It is that time of year again: Atlantic hurricane season officially starts on June 1 and ends on November 30. The Department of State encourages U.S. citizens to defer travel to hurricane-prone areas, and for U.S. citizens residing in hurricane locations to consider traveling to non-hurricane affected areas during hurricane season. Evacuating and sheltering in place abroad during hurricanes will become that much more difficult due to the challenges imposed by COVID-19 pandemic. While some states and countries are gradually opening up, we recommend you defer travel to hurricane-prone areas and prepare for the possibility of storms if you cannot avoid travel to these places. If you are planning to travel abroad in the future, here are five important tips to consider while planning to travel abroad during this hurricane season:
1. Be Informed
First thing is first: be informed. As you consider your travel destination, take the time to learn about the country, including entry/exit requirements imposed due to COVID-19, visa requirements, local laws and customs, and medical care in the countries where you will be. It is also helpful to check for any Travel Advisories for your destination and note any particularly related to recent storm activity. In addition, 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 not forgetting anything important.
2. Consider Purchasing Travel Insurance
If you cannot defer travel to hurricane-prone areas, consider looking into 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 for your evacuation. It is not free.
3. Prepare an Emergency Plan
Prior to selecting your travel destination, you should carefully consider the potential dangers and inconveniences of traveling to storm-prone regions of the world, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. 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 evacuation flights be available in the event of a storm? Who will need additional assistance and time to depart in an emergency situation? How will I keep my travel documents protected and easy to access? How do I best keep myself and my fellow travelers protected if we are not able to depart? How will a shortage of essential items during COVID-19 affect your ability to shelter in place?
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 in country to 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
While traveling 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. Sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
Enrolling your trip in STEP allows you to receive important information about 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 travel 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: Michelle Morales Rodriguez is an Information Officer for the Digital Engagement Team in the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.