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Hurricane Season: What You Need to Know

Here are some basics tips to make sure your beach trips, especially to the Caribbean and Mexico, go smoothly through November. The 2011 season has begun and NOAA, part of the National Weather Service, is expecting an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season and a below-normal East Pacific hurricane season.


The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 through November 30, but it’s fairly rare to see a large storm in either June or November. The East Pacific hurricane season (affecting Hawaii and Mexico’s Pacific Coast) is generally at the same time.

Know Where Hurricanes are More Common

Keep in mind that hurricanes are rarer the farther south you go. The ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao) as well as Trinidad and Tobago are the least likely to see a direct hit by a Caribbean hurricane, while the area south of Los Cabos along Mexico’s Pacific Coast is least likely to be struck by a hurricane. However, all these areas are still susceptible to strong storms, and even the periphery of a large storm can bring heavy wind and rain, putting a damper on any beach vacation.

Understand Airline Policies

Airports are usually closed during hurricanes and many flights canceled, which results in a disruption of the steady flow of tourists in and out of affected islands. If you are scheduled to fly into an area where a hurricane is expected, check with your airline regularly and often. If flights are disrupted, airlines will usually allow you to rebook at a later date, but you will not get a refund if you have booked a nonrefundable ticket, nor in most cases will you be allowed to change your ticket to a different destination; rather, you will be expected to reschedule your trip for a later date.

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Understand Hotels and Resort Policies

If a hurricane warning is issued and flights disrupted to your destination, virtually every resort will waive cancellation and change penalties and will allow you to rebook your trip for a later date; some will allow you to cancel if a hurricane threatens to strike, even if flights aren’t canceled. Some will give you a refund if you have prepaid for your stay; others will expect you to rebook your trip for a later date. Some large resort companies—including Sandals and SuperClubs—have "hurricane guarantees," but these apply only when flights have been canceled or when a hur¬ricane is sure to strike.

Consider Travel Insurance

If you plan to travel to a beach destination during the hurricane season, it is wise to buy travel insurance that allows you to cancel for any reason. This kind of coverage can be expensive (up to 10% of the value of the trip), but if you have to prepay far in advance for an expensive vacation package, the peace of mind may be worth it. Just be sure to read the fine print; some policies don’t kick in unless flights are canceled and the hurricane makes a direct hit on the island to which you have chosen to travel, something you may not be assured of until the day you plan to travel. In order to get a complete cancellation policy, you must usually buy your insurance within a week of booking your trip. If you wait until after the hurricane warning is issued to purchase insurance, it will be too late.

Track Those Hurricanes

The obsessive and naturally curious keep a close eye on the Caribbean during hurricane season. You can, too. Several Web sites track hurricanes during the season, including:

Photo Credits: ekratzig / iStockPhoto

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