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What You Need to Know About Traveling During Hurricane Season

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hurricane 4With the peak of hurricane season around the corner, it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t travel to hurricane-prone areas. It just means you need the proper information, a plan B, and a little luck. You can still have a great, contrarian travel experience.

First, some history:

Hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30 in the Atlantic, and May 15 to November 30 in the Eastern Pacific. The majority of storms usually occur between mid-August and October, with the most severe hurricanes occurring in September in all areas.

Since weather services offer more accurate advance forecasting these days, it’s easier to maintain up-to-date news about local weather patterns and potential flight delays. Most airlines enable you to sign up for alerts and reminders via email or text message. You can also register for the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to be notified in case of emergency situations.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this year’s Hurricane Season Outlook suggests a below-normal hurricane season is likely. There’s a 70 percent chance of a below-normal season, 25 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 5 percent chance of an above-normal season.

The Climate Prediction Center also predicts 7 to 12 named storms, 3 to 6 hurricanes, and 0 to 2 major hurricanes. Last year, there were 13 named storms, 2 hurricanes, and 0 major hurricanes. In 2012, there were 19 named storms, 10 hurricanes, and 1 major hurricane.

Travel Insurance

Then there’s the possible option of travel insurance to protect you in the case of severe weather. But remember…

Travel insurance doesn’t always keep you covered. If you’re traveling to the Caribbean, Gulf Coast, or other hurricane-prone areas, your insurance policy must be purchased before a storm is officially named. (It’s like trying to buy fire insurance after your second floor bedroom is consumed by flames.)

For travel insurance, prices vary by age of the traveler, trip cost, state or residence, and plan amenities. For example, with TravelGuard, a California resident between the ages of 35 and 59 would see prices starting at $60 for a trip that costs between $1,000 and $1,500.  For the same price trip, New York residents of the same age have a starting price of $53.

It’s also a good idea to check the refund policies of both your airline and hotel prior to your trip in the event of catastrophic weather. You should keep in mind that in case of a flight delay or cancellation, you may be separated from your luggage. You can minimize any inconvenience by keeping necessities in your carry-on bags.

Hotel Hurricane Policies

In the event of a hurricane, some hotels (one example is the Westin Casuarina Resort & Spa Grand Cayman) will replace a guest’s vacation for the entire duration of the reservation. This guarantee applies to rooms and applicable taxes, and you can take a replacement vacation within one calendar year.

Some hotels on the island of Bermuda have a backup plan in case of hurricanes—1o resorts offer a Hurricane Guarantee, which gives travelers refunds and rain checks should their trips be cut short or canceled by a hurricane.

The program also includes a provision that if a hurricane is predicted to pass within 200 miles of Bermuda within three days, guests will be able to cancel their reservations without penalty.

Hurricane Free Islands

While there is no such thing as a “hurricane-free” island, there are some islands that do have a relatively low frequency of hurricanes.

As a general rule, the northerly regions of the Caribbean are prime targets. Islands such as Jamaica, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic are part of the hurricane belt, but you can also travel to southern islands outside of the main hurricane belt. It’s as simple as ABC: Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. However, the landscape is usually less green than a traditional Caribbean island, and not all southern islands are immune to storms.

A good alternative is to take a cruise to the Caribbean instead of booking a flight. Most cruises will quickly adjust to a storm by detouring to a different port—or ports.

Helpful Apps

One way you can stay a step ahead is by downloading some essential health and safety apps to keep track of hurricanes, locate resources, and find help.

The Red Cross Hurricane App lets you track hurricanes and weather conditions in a specific area. The app also comes with tropical storm warning alerts and helps you find shelters. The free app is available on the App Store and Google Play.

Hurricane Hound lets users track storms and weather patterns on their phones and tablets. The app highlights potential hurricane areas, hurricane categories, and wind speeds on a Google Maps layout. You can get the app for free on Google Play.

For more information about traveling during stormy weather, visit:

By Justin Shamtoob for PeterGreenberg.com

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