How to Plan Travel Around the Atlantic Hurricane Season

Rain and storm winds blowing trees

Blend Images / REB Images / Getty Images

Planning a trip to the East Coast of the U.S., the Caribbean, or the Gulf Coast always carries the low risk of a tropical storm disrupting your plans. Predictions of an upcoming storm may force travelers to cancel or reschedule their vacation, and then there's always the possibility of an unexpected hurricane materializing once you're already on your trip.

Hotels often offer attractive deals to entice would-be travelers during this unpredictable season, and the truth is that the probability of a major storm disrupting your trip is exceedingly low. But on the off chance that it does happen, the consequences can quickly turn into a nightmare. Inform yourself about hurricane season before booking that too-good-to-be-true deal, and make sure and your loved ones are protected in case the weather throws a wrench at your plans.

When and Where Is the Atlantic Hurricane Season?

Hurricanes and tropical storms can occur at any time of year, but most of them occur during the hurricane season which lasts from June 1 to November 30. In fact, 78 percent of all storms in the Atlantic Basin take place from August to October, with September considered to be the peak month.

Atlantic storms cover a wide area, including the entire Gulf Coast from Cancun to Florida, the Caribbean islands, and the many states along the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. Florida is the state most prone to hurricanes and has been hit by more than twice as many as the second most affected state, which is Texas. If you're planning to visit the Caribbean, the northern islands are more likely to see storms, including the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Cuba.

Where to Avoid Hurricanes

Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms can occur at any time and anywhere, but due to geography and local climate, some places are considered safer than others. If you're looking for a tropical Caribbean getaway, the southern islands are outside of "Hurricane Alley," which is the zone where most Atlantic storms pass through. Aruba, Barbados, Curacao, Bonaire, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago rarely ever experience the full force of a hurricane, but occasionally feel the peripheral effects of a far-off storm.

Nowhere in Florida is completely safe from hurricanes, but the inland cities in the northern part of the state are the most sheltered from a storm's effects, including Orlando.

Hurricanes and Your Vacation Plans

Statistically, there is a very low risk that a storm will impact your vacation. Still, if you're planning to vacation in Florida, the Gulf Coast, or the Caribbean during hurricane season, you might consider buying travel insurance or opting for a hotel with a hurricane guarantee. Typically, if your trip is canceled or interrupted due to a storm, you can be refunded up to the limit of coverage. Note that in most cases, insurance must be purchased more than 24 hours before a hurricane is named. 

If you're traveling to a hurricane-prone destination, download the Hurricane app from the American Red Cross for storm updates and a slew of helpful features. It is also wise to check weather reports for the areas where you plan to vacation.

2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Predictions for the upcoming hurricane season are notoriously difficult to get right and are primarily based on historical patterns rather than meteorological measurements. As hurricane seasons progress, organizations that track storms typically update their initial forecasts if the early months end up being better or worse than expected.

The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season was the fourth consecutive year that saw an above-average frequency as well as particularly damaging storms, prompting meteorologists to predict 2020 to be just as active, if not more. As of July 2020, an unusually high number of early storms in the season caused several major organizations, such as The Weather Company and Accuweather, to adjust their initial projections and increase the number of expected storms and major hurricanes for the year.

Hurricane Hanna was the first hurricane of the 2020 season, passing by Florida as a growing storm and intensifying in the Gulf of Mexico until reaching Texas as a Category 1 hurricane on July 25. Atlantic storms are named in alphabetical order and Hanna broke the record for the earliest "H-named" storm ever, getting 2020 off to an especially perilous start.