I’ve been dealing with clients and hurricanes for the last few weeks. First, let me say it’s all about perspective. Peoples lives are being uprooted. Whole islands are being declared uninhabitable. A rescheduled or interrupted vacation should be taken with a grain of salt. Please continue to keep those affected by natural disasters in your thoughts and prayers and help in any way you can. That being said, considerable time energy and resources have been put into your vacation. What should you do about the threat of a hurricane? What should you do if a storm hits while you are on vacation?
Stay at home, do not go. Reschedule your trip. If the storm is supposed to hit within 3 days of your departure date please do not go. Not only are you putting yourself and your family at risk you may be diverting time energy and resources from local residents who will really need help. Be responsible and stay at home. Look into changing your destination or going at a later date. Hurricane Maria developed very quickly, for my clients who went to the Dominican Republic on Thursday, Maria was not even a factor until Monday when the warnings began to appear. If this happens act immediately. Try to get out ASAP.
Assess the situation to determine your best course of action. Contact your travel agent or a relative and have them call your airline. If you are unsuccessful with getting on an aircraft before the storm, reschedule your departure until after the storm passes.By having a reservation you are not competing with everyone else to get out. Even after you’ve done this still have your agent, relative or yourself, if you can, call your airline and try to see if there are any last flights out. Head to the front desk of the hotel to ask about their policies for these situations. Many hotels offer relief giving vouchers for missed nights if you have to leave early.
Limit travel during hurricane season or avoid hurricane hot spots. Good alternatives to the Caribbean proper are California, Hawaii, Europe, Aruba, Costa Rica and Panama.
Act early. This goes without saying, no matter how good the weather looks, ever heard of ‘the calm before the storm’? As soon as the warnings start to appear, start making alternative plans. I will admit I only look at the weather when packing. That has definitely changed over the years. The reality is if a hurricane is headed your way you will hear about it.
Have a plan but be flexible. Know that this is a crisis. Things are very fluid. Prepare as best you can but be ready to change your plans. You may have to evacuate your hotel and head to a shelter. You may have to go to the airport every morning and line up to try to get on a flight home or worse, sleep at the airport. You may have to be on the phone for hours with your airline.
Prepare to extend your trip. As soon as possible arrange to stay at the hotel for the extra nights you believe you will have to extend your trip for. Do this even if you are hoping to leave early. What if you are staying in an AirBnB? Communicate early on with your host. Can you stay? Is it safe to stay? For me personally, I would rather be in a hotel so I would book a hotel room immediately. Hotels have more resources and emergency plans in place to keep guests safe.
Listen to what you are being told to do by hotel staff and emergency management staff. Be patient and calm. Staff and emergency personnel are often times your first line for information. This is not their first rodeo and they know what to expect.
Always get insurance especially during hurricane season and winter months. While it may not do anything for you during the situation you can always make a claim afterward. It also comes in handy for canceling your vacation, although most companies rebook and or reimburse travelers if there is a storm. Here is the standard travel insurance I offer to my clients through Travelex. Need Travel Protection? Don’t forget a travel protection plan! Get a Quote Now at TravelexInsurance.com
Get cash and do not loose sight of your bags. I never have cash with me but with reports that there is no power on most of the island of Puerto Rico, it dawned on me how important it is to have cash on hand. Also, keep your bags with you at all times. Do not check your bags as you do not know if they will be on the flight home with you, they may leave without you too. This might not always be possible but try your best.
Always have a small first aid kit with you. A battery powered charger can be very helpful to have with you. Extra snacks and water if possible, basic medical information about everyone in your travel party. Also always have your valuables, passports and a change of clothes with you.