When nature changes your vacation plans…

Last weekend I was in Seattle for the wedding of one of my closest friends. While I was there, 2 of the days were bad air days and for a person who fights allergies and asthma my outdoor activity options quickly changed into non-options. I was bummed, but it definitely did not change the course of my trip, just a few option.

On Tuesday morning while at work I began to feel like the “vacation destroyer”! A typical conversation went something like this:

Where are you heading?.. oh Montana and Glacier National Park?.. are you aware that much of Glacier is closed because of fires, including about 20 miles of the Going to the Sun Highway?… oh you were not aware, yes I have time to help you look at some options. Yes, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park are still open and lodging will be tough, but not impossible. No there is no way to predict when the road will be open and the fire contained.

Also on Tuesday I had several former colleagues take off to Hawaii for a regional meeting, only to land and be met with Hurricane Warnings! As I type this, Hurricane Lane is on its way to Oahu, changing several of their travel plans!

It truly has been a few days of reminding all of us that there are still many things we do not have control over! Acts of nature and people being two of them. Many of these people had been planning their trips for close to a year, only to get there and find out Mother Nature had others plans. Its scary, frustrating, and can be overwhelming.

So what do you do when Acts of Nature re-direct your plans? Here are a few suggestions.

  1. When booking your trip, be aware of weather patterns for that area. For example often later in July and August forest fires are fairly common out west. Hurricane season typically runs from June 1st to November 30th. While these dates should not discourage you from traveling at that time, it just means you might need to have a Plan B ready should you need it.
  2. Be aware of cancelation polices. In the event of an actual hurricane or act of nature, many resorts and airlines will work with you to rebook to a later date or switch itineraries. The last thing they want is for you to be stranded, or even to put extra stress on the communities who are not only preparing themselves for the natural disaster, but are now having to accommodate guests. All of the resorts have plans in place for evacuations, shelters and food, so if you find yourself there, be patient with the staff and follow their directions. Remember they are dealing with the same situation you are, and most of them are taking care of you, away from their families. Also just be mindful that a warning does not necessarily constitute a need for a rebooking as storms/fire are unpredictable.
  3. Ride out the storm. If you find yourself on vacation and a act of nature strikes, your best option maybe to just ride out the storm. Hurricanes, Tropical Storms and even fires are not always predictable and may change course at a moments notice. In high tourist areas, there are only so many flights available to get out ahead of the storm, and chances are most of them were full before the storm warning. While it is a scary situation to find yourself in, please be patient with the airlines and resort staff as they try to accommodate everyone. Take a breath and start thinking logically, such as there are only so many planes, they can not fly through a storm, safety is the top priority! Think of ways to make the most of the moment, and follow the locals advise on how to be prepared! In the case of a forest fire, if you have a vehicle, just drive away from the fire and look into other options. Communities will set up evacuation centers, which you are welcome to stay in if necessary, but the best option is to evacuate the area if you have the means to do it.
  4. Purchase travel insurance. Cancelation policies vary from place to place and industry to industry, which is why if you are traveling during seasons where acts of nature can happen, travel insurance is a great option. Many companies offer what we refer to as “bad hair day options”, which basically means you can cancel for any reason. A Hurricane watch does not necessarily mean that airlines and resorts will rebook you “just in case”, but travel insurance could help you recover most of your costs if you decide you do not want to take the risk.  Also most airlines and resorts will most likely only give your credit towards a future stay, rather than a refund.
  5. Utilize your travel agent. If you booked with an agent, talk with them as they have resources available to assist you should your plans need to change. They can help with rebooking, finding alternative routes, or even directing you to the nearest local resources. Many of the suppliers they work with give options to switch itineraries if storms are predicted to hit your vacation destination, plus they update their agents regularly on what is happening on the ground. If you did not work with a travel agent, be aware that there is only so much they can do to assist you if you find yourself in one of these situations. They have no access to your reservations and can not make any changes for you or advocate on your behalf. It is not to say they can not or will not help you, just understand there maybe some extra challenges.
  6. Remember to breath, assess and then act. As someone who works in the industry, there is only so much I have control over. Acts of Nature and people are definitely things I do not! Getting frustrated and upset with the person trying to help you out is not going to make the situation any easier or produce any different options, only a different reaction.
  7. Make the most of it. Whether you avoid the storm/fire or end up right in the middle of it, all you can do at that point is make the most of it! This is just one more adventure that leads to a great memory you will be sharing for many years!


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