Hurricanes are massive storms that form over the ocean and move across land, causing catastrophic damage in their wake. With that in mind, it’s only natural to wonder how – or if – your planned coastal getaway will be affected.
First off, it’s important to know that hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean officially starts on June 1 and runs through November 30. However, it reaches its peak in September. The Pacific hurricane season starts earlier on May 15 and ends around the same time. But remember, hurricanes can wreak havoc on countries in either ocean as far as 100 miles inland. This means that for about six months of the year, you may have to worry about a hurricane interrupting your warm weather getaway or cruise, or perhaps even ruining it.
If you are hoping to spend time in the Caribbean or along either U.S. coast this year and are worried about how hurricane season will pan out, you can save yourself time and stress by planning ahead. Here are some travel booking tips that can help:
Choose Islands Carefully
In 2017, hurricanes Maria and Irma brought massive damage to Caribbean islands like Dominica, Puerto Rico and St. Martin. However, it’s important to note that many Caribbean islands were untouched by the storms, including those outside of the hurricane belt that are less prone to inclement weather.
If you want to specifically visit the Caribbean, choosing an island that isn’t in the hurricane belt can help you avoid getting caught up in a storm. Islands outside of the hurricane belt include Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire and Curacao, among others. These islands all offer the tropical beauty the area is known for without the risk of catastrophic storms.
Protect Your Investment
No matter where you decide to vacation, you have the option to purchase travel insurance, which ensures you are refunded if your trip is canceled or interrupted. You may be able to purchase travel insurance when you book your trip, but you can also buy a separate policy through companies like Allianz Global Assistance and InsureMyTrip.
In addition to travel insurance products that cover storms and other issues beyond your control, you can also buy “cancel for any reason” policies that will do what they say – let you cancel for any reason, including weather-related events like hurricanes. These policies will refund you for the cost of your prepaid airfare, hotels and more, but only if you buy them ahead of time.
If you have a credit card that offers travel insurance as a cardholder perk, you could also rely on that coverage provided you use your card to pay. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers a free travel insurance benefit that will refund you up to $10,000 per trip for prepaid travel (think: flights, hotels and tours) if a hurricane ruins your plans.
Avoid Sunk Costs
Maybe you don’t want to deal with the potential for canceled or rescheduled flights. In that case, it might make sense to plan a vacation in a destination you can drive to.
To make this strategy work, you’ll need to book a hotel fare you can cancel without any penalty. Since the National Hurricane Center knows when a hurricane is forming and, for the most part, can predict where it’s heading, you can cancel your hotel with even a few days of notice and just stay home. Or, you can book a last-minute hotel elsewhere and drive there instead.
Consider a Cruise
While it may seem crazy to plan a cruise during hurricane season, this option isn’t as nutty as you might think. You’ll have the option of sailing to destinations outside of any hurricane zone, such as the Mediterranean, Alaska or Hawaii. Or, you could focus on cruises within the Southern Caribbean, a region where hurricanes are much less likely to strike.
Also consider the fact that cruise ships have onboard weather tracking systems that help them avoid trouble. Cruising resource Cruise Critic says it’s not uncommon for cruises to be shortened or extended during hurricane season so they can work around a storm. You may see your cruise line switch up your itinerary to include a stop at a different island so your ship stays out of a storm’s path. So, you might end up with a stop on Grand Turk instead of in the Bahamas. No big deal, right?
The Bottom Line
Traveling during hurricane season comes with some risks, but there are definitely rewards to be had – especially if you’re visiting hurricane-prone areas. Not only are some hotels in the Caribbean offering “hurricane guarantees” that promise compensation if your trip is canceled or cut short due to a major storm, but the fall offseason typically comes with some of the year’s best pricing. For example, hotels in Florida and the Caribbean often reduce room rates by up to 40 percent from August through November, which could mean major savings if your trip works out. Plus, you may find smaller crowds and less traffic on roads and at airports. If you manage to score a fall getaway without any hurricane worries, it could be your best trip yet.