When a big storm bears down on travelers, like the blizzard moving through Northeast tonight, it causes significant financial pain for the airlines, ancillary services connected to the airlines, and thousands of other businesses.  

But what does it mean to the average traveler financially? 

Did you spend the better part of the past year saving up for that great getaway, only to find that your best laid plans have just been laid to waste?  Are you learning right now that not only are you missing a good chunk of your vacation, but may also be taking a big financial hit in the process?

Avoid the financial hit: Buy travel insurance

You can’t stop Mother Nature, but you can stop the financial pain that comes when severe weather like the blizzard of 2015 hits.  Trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance will reimburse you for any non-refundable expenses you get stuck with should weather impact your trip.  The right insurance will also provide for additional expense reimbursement should you get stranded and incur additional travel expenses.  

Check out AIG Travel Guard, a winner of the recent Travvy Awards for the best in travel insurance.  A good travel agent is also a plus-- they can help you choose the right policy for your specific trip.

No insurance? You’ll still pay for that resort

Other than airlines modifying change fees and allowing you to rebook with no fare difference, you’re on your own.  The resort has held that room for you and won’t be able to sell it to someone else with only a day or two notice.  You’ve already paid and they are keeping their money for the length of that stay-- in most cases.  

The only exceptions are hotels that might have a cancellation policy that includes the first night only, but these are typically city properties.  In those cases, you’ll eat that first night, but not be on the hook for subsequent nights.  It’s all about the fine print, the way it was booked, and the type of rate you chose.

If you chose a prepaid, non-refundable rate on Expedia or another online travel agency, you’ll be on the hook for the entire stay.  It’s one of the reasons why that rate is significantly lower than a fully refundable rate.  They can count on it. 

The Cruise to Nowhere

Planning on taking a cruise this week?  If you are in the Northeast, and haven’t left by now, you likely won't be making it. 

What should travelers do?  They should have been proactive and done what a couple boarding my flight to Florida today did.  They were originally booked yesterday, but had their flight cancelled. They were switched to today’s flight and barely got out of the Northeast.  Since their cruise doesn’t leave till Wednesday, they are going to be just fine.  They gave themselves a three-day window to make sure they wouldn’t miss out on their vacation. 

Take this couple's cue and always try to do a two to three night pre-cruise stay near the port of departure for your cruise.  Weather can always mess up your plans, especially winter or hurricane weather, which is basically six months out of the year.  Add in the potential for mechanical issues, and that advice holds all year long. 

If you miss that cruise departure due to weather or something else, you don’t want to be the one swimming to the next port of call.  You want to be on the cruise, not the passenger on your own cruise to nowhere. 

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Mark Murphy is a noted travel expert, author and founder of TravelPulse.com.  You can follow him on Twitter at @murphytravels.