Tips on Cancellation, Change, and Refund Policies
1. There's no blanket travel cancellation policy. Policies and contracts of carriage vary from airlines to airline, hotel to hotel, and change all the time. It's best to check with your airline and hotel directly to find out what their current policies are before you go.
2. The closer you get to your departure date, the harder it is to change your policy.
3. Most hotels give full, or at least partial, refunds if a hurricane hits (or is expected to hit) during your stay.
4. While it's more complicated with airlines, many carriers do make attempts to accommodate passengers. In the past, many airlines have allowed passengers to change their tickets within a specific time frame in the case of a terrorism attack with "Peace of Mind" policies that allow passengers to rebook tickets free of charge, or receive credit for a future trip. It's good business, and once one major airline allows changes, many follow suit.
5. If you do decide to rebook your flight, be sure to find out the rules and regulations. Some airlines require that you make new reservations immediately, while others will allow you to rebook within a year.
6. Keep in mind that some airlines do not refund tickets purchased through a third-party discounter, or on the Internet through sites like Orbitz. Call the agency or packager you booked through first to see what's possible.
7. Always make your travel purchases with a credit card. If a hotel or airline closes, you'll be covered under the Fair Billing Act.
8. If you already have insurance for your trip to Jamaica or anywhere else in the Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico, read the fine print. Often you can cancel the trip and get a full refund in the event of a hurricane.
9. For traveling to any international destination, expect to spend at least $200 to change your ticket, but contact the airline before your originally scheduled departure date. Changing tickets after the flight has left is often much more complicated.
10. Consider booking a cruise instead of a land package; most cruise ships have state-of-the-art storm tracking systems and can steer clear of troubled waters, but you'll have to go to other ports, won't get your money back, and the water still might not be all that smooth.
11. For extra protection, always purchase travel insurance through a third party.
Other names in standard travel insurance:
Access America (800/334-7525, accessamerica.com)
CSA Travel Protection (800/873-9855, csatravelprotection.com)
Travelex (888/867-9531, travelex-insurance.com)
Travel Guard International (800/826-4919, travelguard.com)
Travel Insured International (800/243-3174, travelinsured.com).
Medical assistance policies (hospital insurance, physician care):
Wallach & Company (800/237-6615, wallach.com)
Medical evacuation insurance:
Travelers Emergency Network (TEN) (800/ASK-4-TEN, tenweb.com)
International SOS Assistance (800/523-8930, internationalsos.com)
Air Ambulance Card (877/424-7633, airmedassistance.com)