Traveling to a Natural Disaster Site

Any seasoned traveler will let you know that not every trip will go as planned. Being flexible is an important part of traveling regardless if you’re dealing with airlines, hotels, or as in this case, the weather. If you didn’t know, last night there was a tornado that hit Pensacola, Flordia. Precisely where I’m traveling to.

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My sister who is currently living there had just looked at some of the apartment buildings that were torn down. Areas are without power, roofs have been blown off, and despite my upgrade to first class this isn’t the best way to start a trip. For any other travelers who find themselves in a similar situation I’ve put together a few pointers that should help you keep your trip in tact despite the tragedy.

Know When Hurricane, Tornado, and Cyclone  Season Is

It might sound obvious, but for those who grew up in an area without the risk of hurricanes, tornados, or cyclones it’s a smart idea to check and see what kind of natural disaster risk you’re getting yourself into before booking your flights. Typically in the United States, hurricanes are a risk from June to November. That’s part of the reason the Southeast was taken by surprise yesterday.

In the Northwest Pacific these tropical storms are called typhoons and the risk of encountering one is greatest from April to December. Cyclone season runs almost completely opposite to typhoon season. These tropical storms occur in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean from November to April.

Register with the Local Embassy

If you plan to travel to a location during its storm season there are a few preemptive measures you can take to help you be safe including registering with your local embassy. This can be helpful regardless of if you’re traveling domestically or internationally. In the same way that you should tell your credit card company when you’re traveling to avoid having transactions flagged as suspicious, registering with the local embassy let’s people know to look for you in the event of a natural disaster.

Stay Informed While Traveling

The National Hurricane Center provides alerts about storms and storm warnings to give people a heads-up about approaching storms. This is particularly important if you’re driving through an area that is at risk of a tropical storm since you will need to find a shelter.

Another great (and free) resource is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program which provides registered users with alerts about natural disasters, provides a support line if you’re in a natural disaster emergency, and registers you with a local embassy automatically. It’s a great all-in-one safety measure for any traveler.

Know What to Do In an Emergency

Sometimes all the preparation still gets you stuck in a bad situation. It’s good to know what to do and how to handle yourself in the event of an emergency.

If you have more than 6 hours to prepare:

  • Charge your cellphone in case you lose power.
  • Cover windows to prevent glass from breaking.
  • Secure any lose or lightweight objects that could become a projectile.
  • Stay informed of the situation as it develops.

If you have less than 6 hours to prepare:

  • Find a building and stay in it.
  • Call family or friends and let them know where you are.
  • If you’re at home, turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting incase you lose power.
  • Use radio, TV, or the internet to stay alerted to the situation.

After a hurricane:

  • Check in with friends and family via social media or phone calls.
  • Watch out for debris and downed power lines.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood water.
  • Listen to local officials and return to normal actives only after the site is declared safe.
  • Document any damage for insurance claims and protect property from further damage.






  1. This is great! The first trip I ever took by myself was when I was 18 and fly from Chicago to Orlando to visit my sister. It was hurricane season, and as it turned out, I managed to visit right between two big ones (Charlie and Ivan maybe?) The airport was leaking, many of my sister’s friends were without power, but I went anyway and had a great time! Luckily I flew out before the next one hit!

    1. Sarah

      Ahhh! Thinking back to my first solo flight I would have been a nervous wreck if I had to deal with that!

  2. I had to do security training for work, to prepare myself for natural disasters and terror threats. It was brilliant training, but I often think that nobody can predict how they’ll act in such a situation. Thanks for posting!

  3. Naifeh

    I’m getting a message when I visit, “You are about to leave for an external website that is not maintained by the U.S. Department of State.”

    1. Sarah

      It looks like someone linked to my site! I am in no way related to the U.S. Department of State, the post wasn’t sponsored, and so they just want to let you know that before you visit. That’s all!

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