[Rick Seaney is the CEO and cofounder of FareCompare, and columnist for Investopedia. The views expressed by columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Investopedia.]
You’ve got your ticket, printed out the boarding pass and weighed your suitcase to avoid that expensive overweight fee. Great, everything is covered. Wait. Did you remember to check out these four travel warnings? It could save lot of time, money and heartache.
1. Weather Warnings
Yes, this is an obvious one; we should all check weather reports so we know what to wear (and pack). But don’t wait until the day before you’ll fly particularly if you’ll be traveling to a Caribbean destination. Instead, check for storms at the National Hurricane Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ahead of time so you can make other arrangements if need be – before everyone else tries to do the same thing and the airline runs out of available seats.
Airlines are usually good about waiving change fees in such cases, but the sooner you decide to make changes, the better. Note: The Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1 to November 30; the Pacific season for cyclones typically starts a little earlier (May 15) and also ends at the end of November. In most years, there is nothing to worry about, just something to keep in the back of your mind. And if there is, see: Weather Waivers: Your Bad-Weather Airfare Escape Clause.
2. Crime Warnings
Many nations have official websites that deal with such things as passports and where to find embassies/consulates around the world; a lot of these government sites also includes warnings about crime and other difficulties travelers may encounter.
The U.S. State Department’s travel section has some particularly useful stuff. First of all, there’s a warning map: Red is for “do not travel,” while orange means “reconsider travel.” If you must go to a potentially dangerous place, the site offers tips to help you stay out of harm’s way. Another must-read is the country-by-country section that talks about specific crimes or scams visitors may encounter in a particular region (many European capitals are full of pickpockets) and common sense things all of us can do to protect ourselves.
3. Health Warnings
Most of us study up on the special attractions and natural wonders of countries we plan to visit but how many of us seek out health information? Go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and look for the Travelers’ Health section to see which countries are currently experiencing malaria or rabies outbreaks, and which islands are coping with ongoing threats from the Zika virus.
The good news is the CDC provides a wealth of useful information on how to protect yourself from such things, including specific precautions to take and where to find medical clinics where away from home.
4. Airline Warnings
If you haven’t already done so, check to be certain your airline has your contact information so they can email or text in the event of delays or cancellations. You might be surprised at how disruptive a smallish summer lightning storm can be (or maybe not; I’m looking at you, Dallas flyers).
Winter storms can be terrible, too, of course, but so can unexpected events like erupting volcanoes. In April 2010, for example, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull blew and spewed so much ash that 20 European nations had to close their air space. All in all, some 10 million travelers around the world were affected. Bottom line: Check with the airline from time to time to see what’s new, and don’t let airline emails go directly to trash. If the worst happens, see: Flight Cancelled? 5 Tips to Get the Next Plane Out.
And that goes for all these warnings: Make the effort to check before you leave home.