Hurricane season is June 1st through November 30th (for the Atlantic and Caribbean) with August and September the peak months. As you may have noticed, these months neatly coincide with many late summer vacations.
While some airlines allow customers to cancel or change their reservations if a hurricane is imminent for their flight plan, it’s not guaranteed. Neither are your hotel or resort reservations.
So how do you protect your summer vacation from hurricanes?
1. Pick your vacation spot wisely
Despite the devastation and disruption caused by hurricanes, many travelers are swayed by the low airfares and enticing resort deals.
The safest way to ensure a hurricane-free vacation is to pick a destination outside the top areas for hurricanes.
2. Don’t get stranded
While cruise ships are adept at avoiding hurricanes, they sometimes abandon passengers to do it. Last year, well over 100 passengers were stranded in San Juan, Puerto Rico when their cruise ship got orders to get out to avoid oncoming Hurricane Irene.
Only those passengers who also booked their airfare with the cruise were rescued. Those who didn’t had to fend for themselves. The travel insurance assistance services representatives can help you catch a flight to catch up to your ship and more.
3. Know the hotel and resort guarantees
Some hotels and resorts in hurricane-prone areas offer guarantees to lure travelers to their properties during the risky season. Many of these guarantees, however, come in the form of a credit for a future stay.
A future credit isn’t the same as getting your cash back and these waiver plans don’t cover your airfare and other pre-paid trip expenses. Travel insurance with trip cancellation coverage for hurricanes will reimburse all your insured pre-paid trip costs.
Caution! If your hotel issues you a credit for a future stay, your travel insurance will not reimburse that portion of your trip.
4. Remember that hurricanes also cause trip delays
While airlines are getting better at dodging the problems that come with bad weather, like preemptively cancelling flights and waiving extra fees for passengers caught in a storm, it’s not guaranteed. Plus many travelers find themselves holding new reservations but losing out on pre-paid hotel nights and more.
If you are stuck at an airport and need to stay at a hotel, the right travel insurance will pay for transportation, meals, and hotel costs (up to a per-day limit) if your trip is delayed due to a hurricane.
5. Don’t forget medical care
Travelers who are caught in a hurricane sometimes get hurt or need medications that are lost or destroyed by the storm.
Travel insurance plans often include medical coverage that can help pay for a traveler’s health care costs, including emergency transportation, hospital stays, and medicines. Plus, the 24/7 representatives will be able to help you find local medical treatment facilities when you need them.
6. Prepare for lost or delayed baggage
Airline coverage for baggage is limited to checked luggage that is within the airline’s control – but even that is really limited and you may have to produce receipts on the spot for the items you claim were in your luggage.
Baggage coverage with travel insurance, however, is more broad. It covers the loss, theft, or destruction of all your luggage (checked or not) and personal belongings throughout your trip. Travel insurance also covers baggage delays. In case your bag gets on the wrong plane in the lead up to a hurricane evacuation, for example.
7. Know how you’ll be getting home
Hurricanes are unpredictable. They can change direction and veer off their predicted course. If you thought you were safe but conditions change, you could be scrambling for last-minute seats and abandoning the rest of your vacation.
Insured travelers know they have a toll-free hotline to call for help arranging new flights, etc. Depending on their travel insurance plan, they may also receive reimbursement for the portion of their vacation they lost by evacuating.
For more complete hurricane travel details, see our 2012 Traveler’s Guide to Hurricane Season.