What to do if your travels are disrupted by wildfires
The Western United States is coping with an ongoing series of wildfires as well as forest fires that started from human interference across California, Oregon, and Washington. According to NASA, the fire season is from late spring until seasonal winter rains or snow arrive. It’s possible to safely enjoy a vacation out west during the fire season. Travelers planning trips to fire-prone areas should prepare for the worst-case scenario and pack a few critical items.
A smart traveler is always prepared. “Adopt the attitude that ‘it can happen to me.” The best time to plan for a crisis is before the crisis occurs,” says Randy Haight, Senior Director of global risk consultancy FocusPoint International. “Conduct a review of ingress and egress routes into and out of an area before you go.” Have a plan for multiple routes as some roads may be closed or inaccessible during a fire.
There are a significant number of fires ongoing in California. If you’re headed to The Golden State check out CalFire and the state tourism board’s travel alert for the most up-to-date information and resources. Haight recommends using tools that offer predictive analysis about the wildfire season such as National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook. Also check the Active Fire Mapping Program and air-quality conditions on AirNow.gov. Consult local weather and air-quality forecasts and search for news reports about fire alerts, road closures, and power shutoffs.
Ask your accommodation about their contingency plan should you need to make an emergency evacuation and follow their instructions closely. Book flexible accommodation with the option to cancel should you need to change your plans due to fire or smoke. If you’re unable to cancel your hotel see if you can offer the room for local evacuees.
Should you need to evacuate, do so at your earliest opportunity to avoid taking critical resources away from locals. If you’re relying on public transportation have a backup plan for how you can safely remove yourself from danger. If you’re driving, have a full tank of gas. Bring an emergency kit with a First Aid kit, water, blankets, cell phone charger, spare medication, a wind-up radio capable of receiving emergency weather broadcasts, and N-95 masks which can help filter smoke particles.
Ensure your loved ones know exactly where you are so they can track you down if there’s an emergency. Ask them to alert you if they learn about fire dangers in the area where you are. If you’re going hiking in a dry area during the fire season, share your geo-coordinates with them.
While spending time in nature, practice extreme caution during dry conditions. Be sure to read up on local laws regarding open fires before your trip, especially if you’re camping. If you encounter a fire, leave immediately. Don’t try to put out the hot spot. Once you’ve reached safety, contact emergency services to ensure firefighters have dispatched.
What do I do if I get caught in a wildfire?
Fires can move at the speed of one football field every second. “If caught in a wildfire, don’t try to outrun it,” Haight says. “Find a body of water and get in it. Or find a clearing or depression and get low to the ground. Try to breathe the air closest to the ground when fire is near.” If you can’t find a body of water wet your towels, blankets, and clothes and use them as protection against the flames.
Support those affected
To support those affected by the wildfires contribute to reputable NGO organizations supporting aid efforts. Traveler Kay Kingsman was living in an evacuation zone for the Oregon fires and suggests sending donations of water, clothing, and air purifiers if you live near an impacted area. Many winemakers have been damaged from fire and ash—order a crate of wine to support their business. Everest Effect is a mutual aid crisis recovery platform providing immediate help and relief to those affected by the disaster.
Lola Méndez is a sustainable travel advocate who writes the responsible lifestyle blog Miss Filatelista.
This interactive map shows where you can (or can’t) travel in the US
In an effort to make traveling easier, United Airlines has developed an interactive map tool, powered by Smartvel, that allows customers to filter and view destinations' COVID-19-related travel restrictions in the US. The Destination Travel Guide provides a color-coded map to highlight if a destination is closed, partially open or fully open for travel, and notes if tests or self-quarantining are required for travel. The guide currently highlights travel restrictions and leisure offerings in the US by state, and will expand to include all international destinations the airline serves in the coming weeks. Users can click on each state to view local regulations and travel guidances, and there is also the option to filter the map by state to view specific information on each destination. This information includes the medical certificate needed, such as a negative COVID-19 test, physical distancing measures and whether wearing a mask in public is required. It also outlines the visitor accommodation, restaurants, bars and cafés, museum and heritage sites and non-essential shops that are open. The interactive map tool that allows customers to filter and view destinations © United Airlines "We know it's a challenge to keep up with the ever-changing list of travel restrictions, policies and regulations so we are offering a simple, easy tool that helps customers decide where to travel next," said Linda Jojo, executive vice president for technology and chief digital officer. "By providing the most up-to-date information on the destinations we serve, customers can compare and shop for travel with greater confidence and help them find the destinations that best fit their preferences. Check out the new interactive map tool on United.com here or on the United mobile app. Lockdowns are easing globally as the planet adjusts to a new normal. Find out how COVID-19 is changing travel.
