Prepping for hurricane season

Courtesy National Hurricane Center
Tropical Storm Arlene

It seems a bit unfair that some of the most alluring beach destinations throughout the Caribbean and Mexico are tormented by the annual threat of hurricane season.

But it's a fact of life for the destinations and the bathing suit-clad travelers heading there, so better to be prepared than to be caught, literally, in the eye of the storm.

According to the National Hurricane Center, hurricane season runs from June through November. In fact, "the first named storm of the season hit Mexico's East Coast this morning," noted Travel Weekly's Caribbean Editor Gay Myers. Tropical Storm Arlene hit near Veracruz, which is not a tourist area, "but it doesn't bode well," said Myers. "It's predicted to be an active season."

So if you've booked, or plan on booking, a vacation to hurricane-prone destinations, there are some precautions you should take that could salvage your trip in the event of a storm.

First, double-check the cancellation and refund policies of the airlines, hotels and car rental companies you are booking for your trip.

"If you're traveling to a hurricane zone during storm season, you'll want to make sure your travel insurance policy covers you for delayed flights, trip interruptions due to severe weather and trip cancellations due to a hurricane threatening or destroying your destination," advised Brenda O'Neale of Homstead, Pa.-based Global Travel International, who specializes in the Caribbean and Mexico.

If the hurricane happens before your trip, you'll want to make sure that your travel insurance plan includes trip cancellation for hurricanes and natural disasters and that it will refund you any pre-paid non-refundable trip expenses if you have to cancel before your scheduled departure due to a hurricane, explained O'Neale.

Read the fine print. The policy has to be purchased pre-hurricane in order to cover for the hurricane.

"My advice for travelers in hurricane season is to purchase cancel for any reason insurance," said Ellen Paderson of Boston-based Smiles and Miles Travel. "This way if they see on the weather that there may be a hurricane at the time they are traveling, they may want to cancel or postpone their travels for another time."

As for whether and what to pack in an emergency kit, the advice varies.

O'Neale said that if you feel obliged to pack a kit, it should include cash, a radio and batteries, a flashlight (with more batteries), non-perishable food and water for three days, rain gear, insect repellant and sunscreen, and your prescription medications. Myers however feels that packing flashlights, batteries and ponchos "doesn't make a lot of sense and takes up space in carry-ons."

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