Many vacationers look forward to traveling during the summer months to the Caribbean, Florida and vacation resorts along the Gulf of Mexico.
While the late spring and summer offer tremendous travel bargains, these months also correspond with the start of the hurricane season. Recently there has been an increase of travel in the “off peak" months of July and August, when many families have the opportunity to get away on vacation. This year in particular, many potential vacationers have been unsure whether to plan a vacation in the areas mentioned above.
The people of the Caribbean sum up hurricane season with the following saying: June - Too Soon; July - Stand By; August - Look Out You Must; September - Remember; October - All Over.
What you need to understand about the nature of the current hurricane patterns
The experts agree the rise in the number of hurricanes in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico are likely to continue. Most of the experts in this field believe global warming is responsible for the fuel that turned Katrina from a slow moving tropical storm into one of the most deadly hurricanes in U. S. history. The water temperature in the Gulf was higher than normal, and whether you believe in global warming or not, the facts are the Caribbean and Gulf regions will be dealing with more active hurricanes for at least the next 15 years.
First of all, we usually think of hurricanes as highly destructive wind storms, but it is the water that kills people, animals and vegetation. It's the storm surge that produces flooding, such as what happened in New Orleans, and storm surges produced the deadly mudslides in the Caribbean island of Haiti last summer.
Currently the Caribbean/Atlantic hurricane season starts officially on June 1 and ends on November 30. Hurricanes are uncommon in June, early July and November, and the peak months are August, September and October. But changes in the world's climate indicate that hurricane season could be extended to include May and December. In the coming years, July and November could be seen as peak months. The good news is that tropical storms that develop at either end of the season are usually weak.
Can you find a “storm free" vacation during the summer months?
Most hurricanes form over the North Atlantic, coming off the coast of Africa. They then head in a westerly direction towards the Caribbean, then usually turn north towards the U. S. coast. Some of the storms may turn northwards in the open waters of the Atlantic before reaching the islands of the Caribbean.
The islands of Trinidad and Tobago are located beyond the southern end of the Windward Island chain, and these two islands experience much less storms than in the islands that lie further north. Barbados has also been lucky in that the island has not experienced a direct hit in over 20 years. The ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, are also located outside of the usual hurricane belt, along with Margarita Island, which is located just off the coast of Venezuela. The Seychelle islands in the Indian Ocean have escaped tropical storms by the close proximity to the Equator.
While the islands listed above have not seen recent hurricane damage, there is no guarantee these islands will always be completely safe during hurricane season. However the chance of running into a hurricane is actually very small - millions of people travel to these areas and enjoy a wonderful tropical vacation.
Since 1995, the Atlantic hurricane season has been above normal, which means more storm activity. From 1970 to 1994, the activity was below normal, and these cycles come in 20 + year spans. So we will be dealing with more active hurricane seasons for quite a few years.
What to do if you are caught in a hurricane
Hurricanes do not come up suddenly, and there is at least a 3 day warning on a specific, direct hit. Most vacationers immediately leave their vacation spot when threatened with a hurricane, however some will choose to ride it out, or fail to realize there will be no flights to get them out at the last minute if they finally decide to leave.
When a hurricane approaches the first thing you need to do is move far away from beach areas to avoid the storm surge. Hurricanes season is nothing new to Caribbean islanders, and many have dealt with plenty of hurricanes before. The only advice that can be given is to follow the directions of local officials, and evacuate to the nearest storm shelter or designated facility.
The most damaging winds of the hurricane are found within a 50-100 mile radius of the storms eye. Normally an island in the path of a hurricane will experience a day or two of normal activity - depending on the intensity of the storm.
Tropical storms in other regions of the world
Tropical storms always occur in oceanic basins inside the tropics. The only difference is we call these storms by different names.
In the Atlantic/Caribbean, Pacific cost of Mexico we call these storms hurricanes. In the north-west Pacific region around Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines, these storms are called typhoons, and cyclones are the name given around Australia and in the Indian Ocean. No matter what you call these storms around the world, they are in essence the same thing.
No one can be promised a “storm free" vacation during hurricane season.
Here's a few important things we advise travelers to think about . . .
(1) Travelers booking vacations on their own need to be better informed about hurricane season, and the particular locations safety policies and procedures. Working with a travel professional can definitely be an advantage if you need to change travel plans, or be advised of safety information prior to your trip. If you decide to book at one of the online travel sites, you cannot expect to get much assistance in an emergency.
(2) Take a look at travel insurance policies. There are many policies to fit any vacationers needs, and we suggest you read the fine print to make sure what is covered, and what is not. If you cannot afford to lose the money you invested in your trip, you need to purchase travel insurance.
The purchase of travel insurance policies have doubled over the past few years, and the major cancellation reasons are illness, death and weather related. Most policies are over 10 pages, and you can ask for a policy interpretation if you do not fully understand what the policy covers.
(3) Take advantage of Last Minute Vacation Packages. Not only can you save a bundle, there will be no chance of getting caught in a tropical storm or hurricane activity since there is plenty of advance warning. Last minute vacations are available within 14 days of travel.
(4) Always use a credit card for travel purchases. You can always file a claim with your credit card company for services or goods that you have not received.
Using debit cards can be tricky since the actual funds have already been taken from your account. With a credit card, a hold is often put on your account before the actual charge appears. This same hold can turn up on your bank account. In other words, a charge can show up twice on your bank account. A hold can stay on your account for up to a week in some cases. Once the “hold" falls off, you will have access to that money, however in the meantime, you may find yourself without available funds.
Linda Thompkins is owner, and travel consultant of Travel 2 the Caribbean online agency. Linda has traveled the islands of the Caribbean extensively, and has been doing business online for over seven years. Visit the site: http://www.travel2thecaribbean.com