Traveling during hurricane season
By Linda McClain, CTA
With hurricane season spanning June through November, and summer being the most likely time to vacation, it’s easy to be concerned about the weather. Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway, a week on the coast, or are boarding a plane for the Caribbean, last minute weather conditions can affect your trip, or worse, force you to cancel. Below are some tips to help you plan a vacation during the hurricane season.
• When planning, research for more than one destination. You may have to switch your vacation to an area unaffected by the threat of bad weather at the last minute. It can be a time-consuming attempt, but expect to become the family hero if you are successful.
• When making a reservation for any hotel booking, ask if there are exceptions in the event of cancellation due to an emergency situation. Keep accurate records of your reservation confirmation.
• Cancellation policies vary from hotel to hotel; never assume that they are the same. There can actually be a variety of rates and different cancellation policies for the same hotel, even on the same day. An example is a 21-day in advance rate, which is non-refundable. Another example might be a weekend package special with breakfast and event tickets that can offer a cancellation of up to 6pm for the hotel stay, but a non-refundable charge for the event tickets. If you know these rate restrictions in advance, it will be easier to decide what hotel and cancellation penalty works best for your needs.
• Considering a couple’s only vacation? Sandals Resorts has one of the most awe-inspiring hurricane guarantees in the industry:
“In the unlikely event that hurricane force winds directly hit the Sandals Resort where you are a guest, they will offer a free replacement vacation.”
This offer does not, however, cover the air portion of your trip.
Other travel options
If you don’t want to risk traveling to a spot that might get hit by a direct hurricane, or the effects of one, then choose the “ABC” islands—Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Clustered together in the Southern Caribbean Seas, they are located approximately 15 miles from the South American border, safely away from the traditional path of hurricanes. Aruba is noted for some of the most beautiful beaches and sunsets in the Caribbean. Not only can a variety of water activities be enjoyed here, it is an island you can self-explore with a four-wheel drive vehicle. Casino activity is a plus for those who enjoy it.
Bonaire is a scuba diving paradise. Often featured in travel magazines, its marine life is significant and should be considered for die-hard scuba enthusiasts, and novices alike.
Curacao’s colorful buildings and Dutch flavor are just part of the European atmosphere you will experience here. There are many options to choose from on this diverse little island. Let the warm trade winds blow your hurricane worries away!
Also to consider are the islands of Trinidad and Tobago which were once part of the South American mainland. Because of their location, they have escaped a majority of Caribbean hurricanes.
Trinidad can offer you a vast choice of activities from art galleries and a variety of restaurants. Cricket anyone? In 2007, they will be hosting the International Cricket Championship World Cup. Tobago is the more serene of this sibling pair. Here, you can experience a more natural allure of palm-fringed beaches and rainforests and the beaches are rich with coral and marine life.
Planning a Caribbean Cruise this hurricane season? With sophisticated navigational systems, cruise ships can sail during a tropical depression and keep guests pleased and pampered.
Always purchase air arrangements from the cruise line if you must fly to the cruise departure city. Cruise line companies offer their own travel insurance waiver. It is invaluable and offers comprehensive coverage you may need during hurricane season.
In the event of a storm at sea, a cruise ship may change its itinerary from Eastern to Western Caribbean or vice versa, to avoid rough seas. The cruise line may also choose to skip a scheduled port of call. If you don’t mind a possible itinerary change, a cruise vacation has a lot to offer, even during the hurricane season. Packed with entertainment, a wealth of amenities and enough food to keep you full indefinitely, a cruise vacation is easily considered a destination within itself.
Other cruises to consider:
• You won’t soon forget the beauty of Alaska. Far from any tropical storm, this is a land you can delight in all summer long. Wear layers and forget about the heat. Plan a land package, tour or cruise tour for a variety of outdoor activities, suited to help you embrace the perfect scenery.
• Mediterranean anyone? With one amazing cruise itinerary, visit Spain, Portugal, France and England without unpacking. Perhaps a Russian River Cruise could entertain your intellectual side with unique cultural tours and stunning architecture. Smaller, more intimate ships maneuver the Greek Isles as well as the most desirable ports of Italy.
• If you love to ski, head down to New Zealand this summer and indulge in your favorite winter sport. Ski season here runs June through mid-October. With 12 ski areas to choose from, you’ll find all you could want—a Nordic cross-country area, snow boarding and heli-skiing options. Take an atypical summer break away from reality. After a satisfying day on the mountains, select your favorite New Zealand wine and take in the view.
• Hawaii, land of paradise and fragrant flowers, is the perfect destination to consider during hurricane season. With six diverse islands rich in history and beauty, the magic of Aloha calls and promises new discoveries with each return.
Trip cancellation insurance is really as important as your decision on where and when to travel. It would be disappointing enough to cancel your vacation, but to lose your money because you didn’t insure your investment is far worse.
The cost of trip insurance will vary depending on the total cost, the age of the traveler(s), and the deductible you most prefer. If a traveler has pre-existing medical conditions, they should contact the insurance supplier at the first thought of purchasing coverage to review insurance protection options.
If you purchase a vacation package, you should have the option to accept or decline insurance coverage. Different companies are structured to offer coverage based on a variety of deductibles. For example, they may not designate cancellation for hurricanes, but the plan may read, “Coverage for trip interruption or delay, emergency evacuation, etc.”
The best way to make this coverage clear is to speak directly with a representative at the insurance company who underwrites the policy you are considering.
There are vacation packages out there that include an option to cancel for any reason. This would be the very best cancellation waiver, if you can get it.
Here’s wishing you bountiful sunny skies and pleasant weather conditions wherever you choose to travel this hurricane season!
Linda McClain, CTA, is owner of Schenectady-based Linda McClain Travel Services“From The Islands To The Highlands, No Dream Is Too Far From Here!” For more information call 372.7657 or visit www.lindamcclaintravel.com.