Lake Tahoe is one the most beautiful places in the world, so it’s no wonder I book quickly for summer family portrait sessions and weddings, whether with locals or weekenders. If you’re planning a summer portrait session in Lake Tahoe, or even just a vacation, I say this with extra emphasis and in all bold: lock down travel insurance. And not just because we’re *still* in a global pandemic, but because summer is now fire season.

In California, fire season peaks in the summer months and carries on through autumn. Never experienced a wildfire? Consider yourself lucky, and start preparing for your visit, as it’s always a real possibility that a wildfire can happen anywhere, anytime, and without notice.  Even if there is not a wildfire in Lake Tahoe, because of the jet stream, we often have months filled with wildfire smoke in the air due to wildfires that aren’t even remotely close to us.

Here are a few tips for being a considerate traveler in Tahoe during fire season (and when anyone and everyone could get covid at any time).

Planning a summer portrait session in Lake Tahoe
Planning a summer portrait session in Lake Tahoe

Stay informed

When you’re traveling to a different country, you typically do research, or at least brush up on on local culture. It’s no different when you’re traveling to a new climate or pristine natural resource, like Lake Tahoe. Stay updated on local news to get info on lake, mountain, and road conditions, and check in with Cal Fire to steer clear of smoky or fire-prone areas and to adhere to burn bans.

Planning a summer portrait session in Lake Tahoe

Get travel insurance

If a wildfire breaks out the day before your trip to Lake Tahoe, and you’ve booked a family portrait session, travel insurance (that you bought ahead of time) can save you the time and money you’d lose for canceling your flights, accommodations, and your photo session. While larger hotel chains and commercial airlines may be flexible with rebooking in light of natural disasters or public emergencies, small businesses (like mine) have policies in place to protect our livelihood. Unfortunately, I can’t refund sessions due to smoke or wildfires or because someone in your family got covid and you are no longer coming. Travel insurance would ensure that both you and I are covered in the event we have to cancel. It’s a win-win. 

Check out this handy chart on NerdWallet to help you determine which travel insurance best suits you and your trip.

Photographers require non-refundable date retainers to secure dates and the balance is due generally within a week to two weeks before the session.  A non-refundable date retainer ensures that your photographer has reserved their services just for you and cannot take on any additional clients for the time specified.  You know that they are going to be there for you and it’s an insurance that you are going to be committed to them.  For every hour I photograph, it requires 8 hours of work on the front and back end.  I take these time estimates into account when scheduling sessions and taking on clients.  If a client cancels, I lose out on business and income.  I require payment in full, which is also non-refundable, for portrait sessions within 10 business days of the session to protect my time, investment, the work I’ve already done, and to ensure that there is time to deal with any banking errors in case the payment does not clear.  At this point, it is often too close to re-book a date.  If you get covid and can no longer travel to Tahoe, travel insurance will protect you and the investment you’ve made.

Planning a summer portrait session in Lake Tahoe
Planning a summer portrait session in Lake Tahoe

Be a decent human

I wish I didn’t have to say it, but if you’re planning a summer portrait session in Lake Tahoe or even just a vacation here, please be a decent human being. There are actual people who live here year round and call this magical place home, so please treat it as you’d expect people to treat your own home. Pack out your trash if the bins are full. Don’t leave it where bears and animals can get to it.  Be conscious of others and your proximity to them. Check out the Keep Tahoe Blue site to learn about how you can do your part in preventing pollution, deforestation, and invasive species.