8 Tips for Traveling During Hurricane Season

Just because hurricane season is in full swing doesn’t mean that you need to shy away from some tropical destinations that are more frequently hit by hurricanes. It does, however, mean that you need to travel a little more wisely, take precautions and use good travel sense.

1. ‘Tis the Season

Officially, hurricane season extends from the beginning of June to the end of November in the Atlantic and from mid-May to the end of November in the Eastern Pacific. Historically, the season ramps up from mid-August until October, with most of the major storms hitting through the month of September.

Hurricane Season

2. Proactive Travel

Maybe you’re traveling for business, or are taking advantage of discounted travel prices during Hurricane season for a holiday. If you are traveling to a coastal area, or an area that is known to be struck by hurricanes, be proactive. U.S. nationals can subscribe to STEP (Smart Traveler Enrolment Program) which will get you in touch with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to make them aware of your presence in the area. Canadians should register in the Registration of Canadians Abroad. What this will do is provide your family with an avenue through which to contact you in the case of a weather emergency, as well as put you quickly in touch with agency help should you need to evacuate or require other assistance prior to or during a hurricane. Registration in these programs will subscribe you to text and email weather alerts. Getting a Red Cross app on your smartphone will link you into weather alerts as well.

Check the Weather

3. Travel Insurance

Admittedly, traveling during hurricane season carries with it certain additional risks, and travel insurance is a good way of mitigating some of the financial risks. Before you go, make sure your insurance covers trip interruption and trip cancellation. Usually, a comprehensive plan is the best way to go, but make sure you read the fine print around weather, acts of nature and catastrophic events. Also, make sure you’ve got medical coverage- either through your health care plan or through additional travel insurance. Don’t wait until you are traveling and the weather forecast is gloomy. You most likely won’t be able to get coverage at that point.

Travel Insurance

4. The Smart Carry-On

Travel delays are a common headache for any traveler, but if you’re traveling during a season where weather can be more forceful and more unpredictable, the likelihood of flight delays and losing your luggage increases. Reduce this stress by packing a quality carry-on with all of the necessities you might need for a couple of days to enjoy your vacation or to attend your meetings.

Carry On Travel Bag

5. Consider your Destination

You can score some sweet travel deals during hurricane season, but make an informed decision through a little background research. There are areas that are frequently hit, and those that are vulnerable with a chance of very stormy weather. If you’re heading to the Caribbean, for instance, statistically the islands in the southern part are less affected. Don’t overlook the impact of an indirect hit from a hurricane either. Even if you are inland, you may still be subjected to heavy rain and high winds, which sort of puts a literal damper on your day at the amusement park or golf course.

Typing

6. Refunds?

Check with your hotel before you go on what their hurricane policies are. Some offer refunds, but most hotels will offer guests a credit or a discount to come back and stay at a later date. Airlines typically will allow you to change your flight plans without penalty. If you get stuck at an airport between connections, ask hotels for a discount; they will often comply under these circumstances. Cruise ships are a little different, because their itineraries are a little more dynamic and they are often able to steer themselves around storms.

american money

7. Extra packing

In addition to your usual packing, you’d be well-advised to pack a few extra items: a travel first aid kit, a battery operated radio and a flashlight for starters. With your travel documents, compile the necessary numbers and contact info you’ll need to get help and process claims, like agency phone numbers, government contacts and insurance policy numbers.

Extra Packing

8. When you Arrive

Make sure you know what their hurricane procedures are, in case any bad weather comes your way. Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes and policies and inquire about any other necessary details from hotel staff that you might need during your stay. Getting caught in a weather emergency can be stressful, but having a detailed plan ahead of time can help reduce the panic.

Talk to Hotel Staff

The World’s Most Dangerous Airlines

AirlineRatings.com has released a list of the world’s most dangerous airlines to fly, basing them on a rating scale out of seven stars. The airlines below all have a rating of two stars or below and are rated on factors such as is the airline certified by the International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), are they blacklisted from the European Union, have they been fatality-free for 10 years, are they FAA approved and do they meet all 8 of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety parameters. To explain; the IOSA certification is an evaluation system designed to assess the management and control system of an airline whereas the ICAO measures the standards and regulations necessary for aviation safety, security, efficiency, and regularity. Most of these airlines do not offer in-flight products, have terrible on-time performance, and have been grounded or investigated at least once in their lifetime. Between bomb threats, hijackings, overshot runways, and crashes; these twelve airlines have a history of being unsafe. Discover the world’s most dangerous airlines according to AirlineRatings.com.

