Travel deals to the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico during the months of September and October can make some travelers forget the reason behind the discounts – hurricane season. But the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017 should serve as a reminder that traveling during hurricane season requires extra planning, and caution.
The Atlantic hurricane season started in June this year and won’t end until November 30, with a peak period between early August and the end of October. The Atlantic basin area that is prone to hurricanes includes the entire Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. These are popular destinations for people looking to extend their summer vacations at low-season rates.
One easy travel precaution to take during hurricane season is to enroll in the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that allows travelers to share their travel plans with the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy. In return, travelers receive information about any safety concerns, including weather information, in the area they will be visiting. STEP also makes it easier for embassy staff to contact travelers and their families in the event of an in-country emergency.
Other suggestions for traveling during hurricane season include:
- Pack an emergency kit. This can be as simple as a flashlight and extra batteries, and copies of travel documents, photo identification and credit card information. A small hand-crank weather radio is also a smart purchase.
- Know Your ABCs. Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao are not immune to hurricanes, but are outside the main hurricane belt in the Atlantic Ocean.
- Pack extra medicine. Hurricanes can scramble itineraries, including for cruise ship passengers. For that reason, it’s wise to pack at least an extra week of prescription and over-the-counter medicine before leaving home.
- Consider trip insurance. Trip insurance or travel interruption insurance may help travelers recover some costs if they must cancel plans in advance of an approaching storm. It’s important to research policies carefully, as not all provide coverage if a trip is cancelled because of severe weather or a mandatory evacuation.
- Ask questions before booking. Travelers should double check cancellation and rebooking policies before making air or hotel accommodations, and get that information in writing. It’s also a good idea to ask hotel staff about their readiness in the event of a hurricane – for example, do they have readily available shelters, generators, bottled water and flashlights for guest use?
- Get out quickly. The State Department reminds travelers to follow evacuation or other weather-related instructions that are issued by local authorities. If an evacuation order is issued, take action immediately. Flights are more likely to be overbooked as a storm gets closer. Travelers should call their airline and ask for availability on the next flight out and the flight after that. If no seats are available, consider buying a one-way ticket home on another airline. Travelers also should expect flights to be cancelled on the day of or before a hurricane is expected to hit.
- Know where to find accurate weather information. AccuWeather offers ZIP code specific weather alerts that are sent by email, and airlines often post hurricane-related information on their websites. The Red Cross also has a free hurricane-monitoring app that can help travelers track storms and find emergency shelters if needed.
Emergency Travel Assistance Services from SentinelMED
Unlike other bad weather events, hurricanes usually arrive with plenty of warning. In some cases, travelers may know a week in advance that a storm is coming and to start making evacuation arrangements. This may mean planning an evacuation for a traveler, or a member of his or her family, who needs emergency travel assistance services to get out of the anticipated path of a hurricane.
SentinelMED provides domestic and international air medical transport, medical repatriation and medical escort services for people who are sick, injured or elderly. The SentinelMED team works closely with hospital case managers to coordinate care for patients from a medical facility to a health care facility closer to their home, or to the home of a family member. In addition, SentinelMED’s trained medical escorts are available to travel with patients on commercial airlines to help ensure their safety and comfort. This service can be a cost-effective alternative to air ambulances.
The SentinelMED team understands the complexity of delivering exceptional care to patients who need medical assistance during travel. Please contact us to learn more about the services that SentinelMED offers.