A tropical vacation may sound like the perfect getaway this summer, but it comes with a risk: the Atlantic hurricane season. The Atlantic hurricane season officially lasts from June 1 to November 30, though most tropical hurricanes develop between May and October. Storms towards the latter part of the season do tend to be bigger and stronger. You can still have a great vacation during these months, but you need to be prepared. Here’s what you can do to stay safe when traveling this hurricane season:
Before You Go: Purchase Travel Insurance and Make a Plan
A small additional cost now can prevent a much larger cost later. Travel insurance typically covers things like the cost of your lost baggage and cancelled flights, but may or may not cover the cost of medical attention you might need while abroad. Review policies or a combination of policies to make sure you have coverage for emergency evacuations and healthcare while abroad. Emergency medical evacuations can cost upwards of $100,000 without insurance!
If you’re traveling with pets, you should also plan for their safety in the event of an emergency. Pets cannot typically be accommodated on U.S. government facilitated evacuation flights. One of the best options is to leave with your pet via commercial flight ahead of the storm, but you may need to find someone in country to care for your pet instead. Plan to leave them with sufficient food and water supplies in case a crisis makes it impossible to move around or makes the local water undrinkable.
While Abroad: Stay Informed
It’s tempting to shut off your phone and live an “unplugged” life while on vacation. Minor weather systems can quickly develop into major storms, so it’s important to keep up to date on the weather forecast while abroad. You should also register your trip in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive safety and security information specific to your location while abroad.
If a major storm is headed your way, the best option is generally to evacuate out of the path of the storm on commercial transportation while it is still available. Waiting too long to evacuate can seriously limit your ability to get out and can raise the cost. U.S. government facilitated evacuations are not guaranteed and the cost will still ultimately be your responsibility.
Weather the Storm: What to Do if You Can’t Evacuate
If you are unable to leave in advance of a storm, make sure you have a two week supply of food and water for your entire family. Pack an emergency kit with important documents like passports, cash in the local currency, a card with local translations of basic terms, and the contact information for the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in a waterproof bag. Check in with hotel staff to make sure you know their emergency plan. Reach out to friends and family to let them know your emergency plan and update them regularly as long as power, internet, and phone service are available, and consider carrying a spare power cord and portable charger.
Local authorities will most likely be the first ones on the scene after a major storm. Follow their instructions and update your friends and family as soon as you can, either by contacting them directly or checking in on social media. If phone and internet are down, radio broadcasts and a network of U.S. citizen wardens will be used to pass information to U.S. citizens in the affected area.
For more information about preparing for hurricanes abroad, visit:
About the Author: Lori Lawson serves in the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Editor’s Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State’s publication on Medium.