California wildfires 2018
Source: Map data ©2018 Google, INEGI via Caltrans.

California Wildfires 2018 Update: More Travel Waivers; and Why You Should NOT Feel Guilty Snagging a Travel Deal Now

If Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Burbank, and other areas of California are in your travel plans over at least the next week, you may want to consider delaying your travel — or, at least, keep yourself updated as to the latest information pertaining to the weather — as the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in the history of the state continue to rage out of control.

California Wildfires 2018 Update

A combination of extremely low humidity, Santa Ana offshore winds of up to 25 miles per hour with gusts of up to 35 miles per hour, and dry timber and brush have been hampering efforts by thousands of firefighters to get all of the wildfires under control. The mountains in Santa Barbara County have been under critical fire weather conditions — but wildfires can be unpredictable; and an extension of that warning would not be surprising.

Cited as the most destructive wildfire in the history of the state of California, the Camp wildfire in Butte County is only one of a number of wildfires plaguing California has already consumed a minimum of 141,000 acres, killed at least 63 people, and destroyed greater than 11,860 structures — many of them in the ironically-named town of Paradise, which was burnt to little more than ruins by the fire. At least 631 people are currently missing at the time this article was written.

Meanwhile, the Woolsey fire northwest of Los Angeles — which was completely out of control at zero percent containment when I reported on it in the last article I wrote about it on Saturday, November 10, 2018 — is now 62 percent contained and is 98,362 acres in size. It is responsible for the deaths of at least three people and the destruction of greater than 500 buildings.

In addition to the interruptions in logistical efforts to contain the wildfires and mitigate further destruction, heavy smoke permeates the air — enough to interfere with all modes of travel and significantly degrade the quality of the air itself.

Northern California has endured its share of destructive wildfires back in October of 2017 — which became the most destructive in the history of the state — and prompted numerous travel advisories from airlines and the closures of numerous hotel and resort propertiesSouthern California also suffered from wildfires back in December of 2017.

Should You Feel Guilty Snagging a Travel Deal to California Now?

At any given time, there are destinations around the world which offer bargains to travelers due to a number of reasons — including the devaluation of currency and a depressed economy due to a number of factors…

…but before travel is addressed, what about examples of what could be considered taking advantage of the misfortunes of other entities? For example, when a food is recalled due to the possibility of contracting a serious illness, chances are you will avoid eating it — and you may not want to consume it again immediately after it has been declared safe. You would not be the only person who feels that way — which means that sales of that food would most likely decline. As an incentive, the manufacturers of that food may offer coupons or significant discounts to lure customers back into purchasing their product. You decide to take advantage of that offer. Should you feel guilty about it?

“An opportunistic person might book travel immediately at the cheapest price, then change it to a preferred date in a higher fare class at no additional cost to save money”, according to this article written by Matthew Klint of Live and Let’s Fly. “Book an early morning or late night flight on an off-peak day and rebook to prime time on the day before or Sunday after Thanksgiving. Yes, that is possible. And your trip need only connect through a hub like LAX or SFO, it does not have to originate or terminate there.”

Matthew Klint argues that one should not unscrupulously take advantage of the travel waivers which airlines are offering as a result of the wildfires in California — they are listed in detail later in this article — but that does not mean you should not take advantage of any bargains which you may encounter as a result.

No, You Should Not Feel Guilty. Here is Why…

I say no, you should not feel guilty. In fact, I gave six reasons why you should visit Egypt now, as I did myself back in 2015. The sixth reason was that you can help the economy, which is what Egypt still desperately needs right now — especially after suffering several setbacks since I visited — including but not limited to the crash of an Airbus A321-200 airplane which operated as Metrojet flight 9268 from Sharm el-Sheikh on its way to Saint Petersburg in Russia on Saturday, October 31, 2015 where all 224 people aboard the aircraft were killed; the hijacking of an Airbus A320 aircraft which operated as EgyptAir flight 181 from Alexandria to Cairo on Tuesday, March 29, 2016; and the disappearance and subsequent plunging into the Mediterranean Sea of an Airbus A320-232 aircraft operating as EgyptAir flight 804 from Paris to Cairo.

Egyptians did not loathe my presence during my visit, thinking I was taking advantage of them. In fact, quite the opposite occurred, as most of them were very welcoming to me and did whatever they could to ensure that my visit was as successful as possible. I was even the guest of the day at one hotel simply because I rented a car and drove it in Cairo — something which I probably should not have done.

Ethical Reasons Why You Might Feel Guilty About Traveling Elsewhere

I do not believe that taking advantage of discounts and snagging good deals to visit other places is unethical — but there are those people who believe that the laws and practices of certain places preclude them from consideration in terms of traveling to them.

“I will not travel to North Carolina because their legislature voted for, and their governor signed into law, a ban on any local government creating anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation”, opined WAE — a reader of The Gate — in the comments section of this article pertaining to avoiding travel to North Carolina because of the “bathroom” law. “Laws should protect people from discrimination, not ban protecting people from discrimination.”

Regarding the alleged rape of a woman in Qatar where she was incarcerated for almost three months after reporting the crime and ultimately being convicted of engaging in extramarital sex, GUWonder — another reader of The Gate — commented that “It’s arrests like this that lead me to avoid spending a lot more time in the GCC countries, as they seem to do this kind of inhumane thing to rape victims and others as part of some kind of effort to continue the facade of being ‘very safe’ for one and all there. It just isn’t the case. Shame, shame on Qatar and other jurisdictions that arrest those reporting a crime without then pursuing a timely and fair prosecution for something like obstruction of justice.”

My thoughts are mixed on whether or not to visit a country due to ethical reasons. Yes, the governments where questionable laws and policies are permitted benefit from the money spent by visitors in those areas; but so would the innocent everyday people who are struggling to eke out a living when you directly patronize them. Observing the people on the streets of Manila as I was walking north on Taft Avenue is one of many times I have seen everyday people simply struggling to attempt to live out their lives in the best way possible. They do not set the policies of their governments; and they may not have even had a say in the shaping of their current governments.

Flight Waivers, Delays and Cancellations

If you are traveling to some of the aforementioned areas of California, expect delays and cancellations of flights. Keep up to date on the latest information pertaining to the wildfires which may adversely affect your travel plans. Better yet, postponing or canceling your trip might be a better option — no matter which mode of travel you plan on taking.

If you have a flight scheduled, your flight may be delayed or canceled — and you may be eligible for a waiver of a fee to change your itinerary. If you are driving in any of these areas, watch out for deteriorating weather conditions due to thick smoke and traffic problems — including road closures.

Here are eight airlines which have issued travel alerts as a result of the wildfires:


I personally believe the good people of California — a state where I have visited what seems like countless times, from the redwood forests to the border with Mexico — would be as appreciative of visitors as citizens of Egypt; and I believe that is the case whether or not those visitors took advantage of significant discounts to visit.

Take advantage of whatever discounts you might find and go visit California. Go ahead and purchase the products and services of local merchants to help boost the economy. Perhaps even strike up a conversation with a few of the locals and show some support, as you will probably brighten their day…

…but do not feel guilty.

If you prefer, you can also help people who are adversely affected by the wildfires through reputable charitable organizations.

No rain is in the forecast for at least the next week in northern California and at least two weeks in southern California for the areas affected by the wildfires — but temperatures are already starting to cool down, which has already been of some help to the firefighting efforts.

Be sure to contact your airline or transportation provider for the latest information pertaining to your travels — if they are adversely affected — and please: travel safely.

Source: Map data ©2018 Google, INEGI via Caltrans.

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