13. Yeti Airlines

Eduardo Ramos Castaneda / Getty Images

Yeti Airlines is the parent company to Tara Air (mentioned later); an airline that was rewarded only one-star by AirlineRatings.com. Yeti Airlines comes in with two stars, however, being rewarded for being fatality-free and FAA endorsed. Based in Kathmandu, Nepal this airline was established in 1998 and together with Tara Air forms the largest domestic flight operator in Nepal. Yeti Airlines serves ten domestic destinations with seven aircraft in operation.

In the past decade, Yeti Airlines has had a handful of incidents resulting in the deaths of over thirty passengers and crew as well as destroying a couple of aircraft. They do boast the highest on-time performance of any airline in Nepal though and offer beverages and snacks on flights. Yeti Airlines also offers an hour-long express Everest mountain flight that remains popular with visitors. Like all Nepalese airlines, they are banned from flying into the European Union airspace and have not completed any components of the IOSA.

12. Sriwijaya Air

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This Indonesia airline comes in with a two-star rating as the country’s third-largest airline. Sriwijaya Air is a privately owned airline that started its operations in 2003 and services cities within Indonesia and 3 international destinations. This airline is classified as a medium service airline and does offer snacks and beverages throughout the flights. They had hoped to be a full-service airline by 2013 but that has not yet happened as of 2015.

In regards to safety, Sriwijaya Air is lacking in a lot of departments. With no international safety recognition, blacklisted from flying into European air space, and not being FAA approved it was only the lack of fatalities that earned them any stars. Not without incident though, this airline has had a number of runway incidents that have resulted in injury and aircraft damage.  Sriwijaya Air has a large fleet of aircraft, totaling 39 with an average lifespan of 24 years old, and has been in negotiations to replace a large number of the aging aircraft. Perhaps with newer aircraft and added destinations this airline will consider participating in safety certifications that will bump their star rating up in the coming years.

11. Air Bagan

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One of the only two-star rated airlines on this list that is allowed to fly into European airspace is Air Bagan. Established in 2004 Air Bagan operates domestically in Myanmar with over 20 destinations. International flights were a go-ahead in 2007 but since have been canceled due to safety concerns. Only one international destination remains on their flight schedule. Another fact about this airline is that U.S citizens are prohibited from dealing with this airline due to U.S sanctions against the Myanmar government.

With two accidents and a handful of fatalities, Air Bagan looks to be slightly safer than most others on this list especially considering they are well on their way to completing the necessary requirements for the ICAO audit. Air Bagan also offers good in-flight products with meals and beverages offered on all their flights no matter what the flight length and distance. Passengers seem to like this airline so we expect to see them rise in ratings as they obtain further safety accreditation.

10. Susi Air

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The airlines of Indonesia seem to be heading up the race for two-star ratings from AirlineRatings.com. The combination of extreme terrain, smaller panes, weather, non-cooperation from local tribes, and communication difficulties with air traffic control are all factors that contribute to the safety of these airlines. Susi Air operates commercial and charter flights throughout the islands of Indonesia and has been around since 2004. They are one of the only airlines in Indonesia that hires most of their pilots from Western Countries; most often hiring young pilots wanting to clock up their flying hours.

Besides being banned from flying into the European Union, Susi Air has another type of ban on them. After a rough decade of crashes and casualties, United States Embassy personnel are now prohibited from flying on this airline. Due to the nature of the planes, don’t expect any flight crew other than the pilots. With an open cockpit and access to all of the pilot’s controls passengers who are rowdy also pose a serious safety threat to these flights. Although Susi Air is said to be one of the better Indonesian Airlines, expect them to stay at about 2 stars in the safety rating from AirlineRatings.com.

9. Merpati Airlines

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Merpati Airlines was established in 1962 by the Indonesian government as a second-state airline. Currently, it is a major domestic airline with service to over 25 destinations in Indonesia, as well as flying to East Timor and Malaysia. The history of this airline has been a financial mess and as of January 2015, the airline is not operating any flights. The fate of the airline is up in the air as the Indonesian government has promised to invest the money they need to start flying again.

As for their safety record, in the past decade, they have had over 50 casualties over six serious incidents and are banned from flying in any European airspace due to safety concerns. Merpati boasts a training center and pilot school which makes their safety record even more surprising. In the past, this airline has expressed interest in obtaining their IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) from International Air Transport Association but with unpaid fuel bills, unhappy employees, and frozen operations we would be shocked if they are still an airline by the time this study comes out again next year.

