Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Terrorism, Oh My! What to do when they affect your travel plans.

What do you do when natural disaster or terrorism affects your travel plans?  We have had each situation happen.  In 2007 I had planned a trip for us to go to Barcelona, Spain for five nights then eight nights in Morocco.  In Morocco, our plan was to visit Marrakech, Fez and the Sahara desert.  This was our first trip to a location outside of North America or Europe.  We were set to leave on Friday, and that Monday I read on the TripAdvisor forum that there had been a suicide bombing in Casablanca – YIKES!!  Here is a link to the article in the newspaper:

We were not planning on spending anytime in Casablanca, we would only be flying out of there.  I told hubby about it, and we decided to continue monitoring it.  Since we would be spending our first five nights in Barcelona we decided  if things ratcheted up we could just stay in Spain.  The next day the Moroccan authorities made a wave of arrests and after that there was very little additional information on the story.  Morocco does have a reputation for swiftly dealing with terrorists as they did after the 2003 Casablanca bombings.  We figured we could have been in London during the tube bombings or Madrid during the night club bombings… we decided to keep with our plans.

We were very glad we did.  We felt very safe and welcome the whole time we were there and I would not hesitate to return.  To read all about our trip click here.

A few years later, in 2011, I planned a trip for us to go to Japan.  We would be headed to Tokyo, Kyoto and an overnight on Miyajima Island.

This would be our first trip without Lauren as it was her freshman year in college, and Michael and Lauren’s spring breaks no longer coincided.  We had agreed that Michael could bring a friend with him and we were all anxiously awaiting our departure date.  We were scheduled to leave on Sat. March 19.  On Friday, March 11 we woke up to the devastating news that there had been an earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Of course I read everything I could get my hands on about conditions there.  A lot of controversy on TripAdvisor about whether or not people should be canceling their trips.  Our original inclination was to still go, but by Sunday night we had decided to cancel the trip.  There were so many unknowns at that point – blackouts in Tokyo, the Tokyo airport was a mess, and of course the instability of the nuclear reactor.  Some were advocating that people should still go to places like Osaka, Kyoto, etc. as they were not affected by the disaster, and people were worried that they would be negatively affected by the lack of tourism.  I did consider it, but since we were not traveling with our daughter, and we were traveling with a friend, we decided to be cautious and cancel the trip.  Our friend’s parents were in mutual agreement.

Many asked if we lost any money having to cancel.  We had purchased our flights with frequent flier miles.  United had announced they were giving refunds to those flying to Tokyo for the next three weeks, so we were able to get all of our FF miles redeposited.  Our friend was able to get a full refund on his ticket.  I had booked two hotels and one smaller ryokan (similar to a B&B) but did not need to make any deposits.  I notified all the places that we would not be coming.  They were very understanding.  I had booked train passes, and I did have to pay a $25 refund fee, but the rest of the cost was refunded.   I also still have my empty journal that never got used.   I look forward to using it in the future.

Now, of course, we had two weeks off of school and had planned on being in Japan, so what to do now??  How to plan a trip in less than a week?  If it had been all four of us, I might have bought tickets to London and just hung out there, planning on the fly.  However, the last time we were there at that time of year it was VERY cold, and we thought with the two boys it might be more fun to try to go someplace warm and just relax.  We considered Palm Springs, Atlantis (Bahamas) or Walt Disney World.  I contacted a friend of mine who is a travel agent who patiently listened to me obsess over where to go and how to get it organized in six days.  My brother-in-law and sister-in-law live in Florida right on the beach about two and half hours south of Orlando, so we decided to do five nights in Walt Disney World, five nights at the beach, and then three nights in Los Angeles to visit our daughter before heading home.  My travel agent friend, took care of booking the Disney World part and I took care of the rest.  The boys were fifteen, so they had a ball running around WDW and loved staying at the parks that were open until 1am.  Stephen and I enjoyed taking DisneyWorld at a leisurely pace.  We would meet up with the boys for meals, but otherwise they loved the freedom and we loved knowing they were in the “happiest place on earth”.  Hanging out at Japan in the World Showcase in Epcot, was not the same as actually being there, but we were all happy to be together and be safe.

In today’s world, there are all kinds of things that happen.  While it is smart to avoid planning trips during hurricane season, or a flooding season, and there are obviously certain countries that one might choose to not have on your travel list, we each have to make our own decisions about whether or not we are comfortable heading to a location.  Many natural disasters, such as earthquakes happen at all times of the year and without warning.  When disaster strikes you must think through the obstacles and decide what is best for you and your family.

Have you ever had your plans changed due to terrorist acts or natural disasters?

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4 responses to “Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Terrorism, Oh My! What to do when they affect your travel plans.”

  1. Melanie says:

    I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your blog. I first happened upon it reading your posts on Vietnam (I’m traveling there next month), but it’s so interesting that I’ve gone back and read through your archives.

  2. Pretraveller says:

    Judy, we were in a similar situation to you about one month before our planned and booked trip to New Zealand in 2010. The first Christchurch earthquake happened, and I was left trying to understand what that meant for our trip. I subsequently decided to shift our accommodation bookings out of the center of Christchurch. We also changed our planned itinerary which resulted in rebooking some other parts of our trip.

    We did subsequently have one day exploring Christchurch which was interesting, and I am still left with a feeling of having had a near miss when the news of the second earthquake came in several months later as we had visited many of the places which were subsequently turned into rubble and where many people died.

    As you have stated, you just have to be prepared to change your plans and make sure you have travel insurance.

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