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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
Guard International can be contacted at 800-826-1300.
Safe can be reached at 888-885-7233
Protection Services can be contacted at 800-694-5921
Weather Service Warnings
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Hurricane Center (NHC) and Tropical Prediction Center (TPC)
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