Should I Change My Vacation Because of the Oil Spill?

The great oil debacle in the Gulf of Mexico has made many travelers nervous about their upcoming vacations to Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The news is full of conflicting reports: First BP said there are “insignificant” amounts of oil leaking; then it was estimated at 800,000 gallons per day. The latest capping efforts are capturing some oil, but the percentage is debatable. The oil poses a very real threat to the eco-system and the economy of the states, and some tar balls are making their way to some beaches, but does it pose a threat to your vacation?

At this time, no travel warnings have been issued and the communities along the Gulf Coast are indeed open for business. The various tourism boards are working hard to get the message out that their regional beaches, hotels, restaurants and attractions still welcome travelers. That doesn’t mean that you should stick your head in the sand, so to speak! For example, most of the Florida beaches remain unaffected, but as a traveler, your best bet is to stay informed before your go. Because conditions do change over time, you can check with the local tourism department or convention bureau of the area you plan to visit for updates regarding recreational swimming, diving, fishing, or the safety of eating local seafood.

Two official sites that maintain updates on BP’s progress in closing the well, fishing ground closures, trajectory maps, and volunteer opportunities are National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the official Deepwater Horizon Response website.

If you purchased travel insurance before the oil well explosion, you may be covered for cancellations; however, do not assume that you can be refunded unless there is documented travel disruption in the specific area you will be visiting. Again, at time of this publication, there is NO CAUSE TO CANCEL, so insurance would not cover you. See TravelMaestro’s related post on travel insurance  and contact your travel advisor to clarify your unique situation.

We all hope for minimal impact to the fragile eco-systems in the Gulf and Gulf Coast. We all hope that the economies of those areas are not adversely affected by this egregious problem. For now, one way to help is to go ahead and take your planned vacation to the Gulf Coast and continue to support the economy of the area. When you go home, tell your friends what a good time you had and what wonderful seafood you ate. Spread the word that all is not lost and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that the effect on the eco-system and the economy doesn’t get worse.

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