavirus cases.

"Once [the virus] touches down in New York City, I don't know who will be on that boat," he said. "I don't want to end up like those people in Japan."

Airlines are cutting flights to destinations and some are providing travelers with refunds or fee waivers for postponements.

A year ago, Paul, a Park Slope resident, planned a trip to Bhutan with his wife. The couple recently decided to cancel the trip because there was a layover in Taiwan and his company was requiring employees visiting the region to self-quarantine themselves in light of the coronavirus epidemic. He decided he would rather not deal with the inconvenience.

"It’s a big disappointment," he said. "It was something I wanted to do for ages."

Still, he was pleasantly surprised when he recently began canceling the different legs of the trip on China Airlines and found out they were eligible for a partial refund of $400 per person on one of the flights.

Several major airlines have cut back flights to China, but now carriers are also reducing service to other countries affected by outbreaks. According to Business Insider, 44 airlines have canceled flights to places beyond China.

Delta Airlines on Wednesday said it would suspend some flights to South Korea between February 29 through April 30. Customers have the option to request a refund or move their flights to after April 30.

Delta, American and United are also allowing customers to waive change or cancellation fees for reservations to China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Northern Italy. The list of qualifying conditions vary, however, so be sure to read the fine print or contact the airline.

Jet Blue on Wednesday announced that it would suspend change and cancel fees for new flight bookings beginning on February 27th through March 11th, 2020, for travel completed by June 1, 2020.

In terms of hotels, several chains have canceled change fees up for stays in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

You can buy travel insurance, but only the most costly versions will cover coronavirus cancellations.

People should be aware that standard travel insurance does not cover cancellations due to virus outbreaks. The same goes for travel protection offered under premium credit cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express. Most of these coverage plans will only allow for emergency cancellations due to bodily injury, sickness, severe weather, terrorism and jury duty or a court subpoena.

However, travel insurance can cover you for disruptions like quarantine periods while you are on your trip.

There are "cancel for any reason" policies, but they can cost more than 12 percent of your total trip expenses, according to The Points Guy, a travel advice website. Even then, such plans usually have to be purchased within a set number of days after paying for your trip. And residents of New York State are not eligible to purchase "cancel for any reason" insurance, due to New York Department of Financial services regulations.

In the end, it all boils down to your appetite for risk.

As with the degree of precautions to take with the coronavirus outbreak such as taking the subway, health experts say that the decisions are often subjective and depend on each individual's risk tolerance.

Redlener said that in light of the large outbreaks, he did not think people should go to China, and "probably not" Japan and parts of Italy right now.

Recently, a friend asked him what he thought about a weekend trip to Paris. As of Friday, France has 38 recorded cases and two fatalities.

"I personally would go to Paris," he reflected.