Unfortunately, natural disasters happen. They’re a part of this world and there’s not much anybody can do about them when they hit except stay out of their way. Still, shouldn’t you be entitled to a refund when a natural disaster ruins your vacation? If so, how much? The answers to these questions will depend on several things:
Travel insurance companies will never cover common or expected disasters. If a storm has been forecast, a hurricane has already been named, or a volcano is known to erupt regularly, you’re out of luck. Like any kind of insurance, travel insurance usually only covers things that might happen. The only way an agency will cover a natural disaster is if it occurs after you’ve bought their insurance. Even then, it’s going to depend on the plan you purchased. Most insurance plans only cover certain kinds of catastrophes or certain aspects of a trip. Really take the time to look into several insurance plans before committing to one. No matter which agency you decide to go with, remember that insurance is always a good idea.
In most cases, flights that have been canceled because of something that was within the airline’s control will be refunded. You’ll have a much tougher time getting that money back if your flight was canceled because of a natural disaster. In these cases, only the people who bought refundable tickets ahead of time — or those who selected the right insurance plan — will be reimbursed. Some airlines might offer you non-refundable fare credit that you’ll be able to put towards your next vacation.
Flight Delays and Rerouting
When a flight has been delayed for over five hours because of a natural disaster, it’s typically treated as a cancellation. If it’s only running a couple of hours late, on the other hand, you won’t be entitled to any kind of compensation. Of course, you’ll still be able to fly, just not when you expected. If rerouting is an option, airlines will usually be willing to cover the cost of any connecting flights you may have to take.
Before signing the lease for your vacation rental home, make sure to read everything over and see what the landlord is willing to do in the event of a natural disaster. These agreements can be tricky to understand, so don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions if you’re unclear on anything. Most vacation homeowners will at least be willing to extend a partial refund your way. Some might even allow you to reschedule. Then again, you might not get anything.
If you’re traveling in the states, you’ll want to look up any local laws that deal with rental contracts. Remember that every state, especially popular vacation spots like Florida or California, has its own set of lease agreement regulations. Check the laws in the states you’ll be traveling to for anything regarding natural disasters and your rights concerning them.
Since natural disasters are never anyone’s fault, some refund disputes can be very hard to settle and end up in court. If it’s an especially difficult case, the judge will usually look into old cases and adhere to past rulings.
Every hotel is different, but many have cancellation policies. Look into your hotel’s cancellation policy as soon as you can, just in case something comes up. A lot of hotels will allow you to cancel up to 24 hours before check-in, but you should still make sure to call as soon you know you won’t be able to make it. If a hotel is unwilling to reimburse you, you could always try explaining your situation to its customer service department.
Depending on where your vacation was planned, you might have decided to rent a car. If you need to cancel your rental car in the event of a natural disaster, there’s no need to worry. Most companies are easy-going when it comes to cancellations and may even offer you a full refund with as little as 24 hours notice. As always, be sure to review their terms and policies before signing any paperwork.