Travel: The Importance of Flexibility

Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. Being in a new place, eating the local food, seeing and experiencing different things is all very exciting and rewarding. Planning the travel is almost as fun as actually being there. It’s like a big project to me. Working within a budget, timelines, planning for delays, researching cool things to do, reading reviews, and adjusting the plan before it’s final is a challenge and I love it.

However, all well-planned trips can go up in smoke in an instance, literally. I recently had a trip planned to visit Sonoma California with a group of 6 girlfriends to celebrate a 40th birthday. However, 4 days before we were supposed to be there the wildfires in Sonoma and Napa took over the entire area. My friend that lives in Santa Rosa, who did most of the planning and paid for our rental house, was evacuated from her home (thankfully her home did not burn, but her entire community was affected and hundreds lost their homes). Our rental house was in the evacuation zone.

Our trip didn’t seem that important when a natural disaster is occurring and people are missing and homes are burning down. However, we all had a lot of money on the line, airfare purchased, and complicated schedules to manage, and we didn’t want to just let it go.

We quickly contacted the vacation rental owner and canceled our reservation and was able to get a full refund because it was a natural disaster. This is a really nice benefit of booking with companies like VRBO and Airbnb. Long story short, we were able to re-book our trip to Santa Cruz, fly into the same airports, and find a house that was the same cost as

the Sonoma home. It wasn’t the Sonoma vacation we had all hoped it was, however, the main thing we cared about was getting together and celebrating our friends birthday. Santa Cruz ended up being amazing! It has its own wine region and beach community. Even though I lived in the Bay area for several years, I had never spent any significant time in Santa Cruz, and I was really impressed. We were flexible, acted quickly, and it turned out to be a better experience than we could have hoped for.

My husband had been planning a trip to Puerto Rico for six months. Then Hurricane Harvey came through a week before he was supposed to visit. Puerto Rico wasn’t directly hit but the surrounding islands were and they still had some significant damage on the island. Instead of just canceling, he called the Airbnb owner, local hotel, car rental company, and airline to discuss the local situation. They all assured him that it would be ok if he came to visit, but of course, he could cancel and get full refunds. He chose to go, as I mentioned earlier re-scheduling trips don’t just happen easily when you have work, kids, and other commitments.

He arrived safely and with no issues, however in transit, the Airbnb lost power so the owner of the home put him and his two friends up in a hotel. Again, being flexible here and rolling with the changes allowed him to enjoy his trip and accept that the planned trip and ideas weren’t going to be the

same. He was able to stay in a luxury resort, which he wouldn’t have booked on his own. That allowed him to meet other people staying on the island and learn about some cool local activities and events that he probably wouldn’t have discovered. While he was there Hurricane Maria was roaring towards the island. Thankfully, his scheduled flight out was 2 days before Maria hit, that destroyed thousands of homes and set Puerto Rico back decades. He was very thankful to have the opportunity to support the local economy and see the beauty of Puerto Rico one last time.

I’m now planning a big trip to Greece and Italy to celebrate my 40th birthday next spring. I have been researching, tracking flights, and reading blogs for months. I have been acquiring points on a travel credit card as well, with the plan to get free airfare. Yesterday, I discovered I had enough points to purchase my airfare, yay! The group of friends I am traveling with all wanted to book at the same time so we could guarantee we would be on the same flights. We go through the process of booking and literally while we are booking the cost of the flights go up, and my points aren’t enough anymore and the flight I was hoping for didn’t work out. I ended up having to pay for my flight and it was more expensive. This was an excellent example of how things don’t work out as planned, often, when it comes to traveling. You need to be flexible, and assume you will probably go over your budget! I know I will still be able to use my points during my trip, but I loved the idea of not having to pay a big chunk of money for my airfare, oh well. Tickets are bought and we are going! I’m sure many things will not be as planned or expected when we get there, and that my friends, is all a part of the adventure.

The main take away here is flexible, understand and be prepared to make changes quickly. Have your flights, accommodations, rental car info all saved and easily accessible so that when things change, and they will, you can quickly react and make adjustments.