Tropical Storm Begs Question: Why Travel During Hurricane Season?

Tropical Storm Isaac is the ninth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. It threatens the eastern Caribbean and the southern U.S. coastal areas with flight and power disruptions, cruise ships detours and more. But as we head into September, traditionally the most active month of the hurricane season, some travelers are still eager to drive, fly or sail through the area – but why?

Considered “off season” in the tropics, school will be back in session and vacation time over for many. Still, bargain hunters know that peak hurricane season is traditionally a time for some of the best deals of the year.

To get deeper into reasons for traveling during hurricane season we turn to a poll by Travelguard, a leading seller of travel insurance, who polled travelers to learn how hurricane season, running through the end of November affects their travel plans.

Scheduling is key- The study indicated that travelers are able to overlook the threat of a hurricane disrupting their vacation because summer schedules make it more convenient. It’s when they can go. Travelers also cited travel deals (19%) and fewer crowds (13%) as reasons to travel within the hurricane belt during summer and fall.

Taking the Kids, or not- Though hurricane season falls during the peak summer travel season, only 9% of travelers polled actually travel with their children during this time. The majority (59%) prefers to travel with their significant other, while other popular travel companions include friends (12%) and multi-generational family (10%), with 10% opting to go solo.

Willing to take their chances with cruise vacations– During hurricane season, one-quarter of travelers polled opt to brave the open seas and cruise to multiple destinations within the hurricane belt. Back on land, popular destinations for travelers include Florida (16%), Mexico (11%), Georgia and the Carolinas (9 %). Only 5% of those polled visit the popular Caribbean destinations of Jamaica, Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.

When it Rains, It Pours- Travel can be unpredictable, and traveling to a hurricane-prone destination during hurricane season even more so. As a result, more than half of respondents to the Travelguard poll are most concerned with weather-related trip cancellation or interruption, loss of non-refundable expenses, medical emergencies, or inclement weather making accommodations uninhabitable.

Thinking about buying travel insurance now? If traveling during hurricane season, travel insurance companies require that insurance be purchased before a storm is named to be covered if it affects travel plans.

Flickr photo by Stuck in Customs

Could a hurricane still disrupt your vacation?

If you have a vacation planned to the Gulf of Mexico coast between now and the end of November, the odds that it will get screwed up by a hurricane are declining rapidly. Hurricane season ends on November 30, and it looks like it’s going to be remembered as a pretty mild one, with only 16 named storms, nine hurricanes and five hitting Category 3 or higher. There haven’t been any major storms to make landfall.

So, it looks like 2010 will resemble 1951, according to an Insurance Information Institute blog post – the only year to have at least five major hurricanes but none actually making landfall in the United States.

There’s still a chance that a big one could disrupt your travel plans: think Hurricane Wilma in 2005, for example, which followed Hurricane Katrina and was the fourth costliest hurricane in terms of insured losses ($11.3 billion, adjusted for inflation).

[photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video via Flickr]

Ten things to do when it rains on your vacation

Barbra Streisand gets it. Rain is the enemy.

I mean, yes, rain is important to our environment and makes all the beautiful things you see on a vacation possible, but when you only have a few days in paradise, rain can really spoil things. If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation where your dream day of biking or skydiving is canceled due to a torrential downpour, you get it. If you’ve ever come back from a week on an island without a tan … it’s just so sad, isn’t it?

Hurricane season in the Caribbean is upon us (June to November), and while that’s not likely to mean actual hurricanes, it does usually mean you’ll get some rain on your budget tropical excursions. Here are ten ideas to make your rained-in vacation days a little less disappointing. The important thing is to have fun and enjoy yourself anyway.

Ten things to do when it rains on your vacation:

1. Write postcards.

This is an excellent activity for the type-A among us. Writing postcards is potentially something you were going to do anyway, so doing it while it’s raining is actually a very clever use of time. Just try not to be too sad when you look at the front of the postcard and see that sun shining like a jerk.

2. Museums.

So, maybe you weren’t really planning to go a museum, but rain is a good excuse to go get yourself cultured up. If you were planning to visit a museum, this should be a no-brainer. Rain means “do your indoor activities today.” It’s like a message from the universe. A soggy, awful message, but a message nonetheless.

