Here’s what travelers need to know about Hurricane Dean

By | August 19th, 2007

It probably goes without saying that when a ferocious hurricane like Dean is bearing down on you, it’s best to get the hell out of the way. But for those of us who were waiting for the government to tell us what to do, our own State Department has issued public advisories for the Eastern Caribbean and Mexico this morning. Their advice? Get the hell out of the way.

I’m not one to rely on official sources of information, at least not exclusively. (Although I have to admit that I obsessively check the National Hurricane Center’s RSS feeds because I live in Florida.) The Jamaica Gleaner has had some interesting Dean coverage. The Barbados Nation also published several compelling photos from the aftermath of the storm.

If you’re traveling in an area affected by Dean, here’s what you need to know.

As of now, the airline most affected by this storm is Air Jamaica. It is posting its cancellations online to this page.

Air carriers often waive their ticket change fees during a hurricane. If a flight is canceled because of a major storm, they will often be able to give you a full refund, even on a nonrefundable ticket. My advice is to ask about it now and make a refund request as soon as possible.

Several Caribbean resorts are using the storm as an opportunity to talk up their hurricane “guarantees.” But read them carefully. The fine print can make it difficult to make a claim when a storm hits.

SuperClubs’ hurricane policy, for example, won’t compensate guests if they decided not to postpone their vacation when a hurricane threatens their resort, and when guests invoke its hurricane guarantee, it provides vouchers that are subject to blackout dates. Its competitor, Sandals, also offers a storm guarantee but warns that it can be “changed and may be withdrawn at any time without notice.”

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Safe travels.

Update: The State Department has issued a travel warning for Jamaica and the Caymans as of this afternoon.

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