With summer comes warmer weather, more hours of daylight and more time off to hit the road and take a vacation. However, summer also brings an increased risk of severe weather and hurricanes that can put a vacation in danger.
On the Road
When taking a road trip or traveling in an unfamiliar location, it is important to keep up-to-date on the weather in that location. Take time before embarking on a road trip to understand what the typical weather is along the path, and take a look at a long-term forecast to get a more comprehensive idea of what may impact the trip.
"The same rule of thumb that works at home works on the road: Be prepared," said Paul Brady, deputy consumer news editor, Condé Nast Traveler. "Have storm supplies handy, make sure family members know your emergency plan, and share your plans with a friend or relative not traveling with you. Also keep a copy of all your important documents-itineraries, passport ID page, driver's license, credit cards-in a safe place in case the originals are lost."
Brady recommended keeping a road-ready emergency kit, which should include provisions such as bottled water, shelf-stable food and a surplus of daily medication. Additionally, a first aid kit and flares or warning triangles should be stored.
Have a car charger for cell phones to ensure the ability to call for help if needed. Smart phones also have access to applications that can give you weather forecasts or help located nearby hotels or other shelter if needed.
Brady also suggested the FRX2 American Red Cross radio, which will carry weather warnings on the radio stations, has a built in flashlight and can be hand cranked to give it power or also charge a cell phone.
While you are on the road traveling, it is crucial to pay attention to all lights and signs, and to keep the radio on in case of an emergency broadcast. A car is not a safe place to be if flash flooding or a tornado is coming through the area, so if the weather is turning severe, find a secure place to stop and wait out the worst of it.
All it takes is 2 feet of water to move a car, so it is essential never to try to drive through a flooded roadway.
In poor visibility, drive slowly and put hazard lights on. It's always better to be late to a destination than to get in an accident and not arrive at all. Brady recommended checking windshield wiper blades before leaving to be sure the car is ready for poor weather.
Along with listening to radio weather advisories, understand which clouds mean danger to help decide when it is necessary to get off the road.
Beaches can provide a fun and relaxing getaway in the summer, but for some beach resort destinations, hurricane season should be taken into consideration during planning.
"There's a reason hotel rates in the Caribbean are cheaper during hurricane season," Brady said. "That said, most of the time the weather is fine. Occasionally resorts will offer ‘hurricane guarantees,' which offer refunds or replacement vacations if a storm ruins your trip; confirm these details over email with the property, so you have records of the specifics, before booking."
Brady said that purchasing the right travelers' insurance is an important step to take before leaving.
"Not all plans cover hurricanes or other severe weather, so if that coverage is important to you, read the fine print to make sure it's included in the specific insurance plan you purchase," he said. "Reading the specifics of the plan you buy is the only way to be sure of what's covered and what's not. Trip interruption insurance is helpful because severe weather elsewhere can often cause missed connections or other problems getting to your destination, even if you're not headed into the path of the storm."
When purchasing travel insurance, it is essential to purchase it far enough in advance. According to Brady, the insurance primarily covers "unforeseen" circumstances, so once a storm has formed it is too late for coverage.
If on vacation when a storm hits, it will be important to understand the local resources. Brady recommended talking to hotel staff about concerns and learning how to safely weather the storm.
"Hotel staff are again a great resource that's in touch with local authorities-and their job is to keep guests safe and comfortable," he said. "Internationally, the U.S. State Department has made great efforts recently to improve its communication with citizens, including about severe weather. Follow the department on social media for updates, visit travel.state.gov, and consider the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, also available online, which makes it easier for embassy staff to communicate with you in the event of an emergency."
If your vacation includes a cruise, be aware of the liner's policies for inclement weather. Cruise lines are well aware of hurricane and tropical storm threats. Atlantic hurricane season runs from June through November, but it is most active from August to October.
Companies that take cruise ships through hurricane-prone waters during these months monitor storm activity very closely. If tropical activity looks likely the threaten the path a ship is meant to take, the trip's itinerary will be altered.
"Ships can simply plot a course around the storm and avoid it completely, though sometimes that means missing a planned port-of-call," Brady said.
This could mean replacing one port-of-call with another, skipping one of the stops, or doing the trip in reverse starting at the planned last port. Sometimes, the course may be completely altered for safety reasons and all new routes will be taken, stopping in different cities than originally planned.
In some cases, cruises may be all together canceled, but it is more likely that there will be changes made to the trip.
Brady added that some islands, such as Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, are more southern and not typically in the path of storms during hurricane season.