What’s in a Name (of a Hurricane)?

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Not everything about travel insurance is cut and dry. Unfortunately, there sometimes some gray area; we admit it.  When it comes to coverage from tropical storms and hurricanes, however, one part is pretty clear.  When a storm is named, you can no longer purchase a new travel insurance plan to cover the effects of that storm on your trip. Plain terms? It’s too late!

Why is a Tropical Storm and Hurricane Named?

Basically it boils down to tracking. Scientists wanted an easy way to track storms historically, so they had to name them! It started with names of saints in the late 1800’s and slowly became the current system: alternating male and female names for each region (Pacific or Atlantic) that are in alphabetical order.

In 2016, the World Meteorological Organization has named 15 hurricanes or tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean; the latest being Hurricane Nicole. Regardless of where the naming convention leaves off at the end of the year, the following year will start back at ‘A’. In 2015, there were only 12 named tropical storms and hurricanes, ending with Hurricane Kate. The first storm of 2016 was named Hurricane Alex.

What does this mean for your travel plans?

Many travelers, even those who regularly buy travel insurance, don’t realize the importance of a named storm for their coverage. While most plans have extreme weather (such as tropical storms and hurricanes) on their list of covered reasons for trip delay, trip interruption or cancellation; there are stipulations.

If you purchase your plan prior to a storm being named, you should be covered for any travel concerns that arise due to that storm. However, once a storm is named (whether it’s a tropical storm or a hurricane) you are no longer eligible to purchase coverage for travel concerns due to that storm.

Let’s break this down for you.

You are totally excited for your trip to Bermuda with your best friend next July. You’ve both booked the exact same trip: flights, resort and zip line tour.

Now, you’re an experienced traveler. You know that July is in the first half of Hurricane Season (June 1 – November 30). So you buy a travel insurance plan as soon as you book your resort.  Your best friend, not as experienced as you, didn’t purchase a travel insurance plan.

Now it is two weeks before you’re supposed to depart and The Weather Channel just reported that Category 5 Hurricane Charlie (totally fictional) is barreling down on Bermuda. Your best friend decides it’s now time to get an insurance plan.

One week later, the resort you booked still doesn’t have electricity and is refusing any guests until the damage is cleaned up. You and your best friend call your insurance company (let’s pretend it is the same one).

You start filling out paperwork for reimbursement of trip cancellation for not only your resort, but also the flights and the zip lining tour you had booked.

Your best friend? Well – that’s still up in the air. She purchased her plan when the storm was foreseen, and coverage becomes iffier then. Most likely, she will not be reimbursed for any of the trip costs, because this cancellation was all due to Hurricane Charlie (still fictional).

Moral of the story? Buy a travel insurance plan early, especially if you are traveling during Hurricane Season, when the potential travel risks are still unforeseen.

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