8. Daallo Airlines

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This two-star safety-rated airline has some of the worst passenger reviews in regards to safety, cleanliness, and service. Daallo Airlines is a Somali-owned airline with its headquarters in Dubai and its main operating hub at Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport. Destinations include the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Facts and information are hard to come by about this airline and perhaps this is what makes it even more unsafe.

All flight operations were grounded in 2010 for Daallo Airlines but resumed later in the year; with no reason given as to why. As for the safety record, although this airline hasn’t suffered any casualties there have been a couple of serious incidents. An unsuccessful hijack attempt took place in 2009 and in 2010 a man tried to board a flight with enough explosives to blow up the plane. Now banned from the European Union with no recognized safety certificate; you may want to add Daallo Airlines to your list of airlines to avoid flying.

7. Ariana Afghan Airways

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The largest airline of Afghanistan comes in with a safety rating of two stars according to AirlineRatings.com. Established in 1955 this airline has been blacklisted from the European Union since 2006 due to safety concerns. During the Taliban era, the airline was completely grounded and has to rebuild itself after the overthrow. The UN lifted the sanctions that were preventing the airline from flying internationally although the EU blacklist continues to this day.

Due to its age and history, the safety record of Arian Afghan Airways is not a pretty one. As of 2014 they had written off 19 aircraft and counted a total of 154 casualties. Although most of these incidents occurred in the late 1990s; there are enough of them to justify a low safety rating. No internationally recognized safety audit certificate also bumps this airline down to two stars. Currently operating to three domestic sites and seven international destinations it seems this airline isn’t proactive in trying to earn further safety accreditation.

6. Bluewing Airlines

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Bluewing Airlines, a regional carrier based out of Zorg en Hoop Airport in Paramaribo, Suriname has operated since 2002. This small airline generally transports passengers to destinations in the interior of Suriname, Guyana, Brazil, Venezuela, and the Caribbean. The airline has spent time on and off the blacklist for the European Union and currently in 2015 remains banned from flying into the EU.

Bluewing has had its share of problems from aircraft safety issues to crashes. In the early 2000’s the four Antonov 28s that were part of their fleet came under fire for not meeting specific safety regulations including the absence of Ground Proximity Warning Systems (GPWS) on board. In the past decade, there have been a number of crashes with both crew and passenger deaths. With a poor safety record, a blacklist from the EU, and often poor landing conditions it is not likely that this airline will be awarded more than two stars in the near future.

5. Tara Air

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Tara Air, a subsidiary of Yeti Air (previously mentioned) is a newly formed airline being established in 2009 and uses the Yeti Air fleet. With its main hub at the Tribhuvan International Airport, this airline operates short take-off and landing services, focusing on remote and mountainous airports and landing strips. This small fleet of 8 aircraft earned its one star from being FAA approved.

The safety record of Tara Air, to put it gently, is not good. In the years 2010 and 2011 there were three incidents that resulted in 22 deaths of passengers and crew. Small aircrafts combined with the extremely mountainous terrain make flying this airline a risk. Tara Air is also banned from flying into the EU and has no internationally recognized safety certificate although rumor has it that this airline is working towards obtaining possible IOSA recognition in the future. We will keep an eye on this airline over the coming years to see if they can move upon the star rating.

4. Lion Air

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Indonesia’s largest privately run airline started operations in the year 2000 and perhaps has the worst safety record on this list, along with a slew of other issues it has faced since being established. In the fourth most populous country, the demand for medium-haul jets has been on the rise and Lion Air has stepped forward with significant orders of Boeings and Airbus. Lion Air flies passengers to over 80 destinations and has jointly established two additional airlines in Malaysia and Thailand.

The safety record for Lion Air can rightfully be called atrocious with over eight serious incidents and a number of fatalities in the last decade. From overshot runway landings to water crashes it’s surprising that this airline hasn’t had more casualties. Just recently in 2012, Lion Air came under scrutiny for pilots and crew being in possession of methamphetamine (aka crystal meth). As expected they are banned from flying into the European Union and as of January 2015, the ministry of transportation had frozen fifty-three of their routes. It’s no shock that Lion Air is only given one-star from AirlineRatings.com and expects them to stay at that rating for some time unless drastic changes are made.

3. Nepal Airlines

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The only airline in the one-star category to even get an in-flight product rating is Nepal Airlines, formally known as Royal Nepal Airlines. It was Nepal’s first airline in 1958 with a handful of domestic flights. It has now grown to fly to over 39 destinations including seven international ones. None of these destinations include anywhere in the European Union as all Nepalese airlines are blacklisted; including Nepal Airlines.