3 tips for choosing safe accommodations during a pandemic
Depending on where you live, the world is either opening up or hunkering down for more weeks of quarantine. Regardless of the status of cases in your state, you can still travel safely. The key is local travel. Travel experts say that domestic road trips and local family vacations are the near future for tourism. Photographer: lazyllama/Shutterstock Before traveling, look to the CDC guidelines and this checklist to be sure you are traveling in the safest manner possible. Here are three things you should consider before deciding where to stay on your next trip. 1. Cleanliness. Cleaning policies differ per hotel, but most hotel chains have put stringent new policies in place to keep guests safe. For example, Hilton started a clean initiative to ensure a sanitized room. As part of Hilton’s CleanStay initiative, the cleaning staff seals the door after cleaning so that by the time of check-in, you can be assured that no one has entered your room since cleaning. Other hotel chains are only putting guests in alternating rooms to ensure that social distancing can be followed at all times. While the cleanliness of your room may be guaranteed, many other prevention factors go into your stay at a hotel. Photographer: SSokolov/Shutterstock Airbnb has also upped the ante in the new world of sanitized stays. In response to the crisis, in late April, Airbnb announced an Enhanced Cleaning Initiative, which they call, "the first overarching standardized protocol for cleaning and sanitization in the home-sharing industry." Hosts of Airbnb’s can select which category of cleaning they have met as part of their home-share profile. To reach the highest category, a host must enroll in a learning and certification program. Through this new set up, a host can now guarantee the professional sanitation of their home through the badge on their profile. 2. Contact With Others The biggest issue with staying at a hotel is the proximity to other people. Hotels require an in-person check-in. Even if there is an option for a contactless check-in, there are many other aspects that raise the risk of hotel-stay, because so many other people are staying in the same hotel. While masks can help defer the spread of the virus, there must be a consideration for human error. Elevator buttons, lobbies, doorknobs, and even hotel-keys are breeding grounds for coronavirus germs. There are too many factors at play for a hotel guest to completely reduce the risk of potential contact. Airbnb has already mastered the art of contactless stay. Even before the virus, a renter could arrive and check-in at an Airbnb without ever seeing another person. This looks like checking-in through the app, and directions for the stay sent through email. The stay in an Airbnb also opens the opportunity to stay in an isolated area of the country, ensuring the safety of your group of travelers. The risks are drastically reduced compared to a hotel in regard to contact with others. 3. Amenities How long could you be quarantined to just a hotel room? If you get stuck in a hotel due to an unforeseen spike in cases during your trip, how well could you survive? With hotels’ lack of amenities, I am assuming not very long. Pair that with the cost of room service, and it is clear how difficult quarantining in a hotel would be. Even on a normal trip, the chances of your group leaving the rooms for food are very high. Airbnb’s typically come with kitchens and full amenities in them. This gives you the ability to completely quarantine very similarly to how you would operate if quarantined in the comfort of your home. Furthermore, you could book an Airbnb near hiking trails or natural wonders so your activities could be socially distanced. Photographer: Casey Martin/ShutterstockSometimes you need to hit the road, especially to escape this pandemic for a while. When you do, aim for being as safe as possible and bringing as little harm to the world around you at the same time. Anne Florence Brown is a Budget Travel intern for Summer 2020. She is a Senior at the University of Mississippi.
Lonely Planet's expert recommendations are coming to Apple Maps
Lonely Planet has announced plans to provide curated content through a new Apple Maps feature, which was revealed at Apple's annual Worldwide Developer Conference this week. Launching later this year through software updates for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, users will be able to access initial collections for San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and London. As travel plans remain uncertain, the collections feature solo and outdoor activities that can be enjoyed while national lockdowns lift. They will feature insider tips so users can check out the most iconic architecture, spectacular day hikes and scenic running routes in their destination. Find out where to see street art, like Clarion Alley in the Mission District of San Francisco © Federica Grassi / Getty ImagesThe collections will begin with San Francisco, where travelers can discover the city’s public art and vibrant street murals, its most idyllic parks, and most prized food trucks, all through Apple Maps. From there, the collections will extend to other top cities, where users can learn about New York’s cult-status coffee shops, where to find LA’s finest ice cream shops, or how to enjoy London’s best free experiences. Lonely Planet ✔@lonelyplanet We’re excited to announce our collaboration with Apple Maps. Starting with San Francisco, then followed by other cities, Lonely Planet will offer a series of curated places to help you discover your neighborhood and beyond. Available on the redesigned Apple Maps app this fall. 60 5:30 PM - Jun 22, 2020 Twitter Ads info and privacy “Lonely Planet has always focused on the needs of travelers and we constantly seek ways to improve and ease their experiences. We reach hundreds of millions of travelers each year through our printed guides, online and through our own mobile products and we are thrilled to offer one more way for people to discover the world around them," says CEO Luis Cabrera.
