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Hurricane Change Your Plans? Are you without a plan now? Worried about limited availability?

The catastrophic magnitude of the hurricanes this year is epic. As Florida, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and other Caribbean Islands begin rebuilding their lives, travelers are now beginning to wonder about plans for the holidays and next year.

Most people don’t want to sound self-absorbed or insensitive to the victims and evacuees of Irma and Harvey, but tourists who hoped to take vacations in hurricane damaged destinations need to protect their financial investments and make adjustments accordingly.

Many resorts in the Caribbean and Florida have hurricane policies which will allow you to either cancel or receive a refund if your arrival is within 60 days of the impact of a storm. Those with only minor damage may provide you with credit to be used at a future date and in some cases, will give you a discount for your next vacation. It just depends on the location of the resort. There are properties which are still being evaluated and do not have an estimated time frame for accepting guests yet and have cancelled all reservations indefinitely. There are properties which have only minor damage and are temporarily closed with reasonable re-opening time frames.

Airlines are also offering credit and waivers on penalties for cancelled or delayed flights. Contact your professional travel consultant for details as travel agencies have daily updates on the status of travel vendors which includes hotel partners, airlines, cruise lines, and tour operators. This will alleviate the frustration of lengthy hold times and trying to decipher the complicated fine print of travel documents. Many suppliers, including cruise lines, are scrambling to assist travelers departing within the next few weeks. Concurrently they are working on strategies to re-position ships and are creating alternate itineraries.

If you purchased insurance prior to the storms, you have more options available to you. Insurance companies like Travel Guard will send a check for the non-refundable portion of the vacation covered, normally within 30 days of the claim being received and processed.

If you were just in the planning phase and were contemplating a vacation in destinations which may be virtually uninhabitable or severely damaged, it’s time create another plan.

  1. If you were thinking of an Eastern Caribbean cruise, many of those sailings are being converted to Western Caribbean sailings as St. Thomas and St. Maarten were the two main ports of call on those itineraries. If you’ve cruised to the Western Caribbean previously and desire something different, you have options. Basically, your alternate plan will be largely based on the time of year you are taking your vacation and the amount of time you have. Consider a 7 night Mexico sailing from California, 7 Days to Bermuda, or even a 7 Day Bahamas sailing from New York, just to name a few.

  2. Were you looking forward to the powdery white sandy beaches of the U.S. Virgin Islands? If you are traveling this year, while Naples, Florida did have some damage, it’s not extensive and many resorts are reopening next week. There are beautiful beaches with luxurious resorts sweeping the beaches of the glistening Gulf of Mexico, most of which are on par with properties in St. Thomas. There are two Ritz Carlton’s and my favorite and my personal favorite, the Laplaya Beach & Golf Resort.

  3. Hotels in the Bahamas have either had limited damage, are unscathed, or are still being evaluated, so it’s something to consider based on the property and its status. Depending on cruise line itineraries changing course, the Bahamas is going to be in need of business, so prepare for travel incentives popping up with either airfare credit being offered through packages booked with travel agencies, resort credit, or significant discounts on entire vacation packages.

  4. Hawaii is a perfect destination for those looking for a tropical vacation in paradise which does not require a passport. If you love outdoor activities and natural surroundings, you can’t go wrong with any of the Islands of Hawaii. If you’re concerned about the expense, think again. Hawaii has many options for every type of traveler. Vacation packages overall have the best value. The airfare portion of the trip when bundled with the accommodations and optional car rental can be greatly reduced versus piecing it together individually. Accommodations booked as part of a package range from condominiums and villas to local resorts and luxury hotels which many times can include breakfast daily, free nights for longer stays, or even a free car rental. Looking for an all-inclusive in Hawaii? There are properties with minimal meal plans, such as breakfast, but your closest to an all-inclusive is aboard a Hawaii Cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines. It's quite an experience and you'll be able to visit multiple islands without unpacking more than once!

  5. Availability is going to start getting limited for Spring Break which generally encompasses the entire month of March. Start looking at those dates now because vacation packages will book up quickly due to a more concentrated number of people will be flying to the similar regions. If you think about it, those who were traveling to the Eastern Caribbean, whether it was a cruise, or to a resort, will be changing their plans taking vacation to destinations not impacted by the hurricanes. This does not necessarily mean that more flights will not be added, but the actual number of available hotel rooms will be reduced significantly because of a high demand. Keep in mind that when there is high demand, prices are not going to be dramatically discounted.

  6. Have you always wanted to go skiing, but have been outvoted because everyone else wanted to go to the beach? This is your year! There are spectacular ski packages which include airfare, accommodations, car rentals or transfers, and lift tickets. This is where your travel professional is a great resource of knowledge and added value. Travel agents have relationships with tour operators located in major ski destinations which have the be selection and inventory of hotels, rental homes, and condominiums. Not only this, but just as Hawaii, you get more for your money when staying longer than 4 nights in terms of ski and snowboarding rentals, lift tickets, equipment, car rentals, and accommodations.

Hopefully you have found helpful information in this article. The vacation ideas I have listed are just a few in my arsenal. The best way to determine a course of action is to schedule a complimentary consultation with a professional travel consultant. Via our partnerships with a wide selection of preferred suppliers, we are able to competitively shop for you and have access to upgrades, amenities, and benefits which will significantly enhance your vacation experience.

Most importantly, if a crisis were to arise, we are here for you, possess the resources, tools, and contacts to provide you with resolutions reducing frustration and out of pocket expenses.

Lindsay Larrabee Heabel, CTA

Owner and Luxury Vacation Specialists Since 1991

Platinum Vacation Specialists

(855) 424-6588 Ext. 710

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