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It's Hurricane Season - Protect Your Vacation Investment

(May 22, 2003)

Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are predicting that this year's hurricane season, which begins June 1 and ends November 30, will be more robust than usual. The agency is forecasting 11 to 15 tropical storms over the season. It goes without saying, hurricanes and tropical storms can wreak havoc with millions of vacationers who spend time in the Caribbean, in Florida, and all along the East Coast. What will happen if a hurricane disrupts or cancels your trip and you have already put down a deposit or made a full payment? What are your options?

Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance

One option is trip-cancellation/interruption insurance, which covers losses when you cannot travel or your trip is cut short because of a weather disruption. Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance typically covers deposits and nonrefundable payments (up to the stated benefit amount) if a trip is canceled or interrupted. This coverage can include pre-departure cancellation, travel delays, and interrupted trips. (Depending on the trip, $3,000 worth of protection might cost around $150.)

Not all travel insurance companies offer this protection for weather related interruptions, so it is necessary to read the fine print carefully. Understanding the components in travel insurance is essential for making sure that you are not caught off-guard, thinking you have protection when you actually don’t. It is best to consult a professional travel agent. He or she will go over all the components to make sure that you have the coverage that you feel is necessary.

Resorts With Protection

Another option is to stay at resorts or hotels which offer “hurricane guarantees.” Several hotels and resorts offer guarantees for vacationers whose trips are disrupted or cancelled by hurricanes. For example,

Sandals and Beaches resorts offer umbrella protection, which guarantees a replacement stay that matches the duration and room category of the original trip. Airfare is included in the replacement refund only if the air tickets were booked through Sandals. This guarantee costs nothing more; it is part of the Sandals/Beaches program. Last September, Sandals paid out more than $1.5 million in refunds to guests staying at its Royal Bahamian resort after Hurricane Floyd hit.

  • SuperClubs reimburses guests for the total value of the disrupted nights, excluding the airfare. In addition, SuperClubs will issue vouchers for a return stay for the same number of nights the following year; again, this is excluding air.

  • Wyndham Resorts offers a vacation guarantee which covers replacement trips to any guests whose stay is affected by severe weather. Wyndham will replace all the days that were booked by the guest, regardless of how many days were affected by the severe weather.
Cruises

Cruise travel is unique in that you will usually have a vacation even with a hurricane. Because cruise ships are mobile, cruise lines can change itinerary quickly.

I’ve found out firsthand. Several times, when I have cruised the past several years, I was still able to have a vacation. I did not visit the scheduled ports-of-call, but did visit other ports that did not have weather problems.

Even though they still have a cruise, many people get upset and think that they are entitled to the exact vacation they scheduled. However, the cruise lines say that this is not the case. The fine print states that that even with insurance, the cruise company has the right to change the cruise ship's itinerary in case of bad weather or other dangerous situations. Insurance companies will not provide reimbursement for missing a scheduled port-of-call.

When To Purchase

Do not buy travel insurance last minute. For example, if a storm is forming off the coast of Africa shortly before your vacation and you haven't already purchased insurance, you cannot get insurance. The reason is that there is now a pre-existing weather condition that nullifies the ability to purchase insurance. It is always best to purchase insurance when you book the trip or at least two weeks in advance of the scheduled departure.

Always read the fine print in all insurance and resort policies. If you don’t understand something, ask. The more you know up front, the fewer problems you will face if you need to file a claim.

Insurance Companies With Trip Cancellation/Interuption Insurance

Travel Guard International can be contacted at 800-826-1300.

Travel Safe can be reached at 888-885-7233

Travel Protection Services can be contacted at 800-694-5921

Weather Links:

National Weather Service

National Weather Service Warnings

Lowe's Storm 2000

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

National Hurricane Center (NHC) and Tropical Prediction Center (TPC)

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