What to Do If a Natural Disaster Happens During Your Vacation

An expert shared 10 tips you should always keep in mind.

As the recent events involving the Hawaii wildfires and Italy's volcanic eruptions have sadly shown, natural disasters impacting travelers can happen in a blink of an eye, and cause severe disruptions to both locals and tourists.

With travel back in full swing, it is crucial to know how to behave—and how not to behave—should you find yourself in such an unfortunate situation. At the end of the day, safety is paramount, and there are a few things you should be keeping in mind to make sure you approach the situation with calm, rationality, and in the safest way possible.

According to James Brockbank, founder of The Family Vacation Guide, there are five dos and don'ts that stand above the rest. Below are the 10 tips Brockbank recently shared with Thrillist: 

What to Do

Stay Informed: As Brockbank points out, travelers should make a plan to keep up with local developments both before and after their trip via local news, government advisories, and weather apps. If the worst happens, you should also know where to look to find useful information. "Identify safe zones or shelters in the area you are visiting and familiarize yourself with the local evacuation procedures," he said in a statement shared with Thrillist. "Your embassy can help with this."

Stay Together: If you're traveling with someone, always make a point of moving as a unit. To help with this, if kids or younger people are involved, you can assign roles to adults to keep track of everyone and of the travel party's belonging.

Keep Important Documents: Make copies of everything, and don't assume your original copies will suffice. You will want to have copies of passports, IDs, travel insurance, and emergency contacts, and you should keep them in a waterproof and accessible bag. However, if you're the group's adult, you shouldn't be the one keeping all the documents. "Make sure your kids have copies of their identification documents and your contact details on their person," Brockbank said.

Communicate with Next of Kin: If something major happens in the area you're visiting, the news will spread quickly, and they’ll reach your loved ones who are not there. Make sure to update them on how you’re doing via social media, text, or even through a message via your embassy.

Pack an Emergency Kit: It doesn't need to be huge. Pack water, necessary meds, first-aid, and pre-packaged food in a light kit.

What Not to Do

Don't Ignore Warnings: "Take all warnings and advisories seriously," warns Brockbank. "Even if it means altering your travel plans and losing some money." Not doing so could put you, your family, and others—including rescue operations personnel—at risk.

Don't Rely Only on GPS: While it is important to geolocate and orient yourself during emergencies, GPS might not be the most reliable tool. In the event of a natural disaster, it may not be updated with the latest updates, and you might incur in some road closures or hazards (like, say, driving into the ocean).

Don't Forget About Emotional Wellbeing: While you might approach stressful situations in a very stoic and confident way, other people in your travel party might not. Make sure to check on children—who might be very scared—and try your best to distract them and entertain them to provide comfort and a sense of normality.

Don't Rely on Unfamiliar Food/Water Sources: Use your emergency kit and don't trust unknown sources. In a disaster, local resources including water and food might get contaminated.

Don't Neglect Travel Insurance: Always get travel insurance when you can, and make sure it covers natural disasters and emergencies, including evacuation expenses.

Looking for more travel tips?

Whether you need help sneaking weed onto a plane, finding an airport where you can sign up for PreCheck without an appointment, or making sure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to when your flight is canceled, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for up-to-date travel hacks and all the travel news you need to help you plan your next big adventure.

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Serena Tara is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.