June marks the beginning of hurricane season in Florida and the Southeast and Gulf States, so if you’re planning a vacation in any of these areas over the summer or fall, take a few simple steps to protect your investment.
First, let’s establish that hurricanes touch down in the US rarely, appearing only once or twice a year. But the biggest threat is their unpredictability: how powerful will they be, when and where will they land? They may give us three weeks’ notice, or only two days. And as anyone who has ever been through a real hurricane knows, they are frightening, life-threatening, and should not to be taken lightly.
So what must you do?
Though June through November is traditionally known as hurricane season, the peak months of storm activity are August, September and October—with Labour Day weekend being the expected finale. Generally, that coincides with high ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Basin. Hurricanes need warm water (27 C/80 F or more) to grow. But there have been lethal storms as early as June through late November.
If you’re planning a golf vacation in South Carolina, or a family getaway in Florida, South Texas or anywhere between, and you are prepaying any part of your trip, you need trip cancellation/interruption insurance to cover that prepayment in case your destination area is directly threatened.
Also, if you’re flying to your destination, consider unrestricted airfares (which, though pricey, allow you to change without penalty). Note that most airlines that cancel flights to storm-prone areas will make allowance for changes in itinerary—although not by giving you your money back. More likely you will be given a voucher for future travel.
Understand your trip cancellation policy
Make sure you understand the terms of your policy. It does not guarantee you’re going to get 100 percent of your money back if a hurricane wipes out your trip to Myrtle Beach or Key West. There are limits, clearly stated in the fine print, on how much the insurer will reimburse.
And when you buy a trip cancellation policy you buy protection from the time of purchase to the actual trip. So the later you cancel your trip (i.e., the closer you get to the time of travel), the smaller your reimbursement. Remember, it’s the protection over time that you bought.
Respect the unpredictability of storms
If you have booked a trip to South Padre Island, Texas, and weather forecasters predict the possibility of a storm turning into a hurricane hitting the western Gulf of Mexico in a week or two, don’t immediately panic and cancel your trip. Tropical storms are notorious for changing their travel routes. If you immediately cancel, and the storm peters out or changes direction and leaves your destination resort unscathed, you will have no justification for claiming recovery of your non-returnable payment from the resort, or even reimbursement from your insurer—unless you were wise enough to buy a change of mind or cancel for any reason policy. Neither will your airline be obligated to refund or change your ticket.
Note, change of mind or cancel for any reason policies are widely available now, and they allow a lot more flexibility for you to change travel plans. But they too have some limits, so it’s best to talk to your insuring agent to understand what those limits are. Despite these small limitations, such change policies are the best protection you can find for your travel investment.
Remember that insurance coverage can only replace what you have actually and irretrievably lost—such as money already paid out. It will not cover cancelled air or cruise fares for which the air carrier or cruise line has issued a voucher for future travel. And it can’t cover the disappointment of a dream trip gone awry.
One more word of warning
If you decide to go ahead with your trip to a potential hurricane zone just because you would like to experience the thrill of it all, make sure all of your affairs are in order. Such storms kill. And people who go through a hurricane once will not do it a second time voluntarily.
Plan your trips well. The chances of being hit by a hurricane over any given short time period are minimal. And usually the time to get out of their path is plentiful. Just pay attention.
Do you want to learn more about trip cancellation insurance and change of mind policies? Contact a representative today.