The winds blow and the rains come hard, but there are some great deals out there for travelers who are willing to take their chances with the less predictable weather that September and October can bring.
Still, if ever there is a time to be prepared, hurricane season is it. We asked some smart travel agents for tips on traveling when the weather is iffy, and here’s what they suggested.
1. Don’t let it stop you
Hurricane season runs from June through November, but weather is unpredictable and the chances of a storm hitting where you are on the exact date you are traveling are very low, said Roy Gal of Memories Forever Travel Group, in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. If the airline or cruise ship cancels, you will get a refund; “if the area is considered unsafe, you will have the option to cancel,” Gal added.
“Cruise lines adjust the stops and route if they see a storm might hit the area.”
2. Consider a cruise
There are great deals on cruises — and indeed, you might be better off at sea than on land, many suggested. “If you are cruising, and a hurricane is looming, they have fair warning, with the weather technology available, and can easily outrun the storms and head out to sea,” says Steve Phillips, senior director at TRAVELSAVERS of Oyster Bay, New York. “I would prefer that over having someone stuck on land. I have personally cruised many times during the Fall and never had a problem. I’m cruising again the first week of September this year.”
Another piece of advice: Pick a destination that is less likely to be hit. It’s a big globe out there. If you are concerned about storms, says Arleta G. Cosby of Cosby Travel Consultants, in Washington, D.C., consider Hawaii, Aruba, Bonaire or Curacao.
3. Get the right travel insurance
There are many types of policies, and each involves different amounts of risk. Some pay travelers in cash and some in future travel credits; some pay only if the trip is canceled by the supplier or if a storm is named, not if the traveler is just afraid to go because a storm is headed their way.
“I found out the hard way that cruise line insurance is NOT enough,” said Dawn Williams Crowe of Dawn Crowe Travel. “If the line decides to go anyway and you cancel, you lose. Now, I encourage my clients to purchase a good ‘Cancel for ANY Reason’ policy, and we’re all much happier.”
Also consider that while a travel agent can explain and suggest which insurance to choose, the traveler is the one buying the insurance. They need to follow up by reading the fine print and making sure they understand what is covered and what is not. “We are not insurance adjusters,” said Mary Ann Fusco at MSW Travel, in Miller Place, New York. “I always send my clients the quote to review, and tell them to call the provider for more detailed answers to their specific needs.”
4. Go with the flow
“Be prepared for change and do not let it ruin your trip,” said Cruise Planners franchise owner, Jeff Page. On a cruise, for example, “the captain will make changes based on safety. These will vary by trip. His job is to keep the passengers and crew safe.
If you are cruising, “take a look at some other ports that aren't in your current itinerary, just in case your ship gets rerouted,” suggests Amy Balbirer Windham of Four Corners Travel and Cruises, in Marietta, Georgia. “That way, you will have an idea about what to do in other destinations.”
5. Factor in buffer travel time
Cathy Udovch of Travelstore, in Irvine, California, said she: “always discusses the different ways in which a possible hurricane might affect their trip. All we can do is pass on information, give anecdotal examples of previous clients’ encounters with hurricanes and hope they avail themselves of the resources we provide. I have had some guests decide to travel out a day or two in advance in order to give themselves more buffer time, especially since you have some dealing with tornadoes or big storms near home while also worrying about hurricanes during the trip.”
Leave an extra day or two at the end of the trip, as well. “You don't want the most important business event of your life or a daughter's wedding to be missed because you are delayed,” noted Lisa Montgomery, owner of Guideline to Adventure, in Palm Bay, Florida.
Think about where you park your car, too, said Rita M. Perez of Rita Ventures, in Orlando, Florida. Many cruisers returned to Florida to find their cars under water in last year’s flooding, “because off-site locations are usually ground floor. This year, I'm going to bite the bullet and park in the on-site garage to get my car on a higher level, just as an extra precaution.”
6. Take some extra items
Be prepared for an additional travel day or two by bringing extra clothes and medication in case you get delayed flying home, advises Ashley Bennington, travel planner at Ashley Bennington - Janelle & Co. Travel LLC, in Rochester, New York.
Also keep your iPad, phone charger, medication and other essentials in your carry-on if you are changing planes on a bad-weather day, lest you and your checked bag become separated. If you are traveling with a companion or a child, put one or two outfits of each person’s clothing in each checked bag, so you both have something to wear if one bag gets lost.
7. Choose travel providers with extra clout
Another tip: Choose partners who can provide some extra clout, in case things go wrong. A well-connected travel agent and a reputable hotel company can make a big difference in how a traveler is treated. “The better the resort, the more that is done to care for the clients,” notes Dedra Shahan, president of Cowboy Way Travel, in Stephenville, Texas. Last year during a hurricane, “one group was sheltered at a school inland; the hotel sent staff to clean, set up bedding, toiletries in the bath, cook meals, etc. A lesser resort also took guests to a school, but with no provisions, boxed food, no extra generators.”
Regional Sales Rep Debra Ruzbasan tells of an Ed-Ventures, Inc., group in Tampa that was headed for Italy last year as Hurricane Irma approached: “We were able to work with their insurance and airline, along with an accommodating coach company, to pick them up at 2 a.m., to transfer them to Atlanta where United found seats for a flight to Dulles, where we were able to get them airport hotel rooms before their scheduled flight to Rome. Thank you, United and AIG Travel Guard.”