Essential questions to ask before planning that post-COVID trip
The coronavirus has quickly upended the world of travel, and it undoubtedly will have a lasting impact on the industry moving forward – travelers will need to keep some extra considerations in mind before booking their trips. Here are some questions we'll all need to ask before we take to the road and skies once again. What can I do to prevent spreading illness when I travel? When you travel, you come into contact with dozens of people throughout your journey: the TSA agents at the airport, the taxi driver in your destination, the hotel employees at the front desk. Our future trips should not only prioritize our own safety, but the safety of others; how can we be best prepared? Airlines are already requiring travelers to don masks during their flights, and it might be good practice to keep masks handy on any trips moving forward, even if they aren’t mandatory; they’ll be handy to have in any crowded space. Create a travel bag with sanitizing essentials for cleaning your spaces and surfaces when you arrive and when you leave. Once you’re in your destination, prioritize washing your hands and avoid touching shared surfaces if possible. Is my destination at risk for overtourism? What could that mean for public health? The issue of overtourism was a hot topic in the travelsphere prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and images of some of the world’s most crowded destinations have gone viral thanks to their uncharacteristic emptiness – the streets of Rome, Times Square, Angkor Wat and the beaches of Rio are all devoid of the visitors that they are known for. That said, such popular landmarks will present new risks once travel resumes; since many are public spaces, regulation of crowds could prove to be difficult. Steering clear of historically overtouristed sights will be an important step in risk mitigation. Is my destination home to vulnerable populations without adequate medical care? What is my potential impact? As the pandemic has shown, every country varies in its ability to handle and contain a widespread illness; even the most developed healthcare systems nearly buckled under the weight of the crisis. When we travel, we have to recognize that we might carry a contagion with us, and while some places might have the infrastructure to deal with the potential fallout, many do not. If you’re considering visiting a place where healthcare systems are strained and facilities are rare, put off making the trip and contribute to the economy in another way for now. Many people around the world struggle with healthcare access under normal circumstances, and an introduced illness could prove disastrous for their communities. Does my travel insurance cover international healthcare treatment, emergency evacuation or quarantine measures? It’s likely that travel insurance will become more important than ever, and picking the right policy means reading all the fine print about your coverage, particularly when it comes to your health. Some of the more general policies focus on travel logistics rather than healthcare, things like trip cancellations, lost luggage and broken equipment; we suggest looking at the specifics regarding treatment in international hospitals and emergency evacuation, and investing a bit more in your policy to get higher coverage. Healthcare can be expensive, and while $10,000 worth of medical coverage sounds like a lot, the cost of serious procedures can potentially be much more. Similarly, it’s worth calling and asking about unexpected quarantine costs; if you are screened and test positive for fever or illness and must be quarantined while traveling, will subsequent cancellations, trip adjustments and costs be covered? Do I have enough savings to cover unforeseen emergency costs while on the road? With doctors and scientists worried about subsequent waves of illness in the future, having a nest egg of savings ready before you hit the road could help you avoid a financial emergency should another crisis be set in motion. If your travel insurance is minimal, you will be responsible for any major illness- and quarantine-related costs incurred during your travels. Factoring in an emergency fund when you are trip planning could save you a lot of stress, should travel suddenly be limited or changed due to world health developments. What can I do to support local businesses hurting from lack of business during quarantine? The global economic fallout from the coronavirus quarantine has thrown a harsh light on the precarious positions of small businesses in the world market. Many have faced permanent closure, and those that are left are operating on a fraction of their already thin margin, hoping to wait it out. Investing in sustainable travel that feeds directly back into the communities is more important than ever. Once it’s time to book your first post-COVID trip, prioritize local hotels, restaurants and experience providers rather than international brands and chains – your dollars will provide much needed relief from quarantine financial hardship How can I be a more environmentally conscious traveler post-COVID? While dolphins may not actually be returning to Venice canals, the quarantine has revealed just how much of an impact our travels have on the environment. Phenomena like smog reduction, plant regrowth and more visible wildlife have all highlighted the fact that our impact is significant and wide-reaching. For your next trips, consider the “slow” approach to travel, opting for destinations that are geographically closer to you and transport methods with fewer emissions. Ask yourself: how can I preserve the positive environmental changes that have been made during this time of stillness? Which of my old habits were the most damaging and how can I avoid them? The quarantine has given us a chance to look hard at our travel methods and consider better ones for the future.