3. Library or lobby bar.

Many hotels and resorts have a library or lobby bar where guests instinctually gather when it rains. Strike up a conversation, make some new friends, have a margarita at 10 AM. Why not? It’s raining. All bets are off.

4. Sleep.

10 AM margaritas frequently lead to naps, and that’s okay. In fact, if you open your eyes in the morning and see rain from your hotel bed, why not sleep an extra hour or so — maybe it will be over when you get up. After all, vacation is about relaxing and rejuvenating, and catching up on all that sleep you missed this year is imperative. Imperative!

5. Games.

On a rainy day, get down to the gift shop early before they run out of decks of cards. Your hotel’s front desk may also have board games you can borrow, and if your hotel has a casino, there are a bunch of games to play there, too (albeit expensive ones). Don’t even try the game room; it will be overrun. Make up your own goofy games if you’re feeling especially restless. Sad photo ops in the rain can be a hilarious pastime.

6. Eat.

Rainy days are a perfect opportunity to dig into the local cuisine. Head into town in a rental car and try out some authentic eating establishments and grocery stores. You may be surprised at the strange food you find — and you might make one of your most lasting memories of the whole trip.

7. In-room movies.

If you’re someone who likes to get things done, why not knock a few titles off your Netflix list by curling up with the in-room movie selections? Rain can be a good excuse to watch movies you’d be embarrassed to go to or have in your home.

8. Theater.

Live theater? Quoi? Yes. Ask your hotel if there is any live theater in the vicinity and go check out a play, a concert or whatever’s playing. This can be an unexpected blessing; you may see an unforgettable performance or learn more about the local culture than you would have otherwise.

9. Spa.

See if any appointments are available at the spa. If there isn’t a spa on the property, the hotel can probably recommend a good one nearby. This may be the only option more relaxing and restorative than sleep.

10. Go out and enjoy the rain.

Can’t stay inside anymore? Then bundle yourself up (if it’s chilly) or put on your swimming suit (if it’s hot) and go play in the rain like a kid. Splash in the puddles, get messy and have fun. Don’t get in the pool if there’s lightning, and certainly don’t go out if the conditions are dangerous (like if there’s an actual hurricane going on), but playing in the rain can relieve the very angst the badly-timed stormy weather gives you.

Hurricane season is for bargain-hunters

Hurricane season will not keep travelers from their destinations! A recent survey by TripAdvisor®, which mined the opinions of more than 1,000 U.S. travelers, reports that 43 percent plan to hit a hurricane-prone destination this summer or fall – peak hurricane season. This is up from 36 percent last year. Sixty-five percent of the survey’s respondents are doing this to take advantage of a “significant savings.”

Blame the financial crisis.

An already dismal market for travel companies is likely to be exacerbated by storm risk in areas traditionally visited by hurricanes. To 25 percent of the survey respondents, this is why they’re going. Another 25 percent they could be convinced to enter hurricane neighborhood for discounts of greater than 50 percent on travel and accommodations.

Many of these survey-takers speak from experience. Thirty-two percent of them have been through hurricanes while on vacation … and it would take a lot to get them to leave. Eleven percent would bail when a Category 1 storm hits, and another 18 percent would move for a Category 2. The tipping point is Category 3, which would prompt 26 percent to leave, with a Category 4 storm shedding another 10 percent. Three percent of respondents would leave for a Category 5 storm, and only 2 percent would stick around regardless of hurricane potency. A whopping 29 percent answered, “I don’t know.”

Thirty percent of respondents simply avoid certain destinations because of hurricane risk, with the Caribbean the destination most avoided during storm season. Fifty-five percent would only cancel their plans if a storm was imminent, while 19 percent would cancel on possibility alone. Some hedge their bets – 30 percent said they are likely to buy trip insurance to protect their hard-earned cash from hurricane-related cancelations.

“Despite some reluctance to visit hurricane-susceptible destinations during storm season, a large number of travelers are willing to roll the dice if the price is right,” said Michele Perry, vice president of global communications for TripAdvisor.