8 Tips for Travel During Hurricane Season
Some travelers are completely oblivious to hurricane season, while more seasoned travelers can be hyper vigilant to the point of avoiding travel in any area where the weather might mess with their adventure or vacation. Neither is particularly beneficial. You shouldn’t ignore or avoid hurricane season when planning your trip. So what should you do? Educate yourself and make plans accordingly. Here are 8 tips to lower your risks and increase the likelihood that you’ll still have a great vacation, even with the threat of scary weather lurking over your plans.
Timing is Everything
Know when hurricane season runs: that would be the start of June to the end of November in the Atlantic, and from mid-May to the end of November in the Eastern Pacific. It also helps to have a little scientific data on your side. Researchers predict 2015 will be one the most active seasons in the past three years. Consider scheduling your travel outside the risk window.
If you decide to press ahead, get some travel insurance. Drill down on the policy to make sure all facets of your travel are covered, including flights and reservations for hotels, cars and tours. If you used airline reward travel miles to book your flight, make sure ticket cancellation or change costs are covered, including rebooking fees. If your trip is cancelled for a covered reason, the insurer should cover pre-paid, forfeited, non-refundable trip costs up to the maximum limit of coverage.
Prepare for the Worst
Pack life-saving devices: a small, battery- or solar-powered emergency radio and a juiced-up digital power bank for your phone. You might also pick up a small, cheap, slimline corded phone to pack along with you. Landlines often work when cellphones don’t. Make sure you always have some extra food or water on hand during your travels. Store all of your travel documentss, credit cards and currency in an anti-theft backpack like the PacSafe VentureSafe. Tie the key to a belt loop or secure it with a safety pin to clothing.
Have a Plan
Assuming you arrive at your destination without a hitch, make sure you familiarize yourself with the area or your lodgings’ evacuation procedures. Know where to go and how to get there, and make sure you have backup plans with your travel partner or group.
Don’t be clueless. Make sure you pay attention to daily weather forecasts wherever you are. Abide by any warnings you hear. Formulate a backup plan for getting out if you hear a storm is brewing. Make sure your cell phone is charged and make a quick call to someone back home. Once the hurricane occurs, focus on staying safe and alive instead of getting home. As soon as the storm has passed, you can evaluate your situation and focus on your backup plans, including return flights.
If you end up getting evacuated to a shelter, keep in mind that cell phones may not work because networks will be overloaded with other people trying to call home. Try sending text message if this happens. You may have to wait it out, which is why you should let someone know what your plans are before the storm hits.
Find the Best Possible Shelter
Driving in an area threatened by a hurricane? Don’t try to outrun it. Seek shelter in the nearest building—a gas station, hotel, municipal building or roadside restroom. Don’t park beneath a highway underpass. The narrow passageway underneath an overpass can increase wind speed beneath it. The wind can change direction by nearly 180 degrees as the vortex passes it. Destructive high winds with speeds up to 200 mph will often channel airborne debris under the overpass.If you see debris flying around while you’re driving, pull over. Stay in the car with the seat belt on and put your head down below the windows and cover it with your hands, a coat or blanket. Or, if you think you can get lower than the level of the roadway, get out of the car and lay in a ditch, covering your head with your hands, a backpack or suitcase. Also, don’t try to drive through the flooded roadways—turn around and find another way.
Take Advantage of Technology
Have a smartphone? Consider downloading a few apps before you leave on your trip. Hurricane Tracker includes video, radar images, alerts and minute-by-minute tracking updates, so that you can follow a storm. The SAS Survival Guide includes survival tips, a compass and signaling device. The American Red Cross Hurricane app lets you monitor conditions in the area or throughout the storm track, find help and alerts others to let them know you are safe even if the power is out.
Jo Ostgarden is a freelance journalist who has traveled around the world by plane, train, thumb, bicycle and automobile. She bicycled across Canada, the Pacific Coast Highway from Oregon to British Columbia and throughout 14 countries abroad. Additionally, she’s an enthusiastic longtime backpacker who calls the Grand Canyon her own personal energy spot. She’s also expert on travel in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii and Ireland. She edited and re-wrote the final edition of Best Places Northwest Travel Guide, and has written about travel, health, nutrition and endurance sports gear for dozens of magazines and newspapers, including Bicycling Magazine.