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Hurricane policies in place for worried travelers

  • Story Highlights
  • Most airlines allow one ticket change without penalty for hurricane-affected fliers
  • Airlines outline specific dates and parameters for fee-free changes
  • Hotels in hurricane-prone areas usually have re-booking or refund policies in place
  • Cruise ships often can be re-routed to avoid major storms
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By Marnie Hunter
CNN
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(CNN) -- As Hurricane Ike bears down on Texas, travelers may be wondering how this storm and the rest of the season's brutal weather will affect their travel plans.

Here are some tips for travelers on what to expect from airlines, hotels and cruise lines as tropical weather approaches:

Flights

If you fear that your flight may be affected, keep an eye on the weather and your airline's Web site for advisories, and make sure your airline can reach you.

"When customers are making their reservations, they should do everything they can to ensure that we have either the best phone number or the best e-mail address for them, because that enables us to send them updates on their flight status," Delta Air Lines spokeswoman Susan Elliott said.

Airline passengers usually have little recourse if their flights are delayed or canceled due to weather, but major named storms are an exception. Track Ike's projected path, intensity »

Most major carriers will allow passengers to make one change to their tickets without penalty within a specified window of dates in the event of a hurricane or tropical storm. Check your airline's Web site or reservations line before the storm approaches for specific dates and policies.

If you re-route your travel to cities not included in your original itinerary, you may be charged for the difference in fare.

Hotels

Hotels in hurricane-prone vacation destinations such as the Caribbean and Mexico usually have hurricane policies in place, according to Scott Booker, vice president of retail operations for Hotels.com. It's a good idea to inquire about the policies when you book.

Generally, you'll be able to re-book your stay at a later date, and some resorts and hotels offer full refunds. If you're at the hotel as a hurricane approaches, the property will usually facilitate your evacuation and waive charges related to the missed portion of your stay. Video Watch waves wash into Galveston »

Many hotels have cancellation periods 24 to 48 hours before the reservation, so be aware of those to cover all your bases.

"Usually in a hurricane-affected area, hotels are pretty good about waiving those fees if there's a hurricane coming," Booker said.

Contact travel agents and providers as soon as your plans appear to be threatened by a major storm, advises Jeanenne Diefendorf, a spokeswoman for Orbitz.

"The closer in you get, there certainly is more call volume into the airlines and into our customer service agents, so the sooner you can try to get rebooked, the better," she said.

Registered Orbitz customers receive OrbitzTLC alerts with information on inclement weather and flight status. Sign up for any alerts offered by your travel provider for regular updates.

Cruises

Cruise passengers are in a better situation than most travelers, because ships can be re-routed to avoid major storms, said Anne Banas, executive editor for SmarterTravel.com.

"You still get a vacation. You might have a few more days at sea, but you're still on the ship, and you're not going to get rained out," Banas said.

Royal Caribbean recently modified about a half-dozen itineraries in response to Tropical Storm Hanna, according to spokesman Michael Sheehan. Each storm and the sailings that might be affected are closely monitored and dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Royal Caribbean updates advisories on its Web site twice a day, and cruise cancellations are extremely rare, Sheehan said.

"If the storm is headed for an island, and our ship is supposed to stop at that island, we could take you to calm seas and warm, sunny skies somewhere else," Sheehan said.

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Passengers who book during hurricane season do have a higher risk for itinerary changes and missed ports of call, so the season is best for flexible travelers, Banas said.

Cruise lines are not obligated to adhere to the original itinerary, so refunds are not offered for itinerary changes.

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