Hurricane season in the Caribbean officially runs from mid-May to late November, with August to October being peak season. If you’ve got a trip down south planned during this time there is a possibility a tropical storm could develop into a full-fledged hurricane. Statistically speaking, the Caribbean is less risky of a destination than the Gulf Coast, with visitors only having a 2-3% chance of being affected during a 1-2 week visit.
The advantage of travelling during this time is that it’s low season in the Caribbean, meaning not only can you get great prices on hotels, but there are less crowds and the temperatures are still fantastic.
Don’t let big headlines scare you from travelling during hurricane season, weather is one part of travel that is completely out of your control. Instead plan ahead and with these 5 tips you’ll be able to travel during hurricane season with complete confidence.
1. Purchase Travel Insurance
Not all travel insurance is created equal, so finding one that covers all of your needs is a must. If you’re covered under your employers’ plan, make sure you read the fine print. Most standard policies only cover health-related expenses, not extras like trip cancellation. A separate insurance to cover these extras is definitely a worthwhile purchase. Look for plans that offer a “Cancel for Any Reason” clause (InsureMyTrip is one that offers this option), which means you don’t have to provide an explanation for cancelling your trip. Usually plans that have specific hurricane or weather policies are very specific with what is considered a trip interruption at the destination and you may or may not cover all of your costs for returning home early. Bottom line: read everything and if you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to ask!
2. Know Your Rights
Just like insurance, airlines and hotels all have different policies when it comes to weather and cancellations. Thankfully a lot of airlines offer flexible policies when extreme weather strikes, allowing you to postpone or even get a full refund. For example, Air Canada offers a Delayed and Cancelled Flight Service that allows you to check in and see if you’ve been re-booked to another flight or if you choose, search and book another flight free of charge. Hotels are usually the most flexible, with most only requiring 24-hours prior to check-in for cancellation. If you’ve reserved via a booking engine like Expedia, Travelocity or Booking.com, the online agency is bound by the hotel’s policies, so keep that in mind.
3. Consider Lower-Risk Destinations
No Caribbean destination can claim to be 100% hurricane free, but thanks to geography some islands are less affected. Statistically, the southern Caribbean sees less hurricane activity, so islands like Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, may be ones to consider. If you’re set on a higher-risk island a cruise may be a better bet, as the ship will be regularly receiving weather information and be able to set their course appropriately. You’ll need to be flexible, but in the end you’ll get to see more than one island.
4. Book a Hotel with a Hurricane Guarantee
Believe it or not, some hotels are willing to go the extra mile and offer guests a guarantee around extreme weather conditions. For example, Hotel Operator Members of the Bermuda Hotel Association have a “Hurricane Guarantee,” which allows guests to cancel their reservation without penalty, however the specifics are that it has to be predicted by the Bermuda Weather Service, “to approach within 200 miles of Bermuda and within 3 days.” This guarantee covers 12 hotels and resorts on the island, including both Fairmont properties, The Reefs, and Rosewood Tucker’s Point. Hard Rock Punta Cana and Hard Rock Cancun, both offer a Hurricane Policy for travellers that promise if a hurricane hits while there are on property they will offer a certificate for a return stay for the number of unused nights. Transat Holidays is a travel provider that also offers a Hurricane Policy that covers travellers in a specific date range and offers them four options if a hurricane does strike. If you do book with a hotel or agency that has a policy, be sure to read the fine print to know exactly what you’re covered for.
5. Go Prepared
The weeks leading up to your trip, keep an eye on the weather — just in case. If you’re aware of a looming storm, it can give you adequate time to make changes or even cancel your trip if necessary. Assuming all is well and you’re packed and ready to go, ensure you’ve done your due diligence by making photocopies of all of your important documents (such as your driver’s license, passport, and credit cards). Having a hard copy of phone numbers can be a lifesaver too if power goes out and you can’t charge your electronics. That being said, travelling with an extra charger is never a bad idea. Also be sure to have a family member or friend back home be aware of your trip details, in case an emergency does occur.