So far this summer, we’ve been pretty lucky to not have any major weather events disrupting vacations. However, hurricane season lasts through November. If you are planning a getaway during this time to the Caribbean, any of the Gulf Coast states, or Mexico, then the reality is you need to be prepared to deal with the possibility of a hurricane.
The Good News: August through November can be a great time to take your tropical getaway; the temperatures are usually milder, the waters warm and the beaches are less crowded. And best of all, prices are usually lower and much more affordable than the rates of just a few weeks ago. In fact, the Caribbean from now to December can be a real bargain for those looking for a great deal.
Booking Travel During Hurricane Season
When you make your reservation, make sure that you:
1. Look for a hotel with the shortest cancellation window as possible. Weather can dramatically change within a week so it’s nice when a property has a no-charge cancellation policy that is 72 hours or less.
2. Clarify the hurricane policies of the airlines, hotels, cruise line and tour operators with which you may be traveling. Some offer a hurricane guarantee so that if all or part of your vacation is affected by hurricane weather, you won’t completely lose out. Most that have hurricane policies will either refund disrupted travel or rebook accommodations without additional charge.
3. Additionally, if you book with a site like Hotels.com, note that while Hotels.com does not charge a cancellation fee, the hotel might impose change or cancellation charges, which they are required to pass along (during normal circumstances). Hotels.com will advocate on your behalf and can also inform you of the property’s hurricane policy. You can always call them (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) at (877) 903-0071.
Airlines make it slightly harder because you really have no recourse until the storm is impacting an area. Airlines typically waive flight-change fees for passengers affected by a hurricane. Once an airline actually cancels your flight, you can get a full refund on even a nonrefundable ticket.
What to do if you are caught in a weather event:
- Monitor any named storm that is making news within two weeks before your vacation or during your trip. You won’t need to cancel your trip yet, but you should be aware of the possibility and begin considering alternate plans.
- You are your best advocate. Have the hotel phone number, airline number, all of your confirmation numbers, etc.
- Pack your patience: you are probably not the only one trying to cancel and rebook – be kind, don’t give up.
- Once on property at your hotel, ask the manager to clarify the hurricane policy in writing.
- Claim any reimbursement you are entitled to in writing and keep a copy.
- Forward copies of all documents to your travel insurer, if you have one.
- Within 60 days of the end of your trip, write to your credit card company to request reimbursement.
Don’t ever let the weather be the reason you don’t plan a vacation. If the idea of worrying about a hurricane or a blizzard is just too much to deal with, then choose a destination that is weather-safe for the month that you select to take your trip. And remember, things happen. Remain calm and try to make the best of the situation even if that means rescheduling for another time.