Fun fact: as I write this, I’m sitting on a plane from London to Dublin that’s been redirected (back to London) on account of hurricane Ophelia. The irony! This post was already scheduled for this week, who knew we’d have a hurricane of our own in Ireland to contend with – but if you learn nothing more from this guide, it’s that hurricane season is unpredictable – and best avoided!
But I digress… My husband and I encountered a hurricane on our honeymoon. His name was Earl. And after a hurricane season that’s seen devastating storms across the Caribbean, I’m sharing our story and my top tips for getting for getting through honeymoon disasters, so that if it happens to you (hopefully it won’t!) you’ll be able to think quick and make the most of your trip.
My Hurricane Story
We spent the first night of our honeymoon in a giant, gross, but sturdy hotel, sitting in the dark with no TV or internet, listening to the wind pull apart the pier outside, and keeping our bags up high as water came in through the vent and covered the floor of our room. So far, so romantic, am I right?
We went to Belize for our honeymoon in early August last year. While it is in the Caribbean and it was hurricane season, it’s generally September before the big storms kick in, and there hadn’t been a hurricane in Belize in several years.
We had a stopover in Florida (Zika was discovered in Miami the day we landed there, of course!) and the morning we were due to fly, we saw Hurricane Earl was to hit Belize City, where we were flying into. We were planning to get a boat straight out of the city and hit the islands, but just in case, we booked into the biggest, blockiest, chain hotel we could find, as we figured it would be the best place to ride out the storm if we were stuck. We were lucky we did that, because within hours, the islands were being evacuated and all the hotels were booked out.
We figured our flight would be cancelled and contemplated relocating our honeymoon to Florida, but when we got to the airport our flight was still going – it was the only one still going! It got delayed and delayed, and kept being pushed closer to the time when the storm was due to hit. The pilot told us that the flight would be bumpy, and that if anyone wanted to get off the plane they could. A lot of people got off – we decided to brave it (we weren’t going to get a refund if we voluntarily got off).
When we landed (it was actually a pretty smooth flight) we were we were the last plane to land before the airport was closed. We found a shop in the airport and stocked up – wine, crisps, cereal bars, nuts, more wine – and got a taxi to the hotel once we realised there was no way we were getting a boat to the islands. It was pretty freaky driving along and seeing homes boarded up and roads empty. We took our driver’s card and wished him well.
It took a while for the storm to hit, my husband went out to find an ATM in case we needed extra cash if power lines went down – I was pretty nervous while he was gone. When the wind picked up, it wasn’t long before the electricity went, the water went off, and it all sounded a bit scary outside, I wasn’t quite prepared for how loud it would be. We got through the night, and woke up to see the wooden restaurant outside the hotel was destroyed, the pool was filled with rubbish, we took a walk around and people’s roofs had been blown off their homes, trees covered the roads, and the sea was murky and filled with debris. We were relieved to hear no-one had been killed.
There were no buses or boats for days after the hurricane, there was no running water at the hotel and the electricity was intermittent, the food was sparse. We found our own mop to clean out the water in our room. It was pretty grim!
About two days in, I had a bit of a freak out. I was so shattered from the wedding, we’d spent so much money on the trip, and it was just a disaster. We couldn’t get through to any of the island accommodation we’d booked, and our rainforest accommodation inland for later in the trip had also shut for a few days because of storm damage.
So I opened our Lonely Planet book, picked some tiny beach huts in the south of the country and called them – they said only a few trees had fallen there but otherwise they were in good shape, so we told them we’d be there the next day. We called our taxi driver, and asked him how much it would cost from him to drive us there. He made some calls to see if the roads would be open and agreed to take us. It wasn’t cheap, but we were officially on honeymoon. I’m not ashamed to say I cried with happiness the next day when I was sitting on a white sand beach with a margarita in my hand.
We had to rejig our entire trip, we couldn’t do some of the activities we’d planned as a lot of the parks and waterfalls were off-bounds, and we never made it to the islands, but everyone in Belize was so lovely, it’s a stunning country – we still had a truly incredible trip.
So in case it happens to you…
My Top Tips for Dealing with a Hurricane on Your Honeymoon
The most important thing to remember is that you’re a visitor to this country, so be respectful of the people who live there. Staff in hotels or resorts are away from their homes and their families during or after a storm, so it’s important to keep that in mind before you complain about the food being basic or how you can’t use the pool. People lose their homes, livelihoods, and sometimes their lives in these storms, that’s a lot more important than your bad holiday. Muck in where you can – without getting in the way. Likewise, don’t be a ‘disaster tourist’ – don’t take pictures of other people’s misfortune, just so you can have dramatic photos for social media.
Do Your Research
Before you book your honeymoon, it’s always a good idea to check out the typical seasonal forecasts. My husband and I were aware that it was hurricane season and took an informed risk, (we’re pretty hardy travellers), make sure you’re not caught out whether it’s monsoon season in Thailand, hurricane season in Barbados, or indeed hot, sweaty season in Italy.
Hurricanes can be exciting, but they are also incredibly dangerous. Listen to local advice, and pay attention to any directions you’re given by your hotel or tour operator. Don’t be that person who gets into the sea, sits out on their balcony, or tries to get a video of what’s happening. Oh (and this goes for wherever you’re honeymooning), always, always, always make sure you have travel insurance.
Be Flexible, But Decisive
You need to make the most of your honeymoon, so be decisive and try not to waste too much time ‘seeing what happens’ or questioning ‘what ifs’. Whether it’s cutting your loses and leaving, or deciding to plough on – adapt, make your decision and roll with it, there’s no point spending your honeymoon being miserable.
Be a Team
Holiday drama can go one of two ways when you’re in a couple, you can work together and have fun, or you can start bickering, blaming, and all-out-rowing. Try to see the humour in whatever happens and make the best of it – weathering storms is what married life is all about!
While I normally shy away from carrying too much cash when I travel, for situations like a hurricane, it’s a good idea to have enough for a few days of meals, hotels and travel in local currency. ATMs are often out of order, or unable to be refilled, and likewise, power outages can mean credit card machines don’t work.
Don’t rely on your hotel or resort to keep you fed and watered during a hurricane. Make sure you have plenty of water and non-perishable snacks to keep you ticking over. It’s also a good idea to have a guide book, the internet is great and all – until your battery goes.
More admin is the last thing you want to do after your wedding, but do follow-up with any cancelled accommodation, tour operators, or airlines to see if there’s any loses you can claim back after your trip. If you book with a travel agent it should be a much smoother process than if it’s a self-plan trip.
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