What to do When You’re Travelling During a Hurricane

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Every year in August and September, hurricanes form over the Atlantic. From time-to-time, these hurricanes have a direct path through the Caribbean, Mexico, and parts of the U.S. causing some serious damage. If you’ve booked a vacation, you need to accept the fact that a hurricane could affect your travel plans. It is hurricane season after all.

Many people are willing to take that risk since prices are lower at this time of the year, but if a hurricane starts to form, you need to pay extra attention to see how it could affect you. If you’re lucky, it may not affect your dates, but here’s what to do when you’re travelling during a hurricane.

If you’re already abroad

Those who are currently abroad and are affected by a hurricane should contact their airline ASAP to arrange new flights. Let’s be clear, if a hurricane is projected to affect an area you’re currently in, it’s in your best interest to be proactive. Do NOT wait around and hope it’ll just pass.

Airlines are technically under no obligation to help you, but they’ll likely waive any change fees that they would normally charge. Some airlines will also try their best to send additional airplanes to any affected areas to help evacuate people who are still on the ground.

Understand that everyone will also be trying to get out, so your airline or tour operator may be overwhelmed or may not have enough seats. Your priority is your safety, so that means you should just book any flight that gets you to safety. You can figure out how to get home after you’ve gotten out of harm’s way.

For example, if you’re in Miami and you can’t find a flight out; consider finding a ride to say Orlando or Jacksonville where more flights may be available. Don’t rely on someone else to get you out. Some people will be hesitant to do this since they’ll have to pay out of pocket, but we’re talking about your safety here.

I should mention that sometimes the Canadian government will also send airplanes for evacuation. There’s no guarantee that this will happen which is why you should always find your own way out. Either way, make sure you register with the government of Canada if you’re abroad.

If you’re unable to depart the destination you’re currently in, make sure you seek shelter. Check with the local authorities to find out what your best options are, but that might just be staying in your hotel/resort. If you can pick up additional supplies, do so.

Travel insurance may cover you

Most people know that travel medical insurance is a must, but they often overlook trip cancellation & interruption insurance. Sure it’ll cost you a few dollars more, but having this additional coverage can make a huge difference.

If the Canadian government issues a travel advisory, the costs for you to return home will be covered as long as you have travel insurance.

Mind you; the details matter very much. Every insurance policy is different, and not every policy covers hurricanes, so you need to read the fine print.

Many travel rewards credit cards offer included travel insurance, but again you need to read your policy to find out if you’re covered. If you have travel insurance through your employer, note that it often only covers travel medical, so you would have to purchase your own trip cancellation & interruption insurance.

If you’ve yet to travel

Travel cancellation insurance comes into play if you’ve yet to depart. If the government of Canada has issued a non-essential travel warning to your destination, then you’ll likely have no problems making a claim. The key thing to note is that the advisory must be up during your travel dates.

Again, airlines will likely let you switch the dates of your tickets while waiving their fee but if you booked a resort, things could get tricky. Tour operators will often allow you to change your destination, but you may have limited options since hurricanes affect such a large area.

You may also be given the option to alter the dates of your trip, but you may have to pay any additional fees since resort prices fluctuate depending on dates and locations.

What’s also a huge pain to deal with is if you’re travelling shortly after a hurricane. If the government of Canada has lifted the travel warning, then you don’t automatically qualify to make a claim. The property you were planning to stay at may have been affected, but they may offer to send you to one of their sister resorts. In this case, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to cancel your trip and get reimbursed by your travel insurance.

Final thoughts

Every claim is unique which is why you always need to read the details of your insurance policy. If you haven’t figured it out by now, you should ALWAYS purchase travel insurance. If you happen to be caught in a hurricane, take steps to get to safety as soon as you can.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

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