Fall brings the lowest prices of the year to the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Mexico, and Hawaii. It also brings the biggest storms of the year. Hurricane season in the Atlantic and the Eastern Pacific lasts through November 30, with the worst hurricanes typically happening in September. Still, the statistical probability that a hurricane will ruin your trip is tiny compared with the statistical probability that everything will be fine. Last week I was on Mexico’s Caribbean coast—in the prime storm season of August—and, in the six days I was there, it rained only once, in the middle of the night.
Indeed, according to a TripAdvisor survey, 30% of you have traveled to a hurricane-susceptible destination during the fall because fares and rates were more affordable. Another 25% of you have not done so but would consider it. For those of you who are thinking about it, here’s my advice for lessening any potential damage a storm could do to your trip and your wallet:
If you’re dreaming of the Caribbean, consider one of its southernmost islands.
Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao lie outside the Caribbean’s hurricane belt.
Consider a cruise. When storms are coming, cruise ships alter their itineraries so as to avoid bad weather. (Be warned, though: If a ship cancels a port call because of weather, it is not obligated to compensate you for any missed portions of the itinerary.)
Before booking a room, ask the hotel about its refund policy in the event of a hurricane. Occasionally hotels offer at booking time to protect your deposit in such a scenario. Eleven hotels in Bermuda, for example, offer a “Hurricane Guarantee” that gives you a refund of your deposit, or a credit toward a stay within the next year, if a hurricane is headed toward Bermuda at the time of your trip.
Look into purchasing travel insurance.
A trip-cancellation and trip-interruption policy with coverage for severe weather protects you if a hurricane shuts down your airport, renders your hotel uninhabitable, or otherwise makes your trip impossible. For an insurance policy such as Travel Guard’s to protect you in the event of a hurricane, “hurricane” must be specifically listed in your policy as a covered reason for trip cancellation, and you must buy the policy before the storm is officially named. Keep in mind that, if a hurricane were to render your hotel uninhabitable, you’d likely get a refund anyway—from the credit card that you used to pay your deposit. Also keep in mind that a travel insurance policy won’t cover you when there is simply the threat of a hurricane and you choose not to go. If what you really want is the ability to cancel because a hurricane is barreling toward your destination and you don’t want to risk spending your precious vacation in a flooded, wind-whipped, electricity-challenged place, it’s not hurricane coverage you want; it’s Cancel For Any Reason coverage.
As soon as you know a storm is coming, monitor your airline’s website.
Be the first to learn about flight cancellations and change-fee waivers, so you can rebook while there are still seats available on alternate flights. (If a storm strikes when you’re already en route and your flights are delayed or cancelled, here are the best ways to spend your time at 10 U.S. hub airports.)
Know useful sites and apps. The National Hurricane Center site and mobile app are great sources for the latest tropical storm forecasts and warnings. There’s also a Red Cross Hurricane App and site that monitor conditions in your area.