We’re knee-deep into this year’s hurricane season (officially June 1 to November 30), and it’s a doozy. It seems every time you turn on the news there’s another storm heading across the Atlantic in all its swirling fury. Seeing images of Ike’s destruction doesn’t exactly beckon one to bundle the brood and head into potentially storm-affected regions.
However, it’s unrealistic, impractical and unnecessary to expect families to avoid travel to such kid-friendly destinations like the Caribbean, the Mexican Riviera and Florida for six months of the year. In fact, off-season is “the” time for budget-conscious and crowd-averse families to visit. There are deals and discounts aplenty to tempt the most responsible parents into chancing a hurricane holiday. Of course, your family’s safety is a top concern, so here are a few tips to help you minimize the risk.
First off, according to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Labrabory, the statistical chance of experiencing or even being threatened by a hurricane while vacationing in the Atlantic/Gulf region is actually very small. The peak time for heavy storm activity in the eastern Caribbean is mid-August to mid-September and in the western Caribbean is mid-September to mid-November, so work around these months if you want to increase your odds of a climatically uneventful trip.
Southerly islands such as the ABCs (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao), Trinidad and Tobago and Margarita Island are typically out of the major storm paths – of course, no one can predict where Mother Nature will strike next, but these destinations are a safer bet than say, the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands (the ABCs haven’t suffered a direct hit since 1877, whereas the Bahamas averages a hurricane every 4 years).
Consider a cruise if you want to visit the Caribbean during hurricane season. It may seem counter-intuitive to hit the high seas at this turbulent time, but with satellite equipment and up-to-the-minute monitoring of weather conditions there is plenty of advanced warning about impending storm paths. These mobile aqua-resorts can simply change course to avoid the danger zone – just keep an open mind about your ports-of-call as itineraries may alter mid-cruise.
Get a guarantee
Quite a few resorts, cruise lines and travel companies offer a guarantee that protects (at least part of) your investment should a storm rain on your vacation parade. These protection plans vary considerably – read the fine print for a multitude of exceptions and conditions – but they do afford a little peace of mind when booking a trip in the region at this time. Here are a few companies that offer some sort of refund, rescheduling, relocating, credit voucher, cancellation window, penalty waivers or other such travel assistance for storm-related issues.
Club Med Hurricane Protection Program
SuperClubs No-Hurricane Guarantee
(Some SuperClub properties also offer a Sunshine Guarantee that reimburses you for rainy days!)
Expedia Hassle-Free Hurricane Promise
Funjet Vacations Fun For Sure Plan
CheapCaribbean.com FreeYour Mind Travel Protection Program
Orlando Tropical Weather Guarantees
Most travel insurance specifically excludes natural disasters like hurricanes from coverage. Even if your policy does include an inclement weather clause, make sure you read and understand all the fine print – you may think you’re protected but stipulations might mean it only kicks in if, say, a Category 3+ hurricane makes a direct hit on your resort. Note that some policies consider a forecast storm to be a “known event” and therefore ineligible for coverage. If your family is heading to – or simply traveling via – the affected region during storm season, you’ll want to consider reimbursements for things like delayed flights, missed connections, trip interruptions, full trip cancellation and evacuation should a hurricane affect your plans along the way. A good travel agent or insurance specialist can recommend a policy that has the necessary protection for you and your family.
Pay close attention to travel advisories if a storm is a-brewing in your general area of intended travel. Remember that weather systems can affect more than your ultimate destination, Connecting flights may be disrupted, roads may be blocked, mass evacuations and the chaotic aftermath of a storm can directly or indirectly impact your plans. Think through contingencies and by all means, cancel or cut-short your trip if your family’s safety may be compromised.
If a storm is enroute but it’s too late to bail, you’ll have a few hours notice to prepare the family. Find out what emergency provisions your hotel makes for guests or ask the local tourism authority for information about shelters and evacuation procedures. Tune into a battery-powered radio for the latest storm updates.
Stay away from the ocean or any body of water, as surges and flooding are the biggest threats in a hurricane. If the wind and rain subside, don’t assume the worst is over. The eye may be passing over and it’s a case of calm before the other half of the storm. Tempting as it may be to score some cool photos or video footage for the MySpace page, keep your kids indoors and away from windows. Only venture out once the authorities have declared it safe to do so.
You may find yourselves holed up with your kids in a bathroom, closet or shelter for days at a time. Beyond the food, water and first-aid necessities you’ll want in your disaster kit, don’t forget a few toys, books, comforts and distractions for the kids. Earplugs are another nice-to-have, as the roar of a hurricane is beyond intense.
National Hurricane Center
The Caribbean Hurricane Network
The Weather Channel
Red Cross Hurricane Awareness