Vacation during hurricane season?

Each year, as the opening day of the Atlantic Hurricane Season approaches, we start getting the word out to travelers: Don’t wait to buy your insurance.  June 1 is a watershed moment in the travel insurance calendar (no, there’s not really a travel insurance calendar, but work with us here).  While it’s not exactly the case that the storms will start blowing through, fast and furious, at the beginning of June, it is true that the risk of something happening to disturb your travel plans grows at this time every year.  As predicting the unpredictable goes, Hurricane Season is one of the best opportunities travelers have to gaze into the crystal ball of “known perils” and take early steps to prevent vacation disasters.

Of course, you might argue that no two hurricane seasons are alike, and some are very mild — almost a non-event.  You might also have your confidence bolstered by early models that predict a less active season than usual. So why not just wait and see how the season shapes up before insuring your trip?

Named Storms are “Known Perils.”

Too many travelers wait until they’ve seen weather reports indicating that a hurricane may be bearing down on either their home or their destination before they call and ask to buy insurance.  The problem with that strategy is that, to an insurance company, it’s akin to waiting until you smell smoke in your house to buy homeowner’s insurance.  The most often used benchmark for identifying whether or not a potential hurricane is a “known peril” is the moment at which it receives a name.  Once it’s named, you can’t buy insurance to cover its effects; you’ll only be protected by travel insurance if you’ve already purchased your policy well in advance.

You Might Prefer Time-Sensitive Benefits for Hurricane Season.

In general, travel insurance policies offer a number of highly useful benefits in case a named storm wreaks havoc with your trip.  However, you also might find yourself in a situation where your insurance company still feels it’s okay for you to go through with your plans, but you’re not so sure. For example, if you’re supposed to set sail on a cruise, and you’re worried that potential storm activity in the area of some ports of call may cause your ship to change itineraries, you may not feel it’s worth going.  Likewise if you’re traveling to a coastal location that looks like it will be skirted by any direct hits, but will probably experience soaking rains for much of your vacation time.  There’s no travel insurance coverage that will reimburse you for disappointment in your experience, but if you’ve purchased a Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) policy well in advance, you can seriously evaluate situations like these and make your own decisions about whether or not your plans should remain in place.  Keep in mind that there are specific requirements you need to meet both for purchasing CFAR and filing a claim; it’s a time-sensitive benefit, so you must buy your insurance policy within 10-30 days of making your first trip payment, and you have to cancel your plans and notify any and all travel suppliers (including your insurance company) at least 48 hours in advance of your scheduled departure in order to take advantage of the CFAR benefit.

You Might Find You Need the Coverage, Even if You’re Not Traveling to a Hurricane Zone.

One of the most common arguments people make against buying travel insurance at this time of year is that they’re not planning to travel to a hurricane hotspot; if you live in Cleveland, and you’re flying to Paris, why would you bother with coverage for hurricane season?  Of course, there are many reasons you ought to consider travel insurance for a trip abroad, no matter what time of year it is, but don’t be so quick to assume that hurricanes will have nothing to do with your trip.  Travel delays and cancellations often result from the grounding of flights elsewhere, causing a ripple effect that could mean that a hurricane-related airport closure in the Bahamas ends up forcing a cancellation of your flight out of CLE.

The best way to make sure your travel plans don’t end up falling victim to the unpredictable nature of hurricane season is to plan ahead.  Always buy travel insurance for your summer vacations as early as possible, and thoroughly evaluate all the options that are available to you to make sure that your trip is as well-protected as it can be.

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