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Tips from James Brockbank, founder of The Family Vacation Guide, on Keeping Your Family Safe When Travel Includes a Natural Disaster

by Debra Bokur

Oct 30, 2023

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Travel Tips

From wildfires and volcanic eruptions to hurricanes and earthquakes, you never know what drama may occur during your family travels. James Brockbank, founder of The Family Vacation Guide, shares the following advice for what to do — and not do — if you’re confronted with a natural disaster while traveling:



Stay Informed: Before and during your trip, keep yourself updated on weather conditions and potential natural disasters in the area you’re visiting. Use reliable sources such as local news, government advisories or weather apps. During the trip, if the worst happens, identify safe zones or shelters in the area and familiarize yourself with local evacuation procedures (your embassy can help with this).


Stay Together: Your primary priority should be the well-being of yourself and your family. Once you have an action plan for getting to safety, ensure the family stays together at all times. Assign roles to adults to keep track of kids and important belongings.


Keep Important Documents: Bring copies of essential documents like passports, identification, travel insurance and emergency contacts. Keep them in a waterproof and easily accessible bag. Make sure your kids have copies of their identification documents and your contact details on their person.


Communicate with Next of Kin: Whether this means a social media update, access to your Find my Friends (an Apple location tool) or a message through your embassy, make sure you let your loved ones know how you’re doing.


Pack an Emergency Kit: If you have even a few minutes to spare, pack a lightweight emergency kit containing bottled water, any necessary medications, first-aid items and pre-packaged food. Don’t pack unnecessary non-essentials that might slow you down during an evacuation.



Ignore Warnings: Take all warnings and advisories seriously, even if it means altering your travel plans and losing some money. Ignoring warnings can put the lives of your family at risk, as well as the lives of rescue operations personnel.


Rely Only on GPS: Don’t solely rely on GPS navigation during emergencies, as it may not be updated with the latest information on road closures or hazards. (Whereverfamily.com adds that The Association for Safe International Road Travel reminds travelers that GPS/sat nav systems usually route you the shortest distance, which may not be the safest path to take).


Forget About Emotional Well-Being: Children may be scared during emergencies. In addition to their physical safety, it’s crucial to find ways to distract and entertain kids, even in difficult circumstances, in order to provide some sense of normality and comfort.


Rely on Unfamiliar Food/Water Sources: Stick to your emergency supplies or pre-packaged food and bottled water. Avoid consuming local food or water that might be contaminated after a disaster.


Neglect Travel Insurance: Ensure you have appropriate travel insurance that covers natural disasters and emergencies, including evacuation expenses.


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