Many properties in the hurricane-prone zone offer peace of mind in the form of a hurricane guarantee, which typically allows you to cancel a reservation without penalty if a category 1 or stronger hurricane is predicted. In most cases, the hotel or resort will either give a full refund or let you rebook within one year.
It never hurts to book at resorts that offer such a guarantee, if only because it's a sign of concern for its guests. Yet realize that the guarantee will most likely only covert the hotel component of your vacation. You may still be out of luck with flights and other services unless you also bought broader travel insurance. And finally, these guarantees are clear that a qualifiying storm must be a bonafide hurricane. If you get rain or even a tropical storm, you're out of luck.
Like any other insurance policy, the conditions on hurricane guarantees can vary, so always read the fine print.
Be aware that many hotels and resorts offer hurricane policies, rather than guarantees, that contain wording such as "direct impact" or "impacted by hurricane force winds," which does not necessarily mean that you may cancel in advance of the storm but rather may be entitled to reimbursement after the storm.
Worried about hurricanes? Consider booking a hotel that takes some of the risk out of hurricane season:
Walt Disney World Resort: Disney World has a hurricane policy in the case a hurricane interferes with their vacation. Here's an excerpt from the Disney World web site:
If a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area—or for your place of residence—within 7 days of your scheduled arrival date, you may call in advance to reschedule or cancel your Walt Disney Travel Company Magic Your Way vacation package and most room only reservations (booked directly with Disney) without any cancellation or change fees imposed by Disney.
Universal Orlando Resort's hurricane policy is nearly identical to that of Disney World.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts: With an array of brands that includes Westin, W, Sheraton, St. Regis, Le Meridien and Aloft, the Starwood hurricane policy is available at 11 properties in the Caribbean and 12 in South Florida. In the event of a qualifying storm, Starwood would replace the balance of your vacation for the duration of the reservation and offer a complimentary stay for each night at a directly affected hotel. In addition, you would not be penalized for an early departure in the event of a storm, and any unused portion of a deposit will be refunded.
Participating South Florida properties include: W South Beach; The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort; The Westin Beach Resort & Spa, Fort Lauderdale; W Fort Lauderdale; The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa; Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel; The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village; Four Points by Sheraton Cocoa Beach; Sheraton Suites Fort Lauderdale at Cypress Creek; The Westin Fort Lauderdale; Aloft Miami-Brickell; The Westin Colonnade, Coral Gables.
Participating Caribbean properties include: The Westin St. John Resort and Villas; Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino; W Retreat & Spa - Vieques Island; The St.
Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico; The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa; The Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa, St. Maarten; Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel & Casino; Four Points By Sheraton Caguas Real Hotel & Casino; The Westin St. Maarten, Dawn Beach Resort & Spa; The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa; Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel & Casino.
Here's the fine print:
"Guests with a confirmed reservation who are unable to travel due to an airport closing, a flight cancellation, or a Starwood property closing in the Caribbean or South Florida will have the option of a full refund or a complimentary guestroom upgrade on their next visit. All replacement vacations at participating Starwood Hotels & Resorts must be redeemed within one calendar year and reservations for comparable accommodations will be made based on availability. The Starwood Hotels & Resorts storm guarantee applies to storms validated by the National Hurricane Center, typically a tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind is 74 mph (64 knots) or greater. The destination must be placed under a Hurricane Watch or Hurricane Warning by the National Hurricane Center for the storm guarantee policy to be in effect."
Bermuda: If you're staying at one of 16 participating hotels and resorts, the guarantee kicks in if an approaching storm is categorized as a hurricane. Here's the fine print:
"In the event that a hurricane is predicted by the Bermuda Weather Service to approach within 150 miles of Bermuda and within 3 days, the guest will be permitted to cancel their reservations without penalty. Deposits can be refunded or applied to any future booking if the guest is unable to recover the same under travel insurance (a copy of the guest’s travel insurance may be requested by member hotel management). Group booking cancellations will be handled on an individual basis in accordance with the group contract. In the event that a member hotel is not able to continue its operations due to damage incurred by a hurricane (as determined by the Bermuda Weather Service), the member hotel will invite the guest to return for a complimentary stay within one year from the reopening of the member hotel."
Cayman Islands: Over two dozen properties participate in this hurricane guarantee, but you need to visit your hotel website to see the terms. Here's what the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism says on its web site:
"As soon as a hurricane is anticipated, guests may cancel their vacation at many of Cayman’s hotels and condos, with at most only a one night penalty for cancellations made up to 48 hours prior to check-in. A free replacement stay is being offered by many properties as well, allowing guests to rebook for the same duration as the originally booked stay, regardless of how many days were affected by a hurricane or storm."
Atlantis: The popular mega resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas also offers a hurricane guarantee. Here's the gist:
"In the event that a hurricane watch or warning is issued by the United States’ National Hurricane Center within fourteen (14) days prior to your date of arrival for either your travel origin city or for New Providence, The Bahamas, guests with confirmed reservations can cancel your reservation up to the moment of scheduled departure. You then have the option to rebook your vacation without penalties for a stay to be completed within one (1) year of the original arrival date, subject to the following terms and conditions. You must rebook your trip within sixty (60) days from the original arrival date."