What to do if there is a hurricane during my vacation dates?

Renee Tsang Travel

The official hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 each year but the season has started early this year as the first official named storm, Hurricane Alberto was identified and named yesterday. Our lives as travel agents is always on high alert due to unpredictable events that may affect our clients’ travel plans and hurricane season is no different.

And it seems that the last couple of years, there has been an increased number of hurricanes and intensities during the season, affecting flights, evacuations at resorts, closing of theme parks and cancellations of cruises, or change in itineraries altogether.

Remember Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria from last year?

Or Hurricane Matthew of 2016 where a state of emergency was declared in Orlando where Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando had to close the parks for the 4th time in its history? And cruises were cancelled and itineraries changed?

What does this mean for you, the traveller? What if you have an upcoming vacation where it might be affected by hurricanes? Should you change your vacation plans?

Here is what you need to know if there is a hurricane coming during your vacation dates:

CRUISES

First, cruise lines will do everything in their power to ensure that the cruises will go on, but the safety of the passengers and the crew is priority. Being on cruise ship is actually safer than being on land during a hurricane as the cruise ships can steer away from the hurricane path onto calmer waters. You may experience choppier seas if you happen to be sailing through the weather system, but there is ample notice for the ship captain to adjust their course for the safety of those on the cruise. And it will only be temporary as the ship steers away from impending storms.

Your itinerary might change and you may not get to visit a scheduled port, so you may visit an alternate port or gain a sea day or two.

Rarely are cruises cancelled, but they do happen and if do cancel, cruise lines will offer a full refund and usually a cruise credit or discount for a future cruise if they have to cancel a cruise itinerary. Sometimes cruise itineraries are adjusted (shortened or extended), but guests will be compensated for any changes to their cruise.

LAND

If you happen to be on vacation when the hurricane will be hitting the affected areas, the resorts will make appropriate plans to ensure safety for staff and guests. If evacuation is required, guests will be moved to a central and safe location to ride out the storm.

If you have an upcoming vacation to an area that may be hit, your vacation plans will be determined by the airlines on whether flights will be affected or not. Although sometimes stressful, weather patterns change and decisions made by travel suppliers/partners will be made at the last possible minute and procedure and policies for alternate plans will be announced at that time. Decisions will always be based on what will be best for everyone so cancellation of flights will be avoided if possible, but will proceed with cancellation for safety purposes.

Occidental Punta Cana Renee Tsang Travel

The beach at Occidental Punta Cana on September 19, 2017, the day before Hurricane Maria was going to hit. Note the seaweed on the beach, which was not there the day before.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Hence, we come to the importance of travel insurance.

Should you avoid making travel plans to the Caribbean during hurricane season? Well, you could…..but that is prime travel season. And if you choose to travel in the winter instead, you will run the risk of winter storms that may affect flights. So, the reality of it is that hurricanes are always a concern if you decide to travel during prime travel season.

Ensuring you have adequate travel insurance is an absolute necessity when you are making vacation plans. Most people only think about medical insurance while on vacation, but travel insurance also includes the importance of having trip cancellation and delay insurance to cover unexpected costs due to situations out of your control (like a winter storm, or a hurricane). While you may have the most absolute intentions of travelling on your vacation no matter what, sometimes things happen that are unexpected and out of your control (e.g. you unexpectedly lose your job, or suffer an accident and get admitted to the hospital, unexpected weather concerns just to name a few!).

The importance of adequate travel insurance is paramount to cover these types of issues to alleviate the stress of unexpected weather issues that may impact your vacation or travel plans. You can purchase premium plans at time of booking or deposit for plans that include “Cancel for any reason” insurance so you can make changes or cancel in advance if you need to.

If you choose not to purchase travel insurance, or do not have adequate trip delay or cancellation insurance, you are at the mercy of the airlines and their policies to take effect before you can make any changes to your plans without change fees. You have to wait until they enact their hurricane policy and then make the changes that fall within their policy requirements (dates and flights affected, and the rebooking window and eligible travel dates). If you are flexible, then it may work for you. If you do not have the flexibility and their rebooking options don’t work for you, then you might not even get to go on your long awaited trip.

Please note: I am not licensed to sell  travel insurance to clients but we do have a preferred travel insurance provider, Manulife, who works with our clients to ensure they have appropriate travel insurance coverage. You may have coverage through your work, or your credit card so please check to see what you have and ensure you have appropriate coverage. If you are not sure, it doesn’t hurt to purchase additional insurance coverage for that extra piece of mind. Booking through our provider will ensure that I have all the necessary paperwork required for claims processing to ensure a faster resolution to your claim.

The stress is not worth it! Make sure you are covered and then you won’t have to worry about losing your vacation AND the costs that go with it.

While I would never advocate travelling to a place that I didn’t deem safe, I also wouldn’t let the risk of hurricanes or unexpected travel interruptions prevent you from travelling or ruining your vacation!  It happens and the key is to be flexible. Things change quickly and all of us in the travel industry is on the watch to know how to serve travellers best. But booking with a travel professional can help alleviate your concerns, stay on top of alerts on your behalf and to know exactly how things apply (or do not apply) to your vacation plans. We know how valuable your vacation is to you so we do everything we can to protect you and minimize the impact.

Travel when you can. Life is too short to stay home!

Let me know when you are ready to plan and book your next vacation! Contact me anytime to get started!

Renee Tsang Travel

Occidental Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, September 19, 2017, the day before Hurricane Maria was going to hit.

 

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