Traveling to the Caribbean during hurricane season can save you money while enjoying fewer crowds. Mid-April to mid-December is considered off-season in the Caribbean, and six of those months are during hurricane season.
If you’re willing to take a risk on the weather cooperating, you could experience a great vacation for a lot less money. Lodging, transportation, and island activities are substantially lower during hurricane season, and you may find discounted airfare as well.
When is Hurricane Season?
Hurricane season is from June 1 through November 30. According to NOAA, “Activity peaks from mid-August through mid-October because of various factors such as warmer water and air temperatures and increased moisture.” The biggest threat of a hurricane in the Caribbean is in September.
Islands that are south of the hurricane belt typically experience fewer hurricanes. The ABC islands – Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao haven’t had a hurricane in years. Other islands with fewer hurricanes are Barbados, Trinidad, Tobago, and Grenada.
Purchase Travel Insurance:
Be prepared with travel insurance. Weather is unpredictable and hurricanes can quickly shift direction. If your vacation starts to go south (so to speak), you can protect against financial losses by purchasing travel insurance.
There is one caveat. Travel insurance must be purchased before a hurricane has been named or starts to form. Once it is a named hurricane, you will no longer be able to purchase coverage (or at least not full coverage). Insurance companies view a named hurricane as a foreseeable event.
Trip Cancellation insurance covers the cancellation of a trip for unforeseen (covered) reasons. Find out exactly what is or is not covered and what is required for filing a claim. Keep all receipts and documentation. If you’re unable to get to your destination because of a canceled flight or lodging, you will be reimbursed for expenses paid.
Some insurance policies will offer compensation if there’s a NOAA-issued travel warning. This added option allows you to cancel your trip even if the airlines or your hotel/resort have not issued a cancellation. If you don’t want to be on vacation when a storm hits, this would be a good policy to check out. Hotels and resorts oftentimes remain open during a hurricane.
For helpful information on purchasing travel insurance during hurricane season (along with a list of providers), go to InsureMyTrip.com.
If you’d prefer to have the option of canceling your trip if conditions are not favorable, look into a “Cancel for Any Reason” policy. Again, be sure to know what is covered by the policy and the allowable reasons for cancellation. When it comes to insurance, “cancel for any reason” does not include “every” reason. There are stipulations.
Trip Interruption insurance covers expenses for returning home early or rerouting to another location. If you’re unable to make it to your final destination (because of a storm or for other reasons), it will reimburse you for the added costs involved.
Trip Delay insurance covers expenses for additional transportation costs, meals, and lodging if your flight is delayed.
Airlines and cruise lines offer travel insurance for an additional cost when you purchase your trip. However, you can oftentimes find better coverage at a lower cost with an outside travel insurance company. It’s worth investigating other options.
What if the Hurricane Hits while You’re on Vacation?
If you have travel insurance, contact your travel insurance provider. They will initiate a claim and will provide you with important information on what to do and on how to get back home safely.
Hotels and businesses in hurricane-prone areas are prepared for hurricanes. They’ve experienced them and know how what to expect. Before booking your reservations, get specifics on the hotel or resort’s hurricane plan. Ask about their cancellation policy and if they have a generator if the power goes out.
Many properties have hurricane policies in place that may or may not favor their guests. Some properties waive the cancellation fee if you decide to leave early, while others may offer a certificate or voucher for the unused nights. The downside is that these vouchers need to be used by a specified date, which makes them useless if you’re not able to use them.
If you are unable to reach your destination because of a flight cancellation or a mandatory evacuation, you may be able to rebook at a later date or cancel your reservations entirely without a penalty.
You will also want to know (in advance) what the game plan is if there is a government-issued evacuation. Will it provide transportation to the airport (if the airport is open) or to a local shelter? Public transportation oftentimes shuts down during a hurricane. Find out what the evacuation entails.
There are times when you may be forced to ride out the storm in the hotel. You may be moved to a safer location on the property (away from windows) and have to hunker down until the storm passes. If you remain in your room, keep your drapes closed and stay far away from windows. If the wind breaks the glass, the drapes will help contain it.
Be prepared by stocking up on supplies. Purchase extra batteries, bottled water, flashlights, a first aid kit, unscented candles and matches, and food (that doesn’t require refrigeration or cooking) that will last a few days. Include items like canned meat, peanut butter, bread, protein bars, nuts, tuna fish, apples, etc. Pick up some fun games to help pass the time.
Be sure to have extra cash, since ATMs may not be working. Put important documents like your passport, insurance policy, and birth certificate in a waterproof container, along with any medications, and keep it with you.
Make sure your computer, laptop, and phone are fully charged and fill your rental car with gas. You may lose cell service during a hurricane in the Caribbean. Even if you cannot make a call, you may still be able to text. Preserve your battery life by turning off Wi-Fi search, dimming the background lighting on your phone, and close unnecessary apps. Set your phone to receive emergency weather alerts through a weather app.
Notify friends and family of where you are and keep them updated. That’ll go a long way in reducing their anxiety about your safety.
Taking a Cruise during Hurricane Season:
Hurricane season does not usually affect cruises. Cruise ships are able to either “outrun” or bypass hurricanes, and they try to stay far enough away to avoid the turbulence. Cruises are rarely canceled because of hurricanes. If the cruise ship has to skirt the edges of the storm, it may result in passengers experiencing rough seas. Be sure to pack some remedies to ward off seasickness.
Plan on arriving the day before your cruise ship is scheduled to depart. Flight delays and cancellations have caused many cruisers to miss their cruise ship’s embarkation. This is especially important if storms in the area are affecting flights.
When cruising during hurricane season, the cruise ship may need to alter the itinerary and skip ports of call that are in the path of a storm. The ship may also be delayed in leaving or returning to its homeport, which in turn, will adversely affect your flight schedule.
Purchasing travel insurance is recommended when embarking on a cruise.
As a general rule, passengers are not given compensation for storm-related changes in the itinerary. If a port of call is skipped, you should receive an onboard credit for any port charges. If you set up tours outside the cruise line, these will have to be canceled. You’ll be responsible for requesting a refund. Before booking a tour, find out what the cancellation policy is.
Even if a port of call is not canceled, the cruise ship can make last-minute changes in the time it arrives and departs from a port of call. These changes could conflict with your tour schedule. You don’t want to be late in returning to your cruise ship. If the tour was not set up through the cruise line, the ship will leave without you.
By knowing what to plan for in advance, you can have an extraordinary vacation during hurricane season. You won’t have to worry about the “what ifs”, because you’ll already have them covered.
For more insightful travel ideas, check out my book,
Know Before You Go: Traveling the U.S. and Abroad