Hurricane Season Travel Tips: How to Prepare
Natural disasters and hurricanes seem to be consistently plaguing many parts of the world, and the U.S., in places that are popular tourist destinations. Should you be worried for your upcoming vacation? Compared to the 2005 Hurricane season, consisting of hurricane Katrina, the years following paled in comparison, until Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Though, in the past year, there were seventeen tropical storms in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. The first of the year arriving as early as May 9th that most heavily hit Florida’s coast and the Bahamas with massive waves and strong winds. The Bulk of the storms were toward the end of the summer season, one in June, one in July, three in August, ten in September/early October, and even one in December. An August tropical storm that hit the Caribbean, especially Jamaica quite hard, killed 35 people. Another in August caused 16 fatalities on the Texas coast. Major damage was caused in Nicaragua in late August due to category 5 storms. September storms are more frequent but much less severe, some not even reaching landfall, though Hurricane Sandy last October caused devastating floods and loss of life to New York, New Jersey and the east coast.
What does this mean for you? Panic? No, of course not. The weather isn’t improving each year, but it's also not getting much worse, so about the same amount of storms are to be expected for the next season. It’s important to do your research and plan ahead for certain windows of time that seem most promising and hurricane free. Keep in mind though; planning last minute won’t help you much. Many storms appear over the Atlantic ocean or Gulf of Mexico only a few days before it will eventually hit landfall, so there’s no way to “see them coming,” even for the best forecasters and meteorologists. There are two important places to check before planning your summer vacation: the national hurricane centers website at www.nhc.noaa.gov, which is overseen by the national oceanic and atmospheric administration (NOAA), a well-respected government organization. You should also reach your hotel with which you will be staying at to discuss hurricane policies as far as cancellation or offers for those whose vacations may be dampened by a hurricane. Many hotels have a refund policy in place for those whose stay has been interrupted by an unexpected visitor such as a tropical storm. Many hotels are very vocal about what they give while others will try to hide it in the small print. Be sure to note the person you spoke to and if you could possibly receive a fax or e-mail of their policy so you can have it in hand on arrival.
When it comes to your flight, unfortunately, most airlines will not have any kind of return policy for delays due to things that they consider as “out of their hands" or "acts of God." If there are delays, be sure to let your hotel know because of specific check-in times and possible discussion for an extended nights stay. Many airlines will move you to a later flight without any cost to you. Be sure to familiarize yourself with their change polices as well if you want to change your vacation to, say, the next week. They may be able to accommodate with you just needing to pay the difference though some airlines do have fees for the switch. For some airlines, if you're part of their membership program or other club, they may allow free flight changes due to that. Again, do your research into that airline to find the latest information.
Many cruise liners will not make their way into a hurricane in the middle of the ocean. If you have a cruise booked during hurricane season, be aware that their could be itinerary changes. Most people I've spoken to do say that the Cruise lines are quite generous when paths for a planned cruise need to be diverted. They want you to have the best vacation of your life no matter what storms may be trying to deter it. You may miss that planned excursion but you can look forward to free drink passes, or even free cruise nights for your next trip. If the worst does happen and your cruise gets cancelled, be sure to be in touch with the cruise line or your travel agent to re-book and take advantage of any special offers along with the cancellation.
The most important thing about a vacation is staying safe, especially if you’re going somewhere that isn’t U.S. territory. Be sure you understand the language enough to understand hurricane warnings and evacuation announcements and visit sights that can inform you of any kind of declared state emergencies in that region.
Lastly, the best protection against any unplanned circumstances or disasters is travel insurance. It may seem an arbitrary thing to purchase for just a week-long Florida or Caribbean trip but Disney World isn't cheap, neither are the more luxurious trips in the islands of the Caribbean. Your safest bet is to purchase travel insurance, which is quite affordable I'd like to add, for complete peace of mind. They will refund hotels, flights, essentially any costs related to your trip if things go awry.
As long as you remain flexible and understand that unforseen things can happen, especially during the hurricane season, then your trip can still be salvaged if things don't go as planned. You can use these tips to prepare and reschedule as needed so when you do go on that trip, it's guaranteed to be a great time for the whole family.
Important Safety Travel Websites:
http://travel.state.gov- world travel warnings, country profiles and emergency contact information given through the U.S. Department of State
www.nhc.noaa.gov- Complete information on Hurricanes and Tropical Storms, including all advisories, watches and warnings
© 2013 Catherine Stolfi