What you should know about traveling during hurricane season


For many travelers, summertime is the ideal time to plan for a vacation. With warm, sunny weather, school vacations and summer hours at many companies, it's easy to get caught up in planning the perfect getaway for this time of year. While the weather may be more cooperative locally, however, it's important to remember that not every region experiences seasonal changes the same way. Summer months may be more preferable for a coastal tour of New England in the U.S., but in some parts of the world, weather this time of year can offer harsher problems than winter.

This is the case when it comes to hurricane season. For parts of the Caribbean, Mexico and the southern U.S., summer months can spell trouble in the waters. That doesn't mean you have to forgo any vacation to areas that may be vulnerable to these storms- but you do need to take a little extra planning into account.

What is hurricane season?

Hurricane season is the time of year when hurricanes and tropical storms are most likely to form. They are caused when warm, moist air travels over warm waters, NASA explained. As warm air rises, it begins to cool and more air moves in to replace it. These fluctuating temperatures create winds and clouds that start to swirl into the massive, moving vortices known as tropical cyclones.
These storms are concentrated around areas near the equator, where the water is warm enough to cause hurricanes when it interacts with the moving air systems. They largely target tropical areas like the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, north Indian Ocean and the equatorial Pacific.

In the Atlantic Ocean, the temperatures from June through November are most primed for creating hurricanes, the U.S. Department of State explained. Typhoon season, as it's known in the eastern Pacific Ocean, runs about May to October. Cyclone season in the Indian Ocean lasts throughout the year, but peaks between November and April.

Hurricanes can bring devastating destruction when they make landfall, with high winds, heavy rains and rapid flooding. Tourists need to know how to avoid getting trapped in one of these powerful storm systems, which could leave them stranded at their vacation spot - or, even worse, cause injuries or fatalities.

How to prepare for a vacation to hurricane-prone areas

Though hurricanes can be catastrophic, they aren't overly common, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Only 11 storms are strong enough to be "named" each year, with only six becoming hurricanes and only two becoming major hurricanes. And they don't all make landfall - many tropical storms build up momentum over the waters but die out before they ever approach land. As such, you don't need to swear off any vacation to an area that could have the potential for a tropical storm for these months.

But since the consequences of a hurricane are so destructive when they do hit, it's important not to be overly optimistic about the chances you can just avoid one on your next Caribbean vacation. It's best to approach Hurricane Season travel with a "hope for the best, but plan for the worst" mentality to keep you from getting caught off guard. Follow these tips to help keep your trip protected, just in case:

1. Know the cancelation policies

One of the first things you should do when planning a vacation to a hurricane-prone area is to find out what happens if a storm does form. Whether you're dealing with a resort in Jamaica, a cruise through the Bahamas or a hotel of the Gulf Coast, find out what their contingency plans are in case of a hurricane. Some places have hurricane policies that will instantly cancel and refund your trip once a hurricane starts to form. Others will only cancel if the storm track is very likely to make contact where you are staying. Some won't keep you covered at all. Before you put deposits down on anything, be sure you know what will happen if you decide you need to cancel your trip, or if they decided they will cancel it for you.

2. Buy travel insurance

Even if your destination has a good cancelation policy, and especially if it doesn't, you need to get supplemental travel insurance to keep yourself protected. If you're flying to a destination that has clear weather, but your point of origin is canceling flights because of an impending storm, your vacation spot may decline to cover any time lost while you're stranded at the airport. Perhaps a storms seems likely to make landfall but the resort you're heading to insists the threat isn't strong enough to refund your reservation. You may feel unsafe enough that you want to cancel your trip anyway. By securing a travel insurance plan that includes hurricane coverage, you can recoup any losses if you do need to cancel or postpone your trip. So you can plan ahead for that late-summer getaway without it being a gamble.

3. Have an evacuation plan

Trying to ride out a storm, especially in a location where you can't control the security of your housing, can be incredibly dangerous. Hurricanes have been known to level buildings, cover cities in floodwater and send debris flying through the air at violent speeds. If you are traveling to a new location during hurricane season, you need to craft an evacuation plan first. Research how you'll be able to leave the location if a storm is forecast - this could mean knowing which roads will lead you inland, or finding out how to book a last-minute flight if you need to get off a small island. You may decide you want to pick a different vacation spot if it seems that it will be difficult to make a quick getaway if you need to leave before a hurricane hurts.

4. Check the forecast

Before you go on vacation, look at the weather forecasts for your departing location and your destination. Hurricanes take a few days to start forming, so you should have advanced notice if there's anything you need to be on the lookout for. Once you arrive, keep tabs on the track of any forming storms, or look for news that a storm may be building. This will help you make informed decisions about whether or not you need to cancel a trip or plan for an evacuation once you're already there.

Remember that a hurricane doesn't just need to be heading toward your destination to impact your vacation - a large storm can set of a chain-reaction of flight cancelations or other disruptions to your plans. As such, you should keep a close eye on events that can trigger travel problems, even if you don't think they may end up inhibiting your specific travel itinerary.

You should also monitor any storms that happen before your trip. If your destination was recently impacted by a bad storm, it may not be an ideal time to go through with your vacation. Hurricane season doesn't need to keep you from going on that tropical vacation you've always dreamed of - just take the necessary precautions before you go to make sure that you stay protected.

Contact your travel insurance provider for further assistance.

The information contained here is provided by Brafton. AIG Travel assumes no responsibility for the use, accuracy, or interpretation of the information contained herein.

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