Stormy vacation? Eye-opening tips

The Baltimore Sun

Last week was an active period for the tropics, with three named storms playing havoc with travelers' plans. No one was really spared - flights were disrupted, trains were canceled and cruises were shuffled. It's not really a surprise - late summer and fall are peak time for the hurricane season, and anyone with vacation plans during these months should be aware of the possibility of a storm. Visitors to Jamaica, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Mexico and Florida, to name just a few destinations, can prepare in a few ways:

* Know your airline's cancellation policies. Most airlines will allow passengers to make changes without penalty or fees if their flight is canceled because of a storm or an airport closing. But they will expect the trip to be rescheduled and may not allow you to change destinations. Also, some tickets are nonrefundable. Period.

* Adjust your expectations. If your cruise is affected by a storm, you can expect the itinerary to change. Cruises usually work around bad weather, adding and subtracting port calls as needed. Even if you miss a favorite stop, don't expect a refund.

* Guarantee your stay. Some hotels and resorts in the Caribbean offer hurricane guarantees, but that doesn't mean you can just cancel your trip. Also, it might be a good idea to ask if the resort or hotel sustained damaged in previous storms.

* Use a travel agent. If you book your trip online and a hurricane threatens, you're on your own. But if you booked through a travel agent, you have someone to turn to for help. Agents will also be able to guide you through travel insurance options. You'll want insurance that allows you to cancel without penalty if a storm is forecasted.

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