This article was originally published on travelandleisure.com on July 28, 2018.
While traveling off-season can often mean getting lower prices and enjoying popular hotspots without the crowds, in some destinations it can put you at risk of coming into contact with a hurricane.
Knowing how to best avoid putting yourself in this situation — and what to do if you end up in a hurricane anyway — is crucial.
Travel + Leisure spoke to Dr. Rick Knabb, a hurricane expert with The Weather Channel, to get his top tips on what you can do to try and ensure a hurricane-free vacation, and what to do to keep safe if you get caught in the midst of one.
Below, you’ll find out what to do about grounded flights, destroyed hotels, loss of power, and other hurricane-related travel issues to help ensure a safe and smooth trip.
Know Your Timing
According to Knabb, nearly all countries in and around the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the eastern and central Pacific Ocean are susceptible to tropical storms and hurricanes, with the hurricane season typically running from June to November.
While forecasts and predictions can shift, having sources to turn to when planning your trip can be a valuable starting point. Some websites we recommend that track local weather patterns include nhc.noaa.gov (the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center), and both cdema.org and stormcarib.com for local weather reports in the Caribbean.
Get Travel Insurance
Having travel insurance can stop you from spending an “exorbitant amount of money” if unexpected weather occurs, Knabb said.
Travel insurance can cover lost costs from flight, cruise, or hotel cancelations, but you’ll want to buy it before a storm hits or is predicted, as this can severely limit your available options, according to travel insurance comparison website InsureMyTrip.
If you’re wondering whether buying insurance is the right choice for you, InsureMyTrip has the right questions to ask yourself, along with suggestions of some of the top plans for hurricane coverage.
And you’ll want to bring your insurance plan document with you on your trip, or at least have your confirmation policy and policy number on-hand, as you’ll often be asked to include these when calling your insurance company if a storm arrives.
Knabb recommends having a small stash of “critical items” that include solar battery-powered USB chargers, cash in U.S. and the foreign currency (since ATMs and credit cards often won’t be able to be used during and immediately after a storm), a battery-powered radio, a battery-powered flashlight or lantern, toiletries, and antibacterial wipes.
He also suggests bringing a first-aid kit, bottled water, and non-perishable foods, or buying them right when you get to your destination if you can’t pre-pack them to avoid crowds at local stores once a storm is looming.
Finally, Knabb recommends filling your prescriptions and getting your medications before your trip, especially if they’re difficult to obtain in foreign destinations.
Having the contact information for the U.S. consulate of the country you’ll be traveling to is always a good idea in case you need help or expert advice. They can tell you where to go for shelter in case a hurricane does strike.
Make sure to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get relevant information about safety conditions in your destination and helps the U.S. embassy or consulate get in touch with you during an emergency.
Finally, leave a family member or friend who won’t be joining you with your trip details and contact information, and make sure to charge your phone. Knabb told T+L texting is often the first form of communication to come back up after a storm.
Keep Your Documents on You
You’ll want to keep crucial travel and identification documents, like your passport, on you so you don’t lose them once chaos strikes in the middle of a storm. Keep them in Ziploc bags to ensure they stay dry.
Be the First to Leave
You’ll also want to avoid driving on any even partially flooded roads, as Knabb says most inland flood fatalities tend to occur in vehicles. In fact, Knabb recommends trying to leave early once a storm threatens the area you’re traveling in to avoid the big crowds that will also be attempting to leave once a hurricane is confirmed.
Know About Hurricane Policies
Do some digging into hurricane policies, as certain airlines, hotels, and tour operators will offer either perks or free rebookings when hurricanes strike.
For example, American Airlines issues travel alerts as soon as they see a storm of any magnitude approaching its destinations and airports, allowing you to quickly rebook or connect through alternate hubs both before and after your scheduled departure date. If a flight is canceled or significantly delayed with American due to hurricanes, customers will be able to cancel their itinerary and get a full refund.
Meanwhile, tour operators like Travel Impressions offer travel protection plans that allow you to cancel your trip for a variety of reasons starting at just $59.
Get more hurricane preparedness tips here and turn to The Weather Channel for hurricane coverage you can trust.