Unless You’re A Storm Chaser, You Need to Know This About Hurricane Season Travel
Every year from June until well after Halloween, you might notice that those of us in the travel community are just a little bit more on edge than usual. The problem, you see, is that hurricanes tend to hang out and visit some of the most popular places for people in the US to vacation — Florida, Caribbean Islands, and Mexico. So yes, we hold our collective breath, monitor the weather channel more than usual, and try to have Plan B, C and D already thought through.
Last year the Atlantic hurricane season produced 21 named storms, the third most active season recorded.
Now look, this is basically half the year, so believe me I get that people are going to travel. Hell, I want you to travel. It’s kind of my gig after all. But since we can all agree that we are going into this together, what do you say we agree on some ground rules? While these suggestions are focused on weather-impacted travel, I’d suggest they are good practices for any trip.
First, please say yes to Travel Insurance. I’m not an insurance broker. And I’m happy to report that since COVID people have been much more open to protecting their travel investment. But still. Telling me “I’m going unless I’m dead” isn’t really a travel strategy. I get it, we all plan on going no matter what. But “what” has been named Fiona and Ian in the last two weeks, and they had an entirely different take on the situation. So know these things:
- Buy your travel insurance early, as in when you put down your deposit. Many insurance companies only provide coverage if you buy it BEFORE a storm is named. And storms tend to get named way before the cable news starts talking about them.
- Travel insurance generally only covers arrangements that are non-refundable. You need to understand what the cancellation policies are for your arrangements and plan accordingly. Not to pan them, but this is especially true if you are using AirBnB, VRBO or another private home arrangement.
Even if you are not planning to travel to the locations noted above, pay attention to where your flights connect through. Miami and Orlando in particular are very popular hubs for some airlines, and for obvious reasons, there are lots of folks who were going somewhere other than Florida or the Caribbean this week who have had their plans all jammed up. In general, longer connections are better in the summer because even regular summer storms can (and do) create chaos.
Possibly the only thing more stressful than having your trip cancelled before you leave is having your trip go off the rails once you are already traveling. There’s not necessarily anything you can do to avoid this, but a few suggestions for being prepared might be in order.
Pack your pills. If you are going on a 7-day trip, pack at least 14 days of your medication, along with copies of the prescriptions in case they have to be refilled. That way if your return is delayed you have one less thing to stress about.
Get your money right. Even if you have Travel Insurance it is often reimbursing you after you have already spent the money on that extra hotel, flight change or extra meal. Many people like to travel with just one credit card (the one they are earning points on) but you should maybe think about having a second “in emergency break glass” card on you in case something comes up.
Download the apps. Often flight delays and cancellations come through first to their apps and folks who have signed up for notifications. Some apps to download:
- Your airline — again, you will often see notifications and status updates here first. Depending on the airline, sometimes you can rebook yourself through the app faster than the folks standing in line at the customer service center. I’ve been on a delayed flight sitting on the tarmac and rebooked a group of 20 through the apps before we even took off. When we landed and we had of course missed our original flight, we went straight to the new gate and the rest of the plane went to customer service (ouch).
- Your hotel chain — whether or not you have status, the contact info for the hotel is there, and many of them have a chat function. Even if you are only delayed, reach out and let them know so that you don’t lose your room as a no-show.
- Your cruise line app — allows you to see not only your reservation but any tours you might need to cancel, etc.
- YOUR TRAVEL AGENT’S APP — Yes, I have an app, and lots of other travel agents do too. This should have (I can’t speak to what other agents load in) all of your itinerary details, 24/7 emergency phone numbers, copies of your identification docs (passport photo pages, etc) along with a texting function so you can reach your agent if something comes up. If we have to change something mid-trip (you’re stuck in a random city and need a hotel) I can upload your new documents here so that you have them when you show up to your new spot.
And just for fun, get your Twitter handle warmed up! Many airlines and hotels are surprisingly responsive to the little blue bird.
Finally, as with all things these days, pack your patience. A sense of humor doesn’t hurt either. So long as you and your loved ones are safe, the rest can be handled. Be careful out there, and have fun!