Hurricanes can wreak havoc on countries in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as far as several miles inland, according to the National Hurricane Center. This includes destinations in the U.S., Caribbean and Mexico. Unfortunately, it also means that for about half of the year, you may have to worry about a hurricane interrupting (or worse, ruining) your vacation.
The concern seems to intensify each year, too, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) predicting the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season to be “above normal,” citing ongoing La Niña conditions and unusually high temperatures in the Atlantic.
You don’t need to avoid or cancel all your upcoming travel plans, though. Read on to learn how you can adequately prepare for a vacation during hurricane season.
What is a hurricane?
First, let’s establish what hurricanes are and what causes them. Hurricanes are tropical cyclones around an area of low pressure. When the two meet, they produce strong winds and heavy rain that are capable of catastrophic damage. Hurricanes are caused by a number of factors, including increased sea surface temperatures and high humidity.
When is hurricane season?
Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean officially starts on June 1 and runs through November 30. However, it reaches its peak in September. The Pacific hurricane season starts earlier, in mid-May, and ends around the same time late November.
How to plan a vacation during hurricane season
Choose your island vacation carefully
In 2017, hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated Caribbean islands including Dominica, Puerto Rico and St. Martin. Yet other islands were untouched by the storms, namely those outside of the “hurricane belt.”
The ABC islands
Hurricane season in Mexico
Hurricanes occur in Mexico, too. In fact, Agatha, the first hurricane of 2022, made landfall in Mexico in May. A Category 2 storm, it was the strongest May hurricane to hit this region since modern record keeping began in 1949.
Protect your investment
No matter where you decide to vacation during hurricane season, you should consider purchasing travel insurance, which ensures you are refunded in the event your trip is canceled or interrupted. You may be able to purchase travel insurance when you book your trip, but you can also buy a separate policy through companies like Travelex and Nationwide.
In addition to travel insurance products that cover storms and other issues beyond your control, you can also buy cancel-for-any-reason insurance that will do exactly what it says – let you cancel for any reason, including weather-related events like hurricanes and, in some cases, COVID-19-related issues. These policies will refund you for the cost of your prepaid airfare, hotels and more, but only if you buy them ahead of time.
If you have a credit card that offers travel insurance as a member perk, you might also rely on that coverage, provided you use your card to pay for the trip. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers a free travel insurance benefit that will refund you up to $10,000 per trip for prepaid travel (think flights, hotels and tours) if severe weather ruins your plans. The card also provides protections for lost luggage, auto rental collision damage and more.
Avoid sunk costs
Maybe you don’t even want to deal with the potential for canceled or rescheduled flights, especially as this has been a major challenge for travelers in 2022. In that case, it might make sense to plan a vacation in a destination you can reach by car.
To make this strategy work, you’ll need to book a hotel fare you can cancel without any penalty. Since the National Hurricane Center knows when a hurricane is forming and, for the most part, can predict where it’s heading, you can cancel your hotel with even a few days’ notice and just stay home. Or, you can book a last-minute getaway elsewhere and drive there instead.
Consider a cruise
It’s not as crazy as you might think to plan a cruise during hurricane season. You have the option to sail to destinations outside of any hurricane zone, such as the Mediterranean, Alaska or Hawaii. Or, you can focus on cruises within the Southern Caribbean, a region where hurricanes are much less likely to strike. What’s more is many cruise lines offer last-minute deals or deep discounts to those who are willing to travel during this time. Bonus: If you don’t have school-aged kids, fewer crowds make this an especially good time to travel.
Also consider that cruise ships have onboard weather tracking systems that help them avoid trouble. The cruise experts at Cruise Critic say it’s not uncommon for cruises to be shortened or extended during hurricane season so they can work around a storm. Your cruise line might switch your itinerary to include a stop at a different island in order to stay out of a storm’s path (assuming there’s space). Stopping at an unexpected destination such as Grand Turk instead of the Bahamas doesn’t seem so bad.
[Ready to plan a cruise? Find the best value sailings on GoToSea, a service of U.S. News.]