With hurricanes devastating the Caribbean, an earthquake rocking Mexico City, wildfires in the Pacific Northwest, and a volcano erupting in Bali, it can seem like no corner of the world is safe from natural disasters.
Travelers have been trying to cancel reservations while donating to help rebuild the destinations that they love. In many cases, destinations rebound quickly from a natural disaster and continuing revenue from tourists is an integral part to reconstructive efforts.
For visitors who have already booked a trip to a destination affected by a recent natural disaster, or for those planning visits in the future, we have some advice for how to stay safe when traveling — and refrain from jumping to conclusions about a destination.
You don't always need to cancel.
Despite significant damage to islands across the Caribbean and in Mexico City, tourists do not always need to cancel their trip and should seek specific information about their destination instead of grouping entire countries or regions together. For instance, Puerto Rico may not be able to welcome visitors for the next year, but hotels in the Bahamas and Jamaica are already open for business after minor damage.
Even in Mexico City, where more than 50 buildings were leveled, many hotels and attractions escaped unscathed. While donating to destinations is hugely helpful in rebuilding regions affected by natural disasters, many of these places rely heavily on tourist dollars, and keeping reservations there can be a personal way to help.
Know which seasons are most prone to natural disasters.
This year’s hurricane season has broken records in the Caribbean, but hurricane season each year has caused damage across the region. Traveling to the islands in September can offer visitors discounts because it’s not peak season, but making a reservation in the Caribbean at that time, which runs approximately from June through October, can be risky.
Similarly, tornado season typically runs in April through June in the U.S. “Tornado Alley,” a region that runs from Texas up to western Ohio tends to be the most susceptible.
Northwestern U.S., including Montana and Oregon often see vast wildfires in the summer. This year a fire caused by teenagers throwing firecrackers devastated the popular Eagle Creek Trail.
It is still possible to visit these regions during seasons when they are vulnerable to natural disasters, and good planning with a strong back-up plan can make things possible. If travelers refrain from taking unnecessary risks, these places are still options.
Some places are less susceptible than others.
For those who would rather not take a chance, several areas in the U.S. are essentially disaster free. The most recent data concerning natural disasters by city is from Trulia in 2013. The real estate site compiled data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Forest Service, and FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program to rank cities by how likely they were to see a natural disaster.
Barring snowstorms, many of the safest cities were in the Midwest and included suburbs of Detroit, as well as Denver and Chicago. Two cities in Ohio, Akron and Cleveland, scored in the top three, and Syracuse, New York, landed the top spot.
Rankings of overall safety state by state, which included other factors such as residential safety and financial safety, from WalletHub, put Vermont in the top spot, with Utah scoring highest on the emergency safety ranking.