The safety record for this airline isn’t pretty. Since the 1960’s there have been numerous incidents and accidents resulting in the deaths of passengers and crew members. The most recent accident occurred in 2014 when a plane went missing on-route to Jaumla and crashed; resulting in the deaths of 18 people. Nepal Airlines has not participated in any of the internationally recognized safety audits and continues to be one of the world’s most dangerous airlines according to AirlineRatings.com. This airline has recently purchased a few new aircrafts including an Airbus A320 and will be using that to fly to Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

2. SCAT Airlines

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The low-cost carrier SCAT Airlines was established in 1997 and operates out of its main hub Shymkent Airport with service to all major cities of Kazakhstan and neighboring countries. Rewarded a ranking of one star by AirlineRatings.com this airline is deemed one of the most dangerous airlines in the world according to this study. The airline is in fact FAA approved and that is what earned them the one star. SCAT is banned from entering European airspace though an audit by the ICAO deemed them non-compliant in keys areas of regulatory oversight.

SCAT has been accident and incident-free for the most part since operations commenced but just recently in 2013 suffered a loss. An aircraft carrying 21 people crashed while flying from Kokshetau to Almaty and all on board perished. A few other minor incidents have occurred with this airline and it continues to operate without an internationally recognized safety audit certificate. The good news about SCAT is they are genuinely trying to improve and working towards professional accreditation.

1. Kam Air

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Coming in with just one star Kam Air is amongst only 4 others that topped the list for the most dangerous airlines in the world. This Afghanistan-based airline is based out of Kabul and has been in operation since 2003. Kam Air was the first-ever privately-owned passenger airline in Afghanistan and operates domestic passenger services and regional international services. Kam Air did try to schedule flights into Europe but as of 2010, the European Union (EU) banned all afghan carriers from flying into the EU due to safety concerns.

Kam Air has had its share of incidents in the past 12 years which include a crash that resulted in the deaths of 96 passengers and 8 crew members. Other incidents include a bomb threat that resulted in the plane being diverted and a tail strike incident that was not taken seriously by the airline; thus resulting in the ban from the EU. Along with not completing the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) audit Kam Airlines is also not allowed into American airspace. This airline is clearly failing at becoming a safer airline and will most likely remain on the bottom of this list for a long time.

10 Must-See Items on Your Trip to Barcelona

Barcelona, the second-largest city in Spain, is located in the Catelonian region. It is a bustling hub for many locals, tourists and others who keep the city busy with activity from sun up to sun down. Barcelona has been home to many traditions and holidays like St. George’s Day and La Mercè festival, has old buildings with traditional medieval architecture, and has been host to many different sporting events. If you plan on visiting Barcelona, there are 10 must-see places to visit on your trip.

1. La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia - Barcelona
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Spain has long been a dedicated Roman Catholic nation and this church in Barcelona exhibits much of this tradition. It is a newer church that was begun in 1882 and designed by Antoni Gaudi and it is still being worked on today. This church is a combination of both Gothic and modern-era architecture to give it a longer lasting stability.

2. Pabellon Mies van der Rohe

Otherwise known as the Barcelona Pavilion is a building that features what is basically a garden in the middle of the city. It’s built out of mostly marble and glass material and it contains the sculpture Alba on the grounds as well. It’s a place where you can escape the bustle and noise of the city and come relax by the pool.
Pabellon Mies van der Rohe - Barcelona

3. Torre Agbar

Torre Agbar - Barcelona
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This central tower in Barcelona is an amazing spectacle when lit up at night. This skyscraper in Barcelona is one of the most breath-taking sights of Barcelona and is more than worth a look. Its structure is round-shaped and it narrows into an apex as it nears the top. It has many different colors woven into the 4500 windows that make up the tower and it has many different lighting patterns that are set for different times of the year.

4. Casa Lleo Morera

Casa Lleo Morera - Barcelona
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The Casa Lleo Morera is a house that was built for the Lleo Morera family at the turn of the 20th century by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. The building is comprised of a lot of colors amid the masonry and has columnades that line its porches and balconies. You cannot go into the building itself but you should definitely stop by and take a look at it.

