You’ve waited and planned all year. Your bags are packed and you are about to head out for a week on the beach when you catch the weather report. A tropical storm is headed right for the beach. Don’t worry! All is not lost and I’m going to help you get the most out of your beach vacation during a tropical storm or hurricane.
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We have spent at least a week on the beach every year for over ten years in a row. Eight of those years were at Panama City Beach which has come to feel like our home away from home. Over the course of those years, we have experienced our fair share of tropical storms.
A tropical storm, and especially a hurricane, can seem like a “death sentence” for a beach vacation. True, you may not get seven days of sand and sun but there is a pretty good chance it won’t be all rain clouds either. And, if you have ever come home from a beach vacation feeling like you needed a vacation to recover from your vacation you just might benefit from the slower pace caused by a tropical storm.
Before You Leave for Your Beach Vacation
1. Check your beach rentals tropical storm/hurricane policy BEFORE you book. Tropical storms and even hurricanes are common in coastal areas and most rental places have policies in place should a severe weather event occur. In general, most places we have stayed have offered a refund of any remaining days should a mandatory evacuation be enforced. Most places do not offer refunds for tropical storms or even hurricanes in which a mandatory evacuation does not occur. Some travel agencies and other booking companies do offer separate hurricane insurance policies that can cover lodging and even travel expenses at an additional cost.
2. Check the weather and plan accordingly. Checking the weather in advance can help you plan better. If you have excursions booked it may be possible to make some adjustments to better fit the weather. The longer you wait, the less likely such changes will be feasible. You may also need to adjust your packing to include weather appropriate clothing, a few extra books or even some card games or small board games. Did you just check the weather and see there is a 50% chance of rain every day? Don’t freak out yet. Along the beach, especially in Florida, it is not uncommon to get a daily spell of rain. Unless you are in the path of a known tropical storm or a hurricane don’t be concerned about seeing rain in the daily forecast. It happens often and an hour later you’ll be back on the beach.
3. Follow the recommendations of the local authorities. It is still possible to get out and do things during a tropical storm but there are times when it is not safe. Above all, follow the recommendations of the local authorities. If they are recommending you shelter in place, do so. If an evacuation is ordered, leave. You don’t just put yourself in danger, you also endanger the lives of others if you chose to ignore the local authorities.
No matter how much planning you do ahead of time, it is still possible that you could see a fair amount of rainy weather during your beach vacation. Here are some tips to help you enjoy your beach vacation during a tropical storm.
Enjoying Your Beach Vacation During a Tropical Storm
1. Have an open mind. If you believe rain will completely ruin your vacation, it will. No amount of planning will make it okay. If you have an open mind and believe that you can have a good time, regardless, you will. One of our most memorable Panama City Beach Vacations was right in the middle of a tropical storm.
2. Get a raincoat or a poncho. When we arrived in Panama City Beach during the “summer of the tropical storm” we did not have any rain gear. Our first stop was to remedy this. When the wind-driven rain is pelting you from every angle, a raincoat can lessen the sting. Once we had our coats we even walked along the beach and enjoyed some time on our balcony.
3. Don’t be afraid to get wet. Seriously. You are at the beach. Where there is water. This water just happens to be falling from the sky and not crashing into you in the form of a wave. It’s all the same though and you’ll dry off eventually.
4. Enjoy the local restaurants. When we rent a house on the beach we like to do a lot of the cooking and dine out for just a few special meals. When the rain is coming down and we’re not spending money on other things, we try to visit a few extra restaurants. Ask for their local specials so you are getting a taste of what just came out of the water even if you can’t get in it.
5. Take advantage of programs offered at your hotel, resort or condo. If you are staying in a hotel, resort or condo (as opposed to renting a house) their job is to make you happy and that means rain or shine. Most facilities will offer a host of activities for the whole family. There may be karaoke, a movie or events by the indoor pool. Many even offer drop-off events that your kids can attend while you and your spouse sneak back to the room for some “alone time”.
6. Sleep late and take naps. Think back on all those days during the rest of the year when you would give anything to sleep in a little later or take a nap in the middle of the day. Now you’ve got that chance. This might be the first time you return from vacation actually feeling rested!
7. Do some shopping. Most towns will have some fun shopping areas where you can support local artists and local business owners. Grab your umbrella and do some window shopping or pick up some fun souvenirs.
8. See that summer blockbuster. I don’t usually think about seeing a movie while on vacation but if you’re going to be stuck inside anyway you might as well see a good movie. Grab a bucket of popcorn and kick back in the airconditioned theater for a few hours.
9. Read a book or three. Throughout the year I always find myself wishing I had more time to read. My “want to read” list is so long I will never complete it. When I’m on a beach vacation and it is raining I like to take the time to knock a few off the list. If you’ve got a covered porch or balcony you may even be able to sit outside. A few of my recent top book picks include The Great Alone, The Mermaid Chair, The Light Between Oceans and The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee.
10. Revive Family Game Night. Two or three times a year we vow to sit together as a family and play more games. We do it once or twice and then we seem to forget. Life gets in the way again and Family Game Night has died. Again. I always like to pack a few small games in my bag when we travel. Dig them out, dust them off and have fun. Many resorts and condos may even have a selection of games you can borrow from. Call the front desk to find out. Some of our favorite easy-to-travel-with games include Sushi Go, Uno Splash (with waterproof cards), Skip Bo, Exploding Kittens and for the more grown-up crowd Cards Against Humanity.
11. Visit some local museums and entertainment venues. If you are in a touristy area there is likely an indoor arcade or laser tag place. What about a bowling alley? Visit some local museums or art galleries. We even visited one of those paint and sip type places and had a blast.
12. Walk along the beach. Always check the flags and obey coast guard regulations. NEVER swim during a double red flag and use extreme caution even when it’s not. Drownings are not unheard of and they more often happen to tourists who ignore safety warnings because “by golly, I paid for this vacation and I am getting in the water.” As said in Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Don’t be stupid. When the flags are up and the water is unsafe, enjoy a walk along the beach. The shoreline, after a tropical storm, may be decorated with an abundance of shells, sea glass and driftwood. My best beach treasures were found following tropical storms. Collect some treasures to make a souvenir jar when you get back home.
13. The sun will come out tomorrow. Eventually, the sun will come out again and hopefully during your planned stay. Even if it doesn’t there is still beauty to be seen during the storm.
If you happen to land at the beach during a tropical storm, it’s probably not going to be quite the vacation of your dreams. That doesn’t mean it has to be the vacation of your nightmares. It really all comes down to your attitude. Resolve to enjoy it anyway. I always try to encourage you to #seekadventures in all you do. Adventure is out there, you just have to look for it.
Do you have any tips for enjoying a rained out beach vacation? We’d love for you to leave a comment below or join in our discussion over on my Seek Adventures Facebook community.