As Hurricane Idalia brings high winds, heavy rain, and flooding to parts of Florida and other Southeastern states, many travellers’ Labor Day weekend plans are being disrupted. While experts say upcoming trips don’t necessarily need to be cancelled, they advise close monitoring of conditions and flexibility in light of the storm’s impacts.
According to AAA Travel’s Paula Twidale, those with flights or hotel reservations in Florida for the holiday weekend should not preemptively cancel their plans, even though Idalia is forecast to dump up to 12 inches of rain parts in the state. She recommends travellers keep their reservations for now but closely track the effects of the hurricane in case airlines offer rebooking waivers or conditions in a particular destination become unsafe.
“I wouldn’t cancel the trip just yet, but I would definitely keep an eye on the weather and check in with your airline, hotel or vacation rental host just to see what your options are in case you need to reschedule,” Twidale advised.
Clint Henderson, managing editor at The Points Guy travel website, agreed travellers shouldn’t rush to scrap Labor Day plans, but if they’re set to visit a region seeing significant storm impacts, delaying is reasonable.
“If you’re supposed to be headed to a hurricane or tropical storm struck area in the next few days, consider rescheduling your travel for another weekend if you can,” Henderson recommended. “But if you’re just worried and the weather looks OK, I would not cancel a trip unnecessarily.”
Whether or not already-booked trips are delayed or cancelled, Idalia is likely to complicate Labor Day travel across much of the Eastern and Southern U.S. The storm has forced airlines to preemptively cancel flights to limit operations in hazardous conditions. By Tuesday, carriers had already scrubbed over 500 flights scheduled for Friday through Monday, with more disruptions expected as the Hurricane nears landfall.
In addition to flight delays and cancellations, Hurricanes could slow or suspend train service, shut down highways, and disrupt cruise ship itineraries. Rental cars may also be in short supply as companies move vehicles out of flood-prone areas.
Experts say these constraints will not only inconvenience travellers over the holiday weekend but potentially drive up costs as well. With fewer flights operating and high demand for rescheduling, airfares may rise. Hotel rates could also increase amid a crush of last-minute bookings.
According to travel advisor Dave Hershberger, people booking new trips for Labor Day weekend should pad extra time and budget into their plans. He also urged travellers not to panic but to prepare for hiccups.
“Travel is certainly more challenging because of Hurricane Idalia, but with preparation and patience, you can still get where you need to go without too much disruption,” Hershberger said.
For those with existing bookings in the storm’s path, monitoring airline and hotel change policies is advisable. Most major carriers are offering rebooking waivers, letting customers reschedule affected flights without the usual fees. Hotels are often also relaxing cancellation rules in hurricane situations.
However, rebooking assistance may depend on where and how you made reservations. Air passengers who purchase tickets directly through an airline can typically modify their plans directly with the carrier. But those who booked through third-party sites like Expedia may need to go through the retailer and then contact the airline to actually change flights.
Regardless of Labor Day travel plans, all those in Idalia’s trajectory are urged to follow guidance from local officials. Those not yet affected should check road conditions before driving, as heavy rains and winds can leave debris on highways. The Florida 511 site showed reports of downed trees and flooding on some state roadways Tuesday.
While Labor Day trips may still be feasible with flexibility and vigilance, safety remains the top priority. Travellers are encouraged to put aside frustrations about changed plans and focus on smart preparations as Hurricane Idalia impacts a huge portion of the Southeast.
“This is one of those situations where you have to try to go with the flow,” said travel expert Lisa Gray. “The Hurricane will disrupt many people’s travels, but by monitoring conditions and working with airlines, hotels and travel agents, you can find a solution without too much trouble. And most importantly, avoid putting yourself in harm’s way.”