By Jeanenne Tornatore, Orbitz.com senior editor
Hurricane season is in full swing, with brewing storms that have the potential to threaten many vacation plans. If you're headed to a destination prone to tropical storms -- the Gulf Coast, Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean -- here's some advice that will make traveling during this volatile weather season a little less worrisome.
1. Keep a watchful eye on the weather.
I know, this sounds just all too obvious. Who wouldn't pay attention to the weather forecast for their vacation spot? But it's not just about the immediate weather in your destination. When it comes to tropical storms, experts can often very accurately predict their path and growing strength days ahead of landfall. At least a week before your departure, stay tuned to national weather stations and websites to ensure you know what may be in store for your journey.
2. Know airline and hotel policies.
It's become common practice for major airlines and hotels in hurricane prone destinations to be very flexible with their change and cancellation policies when hurricane conditions affect travel. When choosing a hotel or resort, contact the property and ask about their policies. It may be a smart move to choose one that offers refunds or credit for a future stay should a storm cause cancellations. And ask your airline about their rules as well -- at the very least they should be willing to waive a change and cancellations fees for a ticket.
3. Evaluate evacuation procedures.
Upon arrival, ask about your hotel's evacuation procedures. Knowing what to do should a storm hit will keep anxiety low and put your mind at ease, which is why you went on vacation in the first place!
4. Consider a cruise.
If your worry outweighs the great deal you found to a tropical paradise, look into cruising as an alternative. Modern cruise ships are built with sophisticated satellite technology that allows them -- for the most part -- to avoid stormy weather. It may mean you spend an extra day at sea instead of docking at a scheduled island port, but the chance your trip will be cancelled is small.
5. Look outside the hurricane belt.
It's true -- there are tropical islands in the Caribbean that are very unlikely to get hit by a tropical storm. The ABC islands -- Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao -- located not far off the coast of Venezuela, are considered to be outside the hurricane belt and have historically seen very little severe storm activity. And remember, it's still the off-season in the Caribbean, which means no crowds and prices that are hard to pass up.