By Lyn Mettler
Between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, there are often great deals in hurricane-prone destinations like the East Coast and the Caribbean. Plus, the crowds have thinned out with school back in session and families back home. While you can certainly snag some savings during hurricane season, be sure to plan ahead just in case a Mother Nature puts a wrench in your travel plans. Here are some tips if you plan to travel during hurricane season:
If you are traveling at a hurricane-prone time of year and don’t want to be completely frazzled should a hurricane be headed to your destination, Heather Hunter, former spokesperson for AAA, suggest using a travel agent. “If anything occurs during your trip and plans get altered, they work with travel providers on a daily basis, have those relationships and can be changing plans as needed. They also have an open line for communication with cruise line and tour operators,” she explains.
Brooke Ferencsik, senior director of communications for TripAdvisor, suggests talking with your hotel or resort about emergency and evacuation procedures ahead of time and check their refund policy. Will they offer a refund only on declaration of an actual hurricane or upon a warning?
She also recommends bringing along a hurricane-preparedness kit with energy bars, water filtration bottle or tablets, battery-powered weather radio, first aid kit, flashlight and even duct tape. “It might seem extreme, but the last thing you want is to be stuck or unprepared,” she says.
It doesn’t hurt to check the weather before you head out, as well. “It’s always a good idea to look ahead and see what the forecast is for the period of time you’ll be in an area,” says Marion Edmonds, with the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism. “Some people are more adventurous and can just get in the car and go, but others may want to be more prepared.”
Travel insurance is a good idea if there’s a risk that your trip may be disrupted by weather. Most plans do cover hurricanes and natural disasters that may interrupt or cancel your vacation. “A trip is like an investment and travel insurance will help you protect that investment,” says Hunter.
Plans may include coverage for hurricane warnings, extended delays and cancellations, mandatory evacuations, and if your home or destination becomes uninhabitable. But be sure you purchase the coverage well before the hurricane is in sight and keep all receipts and documents should a hurricane occur during your trip.
The Cayman Islands even offer a Worry Free Hurricane Guarantee that covers any cancellations made prior to arrival and compensation if a trip is cut short due to weather. Many resorts offer similar guarantees, such as Rosalie Bay Resort on the Caribbean island of Dominica, which promises to “issue credits, move dates or do everything we can to ensure you are satisfied.”
If a Hurricane is Coming…
According to 2014 fall travel study by TripAdvisor, 15 percent of respondents said they had experienced a hurricane while on vacation during the fall. If that happens to you, the first thing you should do is monitor the weather and information from local authorities. Many of these destinations are adept at dealing with hurricanes and have crisis communications plan in place. You can also check TripAdvisor destination forums where people post in real time with information, such as evacuation routes, weather conditions and the latest news from local authorities, and monitor local government websites and social media.
If at all possible, delay your trip or leave a day early to avoid bad weather. Hunter notes that many airlines will waive change fees if there is a storm that’s disrupting travel. Southwest Airlines, which flies to Mexico and the Caribbean in addition to the U.S., is a good choice if you don’t want to worry with change fees, as it is their policy to never charge these fees, only the difference in the price of the fare. She also says that cruise lines will often alter their itineraries if a destination is unsafe or offer you the option to change your departure date.
When it comes right down to it, the likelihood that you’ll run into severe weather is low. “The reality is for the vast majority of people they will be able to enjoy a great time by traveling to one of these destinations and potentially some savings too,” says Ferencsik.
Lyn Mettler is a freelance travel writer, who blogs at GotoTravelGal.com. She is also author of “The Step-by-Step Guide to Earning Your Southwest Companion Pass and Flying Free Around the U.S.”