It is that time of year again: Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1 and ends November 30. The Department of State encourages U.S. citizens to defer all international travel due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Evacuating and sheltering in place abroad during hurricanes will be much more difficult due to the challenges imposed by COVID-19 pandemic. If you reside in or must travel to a hurricane-prone area, prepare ahead of time for the possibility of storms:
1. Get Informed
First thing is first: Get informed. If you must travel abroad, check the Travel Advisory for your destination so you can make an informed decision about your trip. Take the time to learn about the country, including entry/exit requirements imposed due to COVID-19, visa requirements, curfews and local health conditions, local laws and customs, and the availability of local medical care. .. Keep the contact details for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate with you. We are available for emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, overseas and in Washington, DC at 1-888-407-4747 for domestic calls or 202-501-4444 for international calls. We also recommend you also check out our Traveler’s Checklist to make sure you are prepared if you face any challenges.
2. Consider Purchasing Additional Travel Insurance
If you must travel to hurricane-prone areas, consider purchasing travel insurance. A small additional cost before booking your flight can prevent a much larger cost later. Standard travel insurance typically covers the cost of your lost baggage and cancelled flights; however, it may not cover the cost of evacuations or medical attention. Especially during hurricane season, make sure you have coverage for emergency evacuations and healthcare while abroad. Be sure to read the fine print of your policy to inform yourself of any pandemic restrictions, as some insurance companies will not cover evacuations during a pandemic. Without insurance, emergency evacuations can cost upwards of $100,000. Understand that if you are evacuated from a hurricane-affected area by the U.S. government, you will be required to sign a promissory note and will be responsible to pay back the cost of your evacuation.
3. Prepare an Emergency Plan
Prior to traveling abroad, carefully consider the potential dangers and inconveniences of traveling to storm-prone regions of the world, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic’s continued impact on countries all over the world. If you know your destination is particularly prone to storms or does not have the infrastructure to deal with storm damage, it is best to plan for an emergency. Consider the following questions:
- Will departing flights be available ahead of a storm?
- Will anyone in your group need additional assistance and time to depart in an emergency situation?
- How will you keep your travel documents protected and easy to access?
- How do you best keep yourself and fellow travelers protected if you are not able to depart ahead of the storm?
- How will a shortage of essential items due to the COVID-19 pandemic affect your ability to shelter in place?
- How will scarcity of local medical resources due to the pandemic affect you?
If you’re traveling with pets, plan for their safety in the event of an emergency. U.S. government evacuation flights cannot typically accommodate pets. Depart with your pet via commercial flight ahead of a hurricane. If that is not possible, you may need to find someone locally lto care for your pet instead. Plan to leave them with sufficient food and water supplies in case a crisis makes it impossible to move around or makes the local water undrinkable.
4. Monitor Local News Sources and the National Hurricane Center for Weather Updates
If you must travel during storm season, stay aware of developments by monitoring local media and the National Hurricane Center for news and weather reports. Minor storms can quickly become hurricanes, limiting the time to get out. If a weather emergency occurs, stay in touch with your tour operator, hotel staff, and local authorities for evacuation instructions. It could save your life.
5. Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
Now, more than ever, it is important to enroll your international trip in STEP. Enrolling your trip in STEP allows you to receive information about health and safety conditions in your destination, and helps the U.S. embassy or consulate contact you in an emergency.
For more information about preparing for hurricanes abroad, visit:
For up-to-date Alerts, you can also monitor the website, Facebook page, and Twitter account of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General in your travel destination, follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook, and visit travel.state.gov.
About the Author: Alyssa Zalenski is a Public Affairs Officer for the Digital Engagement Team in the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.