The world seems a bit off-balance lately, with natural disasters hitting many parts of the world (and socio-political ones hitting elsewhere).  The question that seems to be hanging in the balance: what do you do if you’ve got travel plans to a place that has been hit with a natural disaster?

There’s no black and white answer – but here are some questions you should consider that may help you in deciding where to go ahead with plans, change your travel dates, or cancel your plans altogether.

Priority number one is to get information from the most direct sources.  The newspaper and television are NOT direct sources – their headlines are designed to sell, not necessarily to inform.  So here are the places you should be visiting instead:

  • airline websites
  • tour operator or package provider (like Sunshine)
  • UK in-country website/Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • country tourism board website

By checking in with the people who are actually supplying/supporting your travel, you can get clear, direct advice on what you should or shouldn’t do.  This was similar advice to what I shared when trying to decide if a destination is safe.  Getting information from direct sources (and getting multiple perspectives) will certainly  help you make the most educated decision.

Second is to not freak out. A lot of people tend to panic and cancel all of their plans, regardless for the reality of the situation.  But as you may know, many countries rely heavily on tourism for their income, and will want to be back in business as quickly as possible.  If your only income was from travellers, wouldn’t you want to welcome them back ASAP?

The opposite end of this spectrum is, of course, showing up when the infrastructure and facilities aren’t ready. This is where priority number one (see above) comes into play, but it’s also useful to remind yourself here to be specific about your travel plans.  For example, the recent earthquake in New Zealand hit on the south island, and the country’s tourism board has been pushing hard to remind travellers that many other areas of the country are perfectly fine.  I also have friends in parts of Japan which were a little upset but are still welcoming visitors.  So, it’s important to check the specifics about your itinerary.

Lastly, be sure to check out your options thoroughly before making a decision.  Travel policies vary widely, but in most cases, you’ll see on your reservations that “acts of God” are not covered and thus if you decide to cancel your plans, you’ll be out of pocket.  Now, before you freak out (see previous), many airlines and tour operators are allowing you to postpone your plans penalty free in light of the seriousness of these events.  So get all of that information together first before deciding – most suppliers have this information up on their websites.

Share below in the comments: how do you decide whether to go or stay home?

Photo by Alex-S

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Posted : Monday, April 11th, 2011 at 11:10
Category : Holiday Tips
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