Traveling to the Caribbean during the Atlantic Storm Season, June 1 through November 30, can be challenging due to increased likelihood of storms and hurricanes. Peak storm season however, which runs from August through September, also happens to be the busiest off-peak travel months for US tourists as most seek to take advantage of those final weeks of summer with last minute deals, back-to-school specials and pre-winter sales. The tips, links and resources below will help you plan fail-proof late summer and early fall Caribbean excursions with confidence!
Storm Risk: Not All Islands Created Equal
Though the chances of inclement weather are increased during storm season, the Caribbean consists of over 25 main island countries, many with smaller territories surrounding the main land, and a host of beautiful travel destinations which are less likely to be affected by typical weather patterns.
While each storm season presents its own unique set of challenges, the likelihood of these storms making landfall and interrupting your plans is relatively low and can be reduced even further by being strategic when choosing where to visit as not all Caribbean islands face the same increased risk of hurricanes.
Islands located furthest south of the Caribbean basin – such as Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Curacao, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago — are the least likely to experience hurricanes just as islands further west – like Belize, Cuba, Grand Cayman and Jamaica – are less likely than islands on the eastern side of the basin to experience severe weather during storm season, making them safer destinations for late summer and early fall travel.
Research Weather Trends
To travel safely and worry-free during storm season, you must do your due diligence by researching your top destinations and the likelihood of severe weather for each island. Almanacs have long been used to help croppers and farmers navigate weather patterns but can also serve as a very useful tool for you to understand past, potential and likely conditions for destinations you’re considering. As with all travel, its best to stay abreast of weather no matter when, or where, you’re planning to go next.
To create an additional layer of protection for yourself and your travel companions, prior to booking you should always check with your airline and hotel to see if they offer a hurricane guarantee, usually in the form of a deal, discount or refund in case inclement weather ruins your plans. Additionally, many travel companies offer some form of hurricane protection while some credit card issuers offer trip insurance when using their branded card to place your bookings. Be sure to contact the companies you’re using to pay, fly and stay to understand the fine details regarding clauses, exclusions, policies and claims.
Prepare & Protect Yourself
To help plan your trip, it’s important to understand what a tropical cyclone or hurricane feels like; it feels like a rain, wind and thunderstorm with super strength. Most storms cycle extreme measures of wind, thunder, lightning and heavy rain for long periods with high chances of flooding in areas near, at and below sea level.
When pre-planning, you should use reliable and historically accurate weather sources for hurricane tips and to build a unique plan of action for you and your companions. While most resorts will offer tips, updates and evacuation plans, travelers who frequent hostels, room shares and other private lodging options should utilize local media such as radio, TV, websites and social media for up-to-the-minute news. You can also subscribe to news and weather alerts specific to the location(s) you’re visiting by searching the country/province using your preferred search browser and “following” or “subscribing” to the RSS feed to receive push alerts via cell phone.
Because tropical storms often knock out power lines and electricity making the accessibility of information unreliable, it's important to have your evacuation plan, emergency kit, passport (plus copies), travel documents (boarding passes, booking confirmations, etc) and available cash prepared beforehand in case of an emergency. Visit the National Weather Service’s Hurricane Preparedness page for more tips and to create your custom storm action plan.