Although summer and fall may seem like a great (and less expensive) time to escape to the Caribbean—either over an extended school break or once the intense heat has waned—travelers should consider the possibility of hurricanes when booking a vacation during this part of the year. In an average hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30, 12 named storms form in the Atlantic, six of which strengthen into hurricanes. Here, six tips for traveling when there’s the possibility of a serious storm.
Consider your destination.
While no Caribbean island is exempt from hurricanes, the southernmost islands experience fewer damaging storms than others in the region. The ABC Islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, which sit just off the coast of Venezuela, are less frequently in the path of major hurricanes. Although these islands typically receive fewer direct hits, travelers should still be aware of the risks. “Hurricanes aren’t a dot or a line on a map, but large storms with serious impacts such as wind, tornadoes, storm surge, and fresh-water flooding over a large area,” cautions Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Monitor the weather.
The National Hurricane Center updates its Tropical Weather Outlook four times a day with information about weather disturbances. Check it regularly for the latest developments in the Caribbean before (and during) your vacation. Contact your resort if there is a storm heading to your destination so you can learn about any potential closures or cancellations.
Buy travel insurance.
“Traveling to any part of the Caribbean during hurricane season carries some risk,” says Feltgen. “Those who do so should always have travel insurance and check in advance with the resort at which they are staying to learn about its hurricane plan.” But not all insurance policies are created equal. Read the fine print to make sure you will be reimbursed for prepaid expenses in the event of a weather-related cancellation.
Dr. Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, advises that travelers to the region during hurricane season bring critical items they might need during a storm or its aftermath, since help might not come right away. “Fill prescriptions before you leave and bring over-the-counter medications and other health remedies that might be difficult or impossible to obtain during your trip,” says Knabb. “If possible, bring your own first aid kit, bottled water, and some nonperishable foods—or buy these items when you first reach your destination, because if a storm threatens or hits during your vacation, everyone else will be trying to buy those things, too.” Keep travel documents, important contact information, and cash in the local currency in zippered plastic bags.
Don’t unplug completely.
Another recommendation from Knabb: “Tell a family member or friend who’s not going on the trip where and when you are going and give them information on how to get ahold of you while you’re gone.” U.S. citizens can also sign up for the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to obtain the latest safety and security updates from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. This allows the local U.S. embassy to contact travelers and provide assistance during an emergency.
Book a cruise.
Cruise lines will reroute to avoid dangerous conditions when a storm is brewing in the Caribbean. While you may land somewhere you didn’t plan on at the last minute, you’ll still get to enjoy your vacation. Plus, cruises offer more deals during hurricane season because of the greater likelihood of an itinerary change.
- NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
- Published: August 2019