The kids are out of school, you are getting a bit stir crazy at home, and you see ads for hot travel deals promising sunny beaches with tropical drinks (complete with paper umbrellas). You deserve that fun-in-the-sun vacation; just remember one important thing as you make your plans: the Atlantic hurricane season. The Atlantic hurricane season officially starts on June 1 and runs through November 30. Most of the stronger hurricanes develop between August and October. You can still have a great vacation during these months, but you need to have a plan in case of emergency. Here’s what you can do to stay safe when traveling this hurricane season:
Before You Go: Purchase Additional Travel Insurance and Plan for an Emergency
A small additional cost now can prevent a much larger cost later. Standard travel insurance typically covers the cost of your lost baggage and cancelled flights, but may not cover the cost of evacuations or medical attention. Especially during hurricane season, make sure you have coverage for emergency evacuations and healthcare while abroad. Without insurance, emergency evacuations can cost upwards of $100,000! Understand that if you are evacuated from a hurricane-affected area by the U.S. government, you will be required to sign a promissory note and will be responsible to pay for your evacuation. It is not free.
If you’re traveling with pets, plan for their safety in the event of an emergency. U.S. government evacuation flights cannot typically accommodate pets. Depart with your pet via commercial flight ahead of a hurricane. If that is not possible, 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 Connected
During hurricane season, it is especially important to be aware of local weather reports. Minor weather systems can quickly develop into major storms. Enroll your trip in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to directly receive safety and security information specific to your location while abroad. Monitor the National Hurricane Center’s website to stay up to date on storms that could be moving your way.
If You Can, Get Out Before the Storm Hits
If it is possible to leave before the storm hits, don’t hesitate to do so. It is better to err on the side of caution during hurricane season than to risk being caught in the middle of a large hurricane. Waiting too long to evacuate can seriously limit your ability to get out. U.S. government facilitated evacuations are not guaranteed (and in fact, are rare). Financial costs incurred for evacuation will ultimately be your responsibility.
During a Storm: Safety Tips
If you are unable to leave before the storm hits, make sure you have a two-week supply of food and water for your entire family, including pets. Pack an emergency kit with important documents like passports, cash in the local currency, spare power cords or chargers, a card with local translations of basic terms, and the contact information for the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in a waterproof bag. 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.
Local authorities will most likely be the first ones on the scene after the storm has passed. Follow 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 liaison volunteers will pass information to U.S. citizens in the affected area.
About the Author: Alyssa Zalenski serves as a Digital Engagement Advisor in the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
For more information about preparing for hurricanes abroad, visit: