As winter storm warnings were issued a week or so ago, we’re reminded of all the ways that bad weather can ruin our travel plans. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and other ugly weather scenarios sometimes can’t be avoided no matter how carefully you plan.
Still, there are some ways you can minimize how – and how much – the weather impacts your travel plans.
Here are the top 5 ways bad weather can threaten to derail your travel plans (and how travel insurance can help – or not):
1. Flights are cancelled as a winter storm approaches
When a big storm approaches and there’s plenty of warning, the airlines sometimes allow ticketed passengers to make changes to their reservations and waive the customary change fees. That’s great, but if you have other pre-paid non-refundable trip costs, like non-refundable hotel rooms for example, then you will want to be reimbursed for that loss. This is why it’s important to insure all pre-paid non-refundable trip costs with your travel insurance plan.
When your flight is delayed and severe weather is listed as a covered reason in your travel insurance plan, the travel delay coverage can help you get a hotel for the night, some meals, and other incidentals (up to a per-day limit).
2. Ferries are halted and/or roads are closed
This happened to many vacationers when Hurricane Irene hit the beaches along the east coast. The roads were closed, the bridges were closed, and the ferries were operating only for emergency crew, so vacationers were prevented from getting to their pre-paid vacation rentals on the islands.
Even travelers with hurricane coverage in their travel insurance plans will have a difficult time with their claims if they’ve already left for their trip. After all, trip cancellation coverage ends when you leave for your trip. After that, trip interruption coverage for those who could prove there were no alternative routes to get to their destination was the coverage used to claim their lost trip costs.
3. Rising floodwaters threaten your vacation rental
Seasonal floods and particularly intense storms cause major problems for homes in some areas and if you’ve invested in a vacation rental where floodwaters are rising, you could be in for some frustration.
Trip cancellation coverage requires that the place you’re renting be uninhabitable, which means it has no electricity, no running water, no roof – that kind of thing. Many vacation rental owners have cancellation or rescheduling policies that cover this, but lots expect that you’ll just endure the mess and come anyway. It’s an important distinction and something to inquire about when you make your reservations.
Only ‘cancel for any reason’ coverage will allow you to cancel your trip when your vacation rental is a mess, but inhabitable, and you don’t want to stay there.
4. Mandatory evacuations are ordered soon after you arrive
Many travel insurance plans will cover your pre-paid non-refundable trip costs when mandatory evacuations are ordered and you have to leave, but as we’ve noted before it has to be listed as a covered reason in the plan’s description of coverage.
Mandatory evacuations may sometimes be ordered for hurricanes but not often for other weather-related disasters like blizzards. When disaster management teams knock on the door of your vacation home and give you orders to leave, the right travel insurance – one that specifically covers mandatory evacuations – will reimburse your lost trip expenses under the trip interruption coverage if you’re already on your trip or under trip cancellation coverage if you haven’t left yet.
5. You can’t do anything you planned and you want to go home
When your vacation is completely ruined by the weather and you can’t see your way through to enjoy another game of scrabble while it pours outside, you may want to abandon everything and head home.
Unfortunately, this is one of those areas where even travel insurance can’t help you. Travel insurance doesn’t consider changing your mind a covered reason for cancelling or abandoning your trip, so you can’t expect reimbursement for your lost trip costs. The only way you have to avoid this is by having ‘cancel for any reason’ coverage and cancelling your trip prior to the deadline (usually 0-2 days prior to departure).
How to Keep Bad Weather from Ruining your Travel Plans
In some parts of the world, the weather is more unpredictable than in others, but there are some things you can do to keep the weather from ruining your travel plans:
- Research the local weather before you go to know what to expect. This might seem like a silly tip, but you’d be surprised how many people show up without the right clothing for the forecasted weather.
- Plan your weather-dependent activities with lots of flexibility. This may take some research, but if you’re trying to see bears in Alaska for example, you’ll want to be able to shuffle those plans around if bad weather strikes.
- Try an attitude adjustment. So, it’s pouring rain and you’re hopping Disney parks looking for the best rides … buy a plastic poncho and hat and try going with it. With luck, the crowds will clear and the lines to the best rides will be really fast.
We read this tip about the best day to visit theme parks is right after a hurricane. Most locals are busy cleaning up and those traveling in cancelled their trips, so you’ll have the park to yourself!