Hurricane season is long, warm, and wonderful in many regions – as long as a storm doesn’t hit when you’re there. Major weather events can certainly be difficult to predict, and some years there are just a few names storms that cause minimal problems. Unfortunately, major storms are not unusual between the late spring and late fall, which can make travel planning a dicey operation. Do you wait until hurricane season is over (and prices skyrocket), or do you take your chances at your long-awaited summer getaway? Don’t let the weather – or rather, weather possibilities – dampen your holiday plans. If you’re traveling during hurricane season, these seven tips will help you breathe a little easier.
1. Look into specific travel insurance
Insurance is a tricky business, and often doesn’t work out for the insured (especially if you fail to read the fine print). On the other hand, it can be a worthwhile investment when there is a looming threat – as long as it’s not too looming. For travel to hurricane-prone areas, you must buy your travel insurance before the storm is officially named. Also, be sure to investigate what exactly your insurance will cover, since some policies may not offer a full refund in the event of cancellation due to weather. In cases where the storm hits elsewhere, but that interferes with your travel connections, trip interruption insurance will help you out.
2. Sign up for emergency alerts
Many airlines offer a service that will alert you of changes to flights or itineraries, and that can save you a lot of time and frustration when you’re travelling in hurricane season. You may also want to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a state department-run service that invites U.S. citizens to register your trip with the nearest U.S. consulate. By signing up, you’ll also receive travel alerts and warnings as soon as they’re posted, and the embassy will better be able to contact you if they need to.
3. Know the dates
It may seem a bit obvious, but knowing the rough dates of the start and end of hurricane season in your destination is important. Although weather patterns have certainly been changing in recent years, hurricane season in the Atlantic typically runs from the start of June to November 30th, while the Eastern Pacific experiences their storms between mid-May and the end of November. September is often the most active month for hurricanes in all areas, so while you may meet fewer travelers on the beaches, you may also wind up inside, weathering the storm.
4. Pack light
When flights are delayed or cancelled, schedules switched around at the last minute, or connections reorganized, passengers have a much higher risk of losing their luggage. Although it makes perfect sense (airport workers are only human, after all), it can be a huge pain, especially when you’re met with less than perfect weather at your destination. You can help yourself avoid the inconvenience by packing everything into a carry-on – trim your belongings down to the bare minimum, and wear a couple of extra articles onto the plane, if you have to. Alternatively, you can pack what you would need for a couple of days into your hand luggage, in case the rest of your bags are misplaced.
5. Consider a cruise
Most hotels in hurricane zones can’t afford to grant full refunds or switch your reservations to a later date, free of charge, so if you book at a Caribbean resort, you may have to simply cross your fingers and hope for the best. However, a Caribbean cruise could be a safer bet: although cruise liners certainly aren’t immune to storms, they are at a particular advantage when it comes to sidestepping the inclement weather. Most cruises are able to adjust swiftly to the storm’s path, and arrange for docking at a different port. You may wind up with a slightly different itinerary than what you signed up for, but it beats being stuck in a hurricane.
6. Trust in your hotel
It won’t apply to every vacation spot in the hurricane belt, but many hotels that have successfully weathered past storms have an excellent plan of action to keep guests comfortable and happy in the worst case scenario. When you’re booking your accommodation, look at the hotel’s track record: have they been hit by a hurricane in recent years, and if so, how did they able to handle it? Do they have a contingency plan in case their current facilities were to suffer? What sort of stock of supplies do they keep during hurricane season? Don’t be afraid to ask about any concerns you may have – if the hotel is well-prepared, they will have no problem answering your questions.
7. Download a safety app
Yes, there’s an app for hurricanes. In fact, there are a few helpful apps that let you track weather patterns, storms, and storm alerts, such as Hurricane Hound. Another option is the Red Cross Hurricane App, which has the same tracking functions, but also helps you find nearby shelters when needed. Check out the StormWatch app that alerts you to nearby weather hazards, and you can keep on top of everything minute-to-minute by following the National Weather Service on Facebook and Twitter.
Whether you’re flying, driving, or biking, it’ always a very good idea to let people know your plans and make sure they have a way of contacting you (or the local embassy) if the weather turns bad. Make copies of your important documents in case the originals get lost in the commotion. Most importantly, try to remain calm, and count on the expertise of the travel professionals and hospitality staff around you – they’re trained for these situations, and will do their best to help you and your family weather the storm.
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