5. Barcelona FC Museum

FC Barcelona, a world-famous soccer club, has a museum that you can go see and revisit many exciting moments in the history of this club. You can see profiles of many great players, old jerseys, trophies, and so much more. You can also take tours behind the scenes of the FC Barcelona Stadium in connection with your visit to the museum. This museum is definitely a must-see for a glimpse into one of the largest traditions of Barcelona.
Barcelona FC

6. L’Aquarium de Barcelona

The Barcelona Aquarium is one of the largest aquatic exhibits in the world and has the only oceanarium in all of Europe. It hosts 450 different species of ocean animals and has an underwater tunnel 80 meters long. The aquarium hosts many different underwater exhibits and is a fun place for people of all ages. This place is one you definitely will want to mark on your to do list.
L'Aquarium de Barcelona

7. La Monumental

La Monumental Barcelona
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Of course you probably wouldn’t want to visit Spain without a glimpse at another tradition that Spain is known for, Bullfighting. Inside the La Monumental building is the famous Barcelona Bullfighting Museum. This museum gives you an up close and personal look at some of the most famous Catelonian bullfighters and bulls that have taken center stage in the ring.

8. CaixaForum Barcelona

CaixaForum Barcelona
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This is an art gallery that brings together a wide variety of modern art and multi-culturalism to one place. Besides being an art exhibition, this place has other features such as bookshops, restaurants, and is host to many conferences and international events. Visiting here will give you the chance to experience different ideas from around the world that all merge at this center.

9. Cathedral de Saint Eulalia

Cathedral de Saint Eulalia Barcelona
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This church, unlike the Sagrada Familia is actually preserved from the 15th century in which it was built. It has undergone remodeling and renovation projects over the years, but it still functions as a church even today. Guided tours of this church are also available for all visitors.

10. Parc Guell

This is another masterpiece built by Antoni Gaudi and it was actually intended to be a residential district that would take on a similar form of the British upper class houses of the time. Unfortunately the project was unable to be completed, so Gaudi took over construction and transformed it into a park that featured buildings that look like traditional Spanish houses and churches but have some checkered steeples and roofs that look like cake icing among other structures that have also been built at this park.
Parc Guell

Cuba Vacation: 10 Things to Know Before You Take Off

A glorious combination of unspoiled beaches, lively dance clubs, and cultural history await the fortunate travelers to Cuba’s sunny shores.

However, before packing your suitcase and jetting off to this lovely island country, here are ten things you need to know before you go…

1. Power Conversion

All of the outlets on the island of Cuba, including hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts use 2 pronged 220V outlets. That means your typical North American plug (with three prongs) will not fit into most Cuban outlets. You can, however, purchase a plug adapter. Just be careful to check the power outage before plugging in as appliances—such as hair dryers or laptops—may fry the 220V outlets and your laptop.

2. Pan Handling

You will see a number of locals begging for money or panhandling in Cuba by posing for pictures, drawing caricatures, or making and selling handicrafts in return for money from tourists. So don’t just assume what you’re being given or offered doesn’t come with a price tag.

Man Drawing Caricatures

3. Lack of Condiments

Many tourists return from Cuba with the idea that everything was great—except for the food! That’s because the flavor can be a bit lacking if you’re used to condiments like ketchup, hot sauce, pepper,  jams, cinnamon, and peanut butter. Many of these just aren’t available in Cuba, but you can bring your own.

Condiments on Tabletop

4. Bringing Donations

The majority of locals in Cuba working at your hotel—such as your housekeeper, bartender, waiter, and hotel desk staff—make very little money for hygienic or personal care items. That’s why many tourists bring along extra toothbrushes, mouthwashes, toothpastes, floss, panty hose, etc., to leave for them as gifts. Believe me; locals are incredibly grateful for these items.

5. Currencies

Yes, there is more than one official currency in the country of Cuba. While Cuban locals use the Cuban Peso—tourists are given the Cuban Convertible Peso and are unable to use the Cuban Peso. So it’s essential that you have the right currency.

6. Tipping is Socially Accepted

Like many places in North America, it’s common and polite practice to tip your wait staff, tour guides, hotel staff, or bartenders for good service in Cuba by leaving a few Cuban Convertible Pesos.

7. Internet Regulations

If you plan to use the internet in Cuba, you may be disappointed as it is highly regulated and rather expensive. Plus you require a special permit to access the internet, and even then, usage is closely monitored.

8. Cuban Time

In Cuba, it’s common that things are a little bit slower pace. After all, you’re on vacation! However, some tourists are upset when buses or tour guides don’t arrive exactly on time. Let’s just say the island country runs on “Cuban time” or relaxed time.

cuba bus

9. Drinking Water

Cuba is a very clean and hygienic country. However, drinking tap water is not highly recommended and might leave you with a nasty case of diarrhea or upset stomach. Opt for bottled water just to ensure your trip is enjoyable.

Man Drinking Bottled Water

10. Departure Tax

After an enjoyable visit to Cuba, you will be asked to pay a $25 tourist departure tax upon departure. Airports only take cash so be sure you keep $25 in your wallet.