Hurricane travel insurance: When should you buy it and what kind of policy do you need?

Booking a tropical Caribbean or seaside vacation during hurricane season is always something of a gamble. The statistical chances of a hurricane impacting your trip are rather slim, but certainly not zero. And while some years are quiet, with only a handful of named storms threatening tourism areas, overall the trend appears heading toward an increase in hurricane frequency and intensity.

Understandably, this might have you considering hurricane travel insurance for your next trip to a hurricane-vulnerable area. But there are a few things you should know before buying coverage.

You have to buy well in advance

If the forecast looks like this, it's probably too late to buy hurricane insurance. (Photo: MikeMareen/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

As with all forms of insurance, hurricane travel insurance typically protects you against hurricanes that could happen. If you wait to buy coverage until a hurricane appears imminent, has formed, or has been named, insurance companies can claim the storm in question was a “foreseeable event,” which is ineligible for coverage.

Every insurance policy is different: some stipulate that you must purchase coverage 24 hours prior to the storm being named, while some require you to purchase even sooner.

Bottom line: Don’t wait until the storm is barreling toward your destination. If you’re traveling to a potential strike area during peak hurricane season, buy insurance well in advance.

And it's definitely too late by the time the palm trees start getting blown around. (Photo: deberarr, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A flood of fine print

It’s no secret that insurance companies load their policies with fine print. Hurricane travel insurance is no different. Travel insurance providers have very particular parameters for what “counts” as a hurricane, at least in terms of covering customers. The threat of a hurricane usually isn’t enough to qualify – the hurricane has to directly impact your travel.

Insurance provider Travel Guard explains that the hurricane must “directly affect your travel arrangements or accommodations. For example: an airport is closed due to the high winds. 

On the other hand, if you choose to cancel a trip based on what you think might happen – not because the inclement weather has directly affected your travel arrangements – that would be considered a matter of choice, not a direct loss to your arrangements.”

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