Strong hurricane weather batters the tropics every year during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. This often makes travelers think twice about booking travel plans without some guarantee against washouts or worse in Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, the East Coast of the U.S., the Caribbean, Central America, or eastern Mexico (including Cancun, Riviera Maya, Cozumel, and the Yucatan Peninsula).
Fortunately, hurricane activity is not constant during the season, and the region is relatively safe for travel as a result. While it may be a bit rainier than normal, the likelihood of encountering severe weather on your trip is quite small. In other words, just because it's hurricane season doesn't mean a hurricane will occur.
However, in response to customers' concerns—and to increase business during hurricane season—some airlines, all-inclusive resorts, cruises, and other travel companies offer a hurricane guarantee so that you won't completely lose out if part or all of your vacation is affected by severe weather.
Companies That Offer a Hurricane Guarantee
While many companies offer hurricane guarantees for travel in the Caribbean, Central America, and the coastal southeastern United States, not all hotels, airlines, cruise lines, or travel agents offer visitors these benefits. Fortunately, there are a number of companies—and even a few islands in the Caribbean—that offer deals, discounts, and refunds in case of inclement weather that ruins your travel plans.
Property Hurricane Guarantees
Each resort and hotel in the Caribbean handles severe weather differently, so it's important to check for their hurricane or tropical storm guarantees and policies before you book your vacation. Fortunately, some resort chains offer special insurance policies in the event of inclement weather, including:
- Couples Resorts Jamaica: Couples Resorts is a collection of four all-inclusive, adults-only hotels located in Jamaica—including Couples Tower Island, Couples Swept Away, Couples San Souci, and Couples Negril—that not only offer the height of luxury but also provide guests with guarantees in case of severe storms. In case of a hurricane approaching the island, these resorts will post advisories on the company's official message board. In the past, guests have received refund vouchers, and those stranded by airport shutdowns have received free two-night stays.
- Club Med Hurricane Protection Program: Guests of Club Med resorts across the Caribbean can travel with peace of mind during the Atlantic hurricane season because of the company's unique Hurricane Protection Program, which provides guests with a Future Travel Certificate in the event that Category One or higher hurricane-force winds impact the resort at any time during their stay.
- Holiday Inn Montego Bay "Risk-Free Hurricane Guarantee": As part of a Risk-Free Hurricane Guarantee, guests of the Holiday Inn Montego Bay in Jamaica will receive a certificate valid for a free future stay in the event a Category One or higher hurricane interrupts operations at the resort for more than 24 hours. Additionally, guests holding confirmed reservations who are unable to travel due to the closure of the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay can rebook their reservations without penalty, and a one-category room upgrade will be applied for free if space is available.
Additionally, local governments in places like the Cayman Islands offer their own insurance policies for vacationers visiting during the Atlantic Hurricane Season. To entice travelers to shelve their fears of inclement weather, the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism maintains a "Worry-Free Hurricane Guarantee," which ensures that visitors are reimbursed if their travel time is cut short due to bad weather. Businesses partnered with the department promise to cover any cancellations made before arrival and compensate for any time affected by tropical storms or hurricanes. Participating partners include Casa Caribe Condominiums, Coen Coleman Condominium, Platana, Seven Treasures, Castaway Cove #113, the Grand Cayman Resort, and Holiday Inn Resort Grand Cayman.
Cruise Line Hurricane Guarantees
Since most big ships can change course when they catch wind of a hurricane up ahead, few have codified storm policies. Exceptions are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and cruise companies recommend that passengers who are especially concerned purchase travel insurance instead. However, not all insurance providers are created equally, so make sure changes to itineraries due to hurricane and tropical storms are covered.
Fortunately, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean do offer partial and complete refunds for delays to travel itineraries or canceled stops caused by inclement weather. Additionally, companies like Travel Insured International, Travel Guard, and Travelex Insurance Services offer travel insurance policies that can cover up to 150 percent of reimbursement of unused travel costs due to trip interruption, which can include hurricanes rerouting cruise routes.
Airline Hurricane Guarantees
Airlines typically waive flight-change fees for passengers affected by a hurricane, especially if destination airports are closed, and some even offer full refunds even for non-refundable tickets in the event of prolonged delays or cancellations. However, most airlines place restrictions on when they offer such refunds for delays caused by severe weather, and many prefer rebooking travel at a later date to issuing refunds or travel vouchers.
For instance, American Airlines will only refund your full ticket price if the ticket is canceled within 24 hours of purchase, when a schedule change results in a change of 61 minutes or more, or when a passenger or traveling companion of a passenger dies. Similarly, United Airlines will waive ticket change fees for rescheduling flights that were delayed over two hours, but travelers must apply for a refund in the event of cancelation from severe weather.
As a result, it's best to book your travel with trip insurance or purchase your tickets with a card that grants refunds for inclement weather. Similar to cruiseliner travel insurance, private insurance companies offer refund guarantees for cancellations and delays on flights.
A Word to the Wise About Hurricane Guarantees
According to some news articles and travel experts, not all properties live up to the promises stated in their hurricane guarantee. If you are caught in a hurricane on your vacation:
- Make safety your first priority.
- Seek high ground.
- Wait until after the hurricane is over and emergency situations cleared before approaching management.
- While on the property, ask the manager to clarify the hurricane policy in writing.
- Claim any reimbursement you are entitled to in writing and keep a copy.
- Forward copies of all documents to your travel insurer, if you have one.
- Write to your credit card company to request reimbursement within 60 days of your vacation's end.