What to do if you have tickets
Look for updates. If you are weighing whether to go, the State Department and Australia’s tourism website post links to updated fire information from all regions of the country. Fire maps and data may be hard to understand if you don’t know the area; stay on top of media coverage that explains what’s going on.
Contact your airline. Find out what your options are if you want to reschedule your trip. Australia-based Qantas, for example, waived change fees for some travelers who were booked to fly up until Jan. 20. (I received this response when I contacted the airline on Twitter: “We are closely monitoring the situation and are mindful of how this will impact travelers and their plans so we recommend contacting us closer to your date of travel for any options that may cover your travel dates.”) Virgin Australia, Etihad Airways and Delta Air Lines also are waiving fees for ticketed passengers.
Check your travel insurance coverage. It’s too late to buy travel insurance now because the fires have been going for months. For those with a standard policy bought before the fires started (and that date varies by company), travel alerts by the U.S. and disaster declarations by Australia may not be cause enough to allow you to cancel your trip and be reimbursed, Kasara Morison, a spokeswoman for Squaremouth.com, a travel insurance aggregator, said in an email.
Squaremouth lists conditions that must be met for coverage to take effect: your hotel or other accommodation is uninhabitable because of fire damage or evacuation orders, or you can’t get to your planned destination because of evacuations, airport closure, etc.
What if you’re too worried to go? “Travelers with future trips to Australia may be understandably concerned, as many pre-planned excursions are no longer available, however, simply not wanting to go anymore, even if they fear for their safety, isn’t a covered reason to cancel,” a Squaremouth release says.