Food, Travel and Tech

Here's what you need to know about getting travel insurance during hurricane season

A view of palm trees before a tropical storm hits.
lisatop | iStock | Getty Images

Hurricane Dorian is brewing up trouble in the Atlantic, a sure sign that we've officially hit hurricane season. It pays to be prepared if you're planning to travel to the Caribbean or along the Atlantic seaboard over the next few months.

Peak hurricane season generally occurs between mid-August to late October, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So a storm like Dorian, while it threatens major damage to Puerto Rico if it makes landfall on Wednesday as expected, is also far from unexpected for this time of year.

In fact, major U.S. airlines American, Delta, Frontier, Spirit, Southwest and United, are already offering flight change waivers to passengers traveling in the region over the next couple of days. Meanwhile Disney Cruise Line, Carnival and Royal Caribbean announced adjustments to their cruise routes.

Yet while traveling, particularly on cruises, during hurricane season can net you some good deals, that's definitely when you need insurance to protect your investment.

What to buy

If you're traveling during peak hurricane season, you'll want to buy comprehensive travel insurance. These policies typically cover everything from reimbursements if you miss a connection to refunds if you can't travel because you're sick or hurt, plus any expenses related to lost bags, medical or dental emergencies, disaster evacuations and even costs associated with accidental deaths.

Specifically, look for policies that include advance cancellation, trip interruption and trip delay protection (if postponing your departure by a day or two is all that's needed), Carl Unger, contributing editor for SmarterTravel.com, tells CNBC Make It.

Be prepared to pay an average of $164 for a weeklong trip, according to finance research site ValuePenguin that looked at the top 50 offerings on the market. Policies with the 'Cancel for any reason' feature are the most flexible, but they typically are the most expensive, Unger says.

And you should always read the fine print: Not all policies are set up to handle hurricanes. "You need to figure out what you want covered and look at different policies," Pauline Frommer, editorial director of Frommer's Guidebooks, tells CNBC Make It.

Buy early and direct

If you're traveling during storm season, you need to buy insurance right when you buy a vacation package or book your trip, Frommer says. And if you don't have it yet, get some "ASAP," Frommer says. Once a major storm is spotted and named, you can't get insurance.

It's not a good idea to buy your insurance directly from the travel site or cruise company, Frommer says. Not only could you end up spending too much, if the tour operator or travel site goes out of business, your insurance policy may be compromised.

Instead, Frommer recommends checking out insurance marketplaces like Squaremouth, Travelinsurance.com and insuremytrip.com "These sites only work with legitimate travel insurance companies," Frommer says, so you can be sure you're getting a good deal from a quality provider.

Another perk of a marketplace: customized service. "You'll be able to ask an expert all your questions and purchase the insurance policy that works best for you," Uger says.

Look for guarantees

Some companies will offer a travel guarantee so you won't lose out if your vacation is affected by a hurricane. For example Club Med has a Hurricane Protection Program and Holiday Inn Montego Bay advertises a "Risk-Free Hurricane Guarantee." Meanwhile the Cayman Islands' Department of Tourism has a "worry-free guarantee" that will reimburse visitors staying a participating accommodations if their vacation is interrupted by storms.

Of course if you are worried about traveling during hurricane season, Frommer says there's an easy solution. "My advice for hurricane season is travel in November," she says, adding that many of the discounts and lower pricing rolled out for September and October travel lasts into November.

Don't miss: 4 times you can skip travel insurance—and 3 times you should buy it

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A view of palm trees before a tropical storm hits.
lisatop | iStock | Getty Images
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