Travel agents offer tips, say it isn't too late to change travel plans

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - With multiple natural disasters affecting destinations for travel all across the country, your upcoming trip -- or even destination wedding -- could be impacted.

Hurricane Irma is already beginning to impact the Florida coast and has destroyed Caribbean islands where many enjoy winter vacations and weddings. If you've got a trip coming up even sooner, travel agents in Sioux Falls, said it's not too late to change your plans and there are things you can do to avoid a major headache.

"The tour providers aren't going to put their clients in danger," said Kay Parrott, a senior travel consultant at AAA South Dakota.

Parrott said if you've booked an all-inclusive vacation, or even a cruise -- the resorts or cruise lines will either move you to a safe location if you're already there, move you to another resort that won't be impacted or reschedule you to a later travel date.

Plane tickets, however, can be a little more challenging, but once a destination is being impacted, airlines often offer waivers.

"To either allow you to change your dates without any penalty or if your flight is actually canceled you can get a refund on a non-refundable ticket," Parrott said.

While buying insurance may add a little extra cost to your trip, when you book, travel agents say it's worth it during these kinds of situations.

"When a hurricane is headed the direction of your destination -- you have the luxury of canceling, re-booking, going to a different destination, without travel insurance, you have to wait for the waivers," said Lorie Buus, a travel consultant at All About Travel.

"It's [sic] also covers those unforeseen problems," said Parrott. "You have to re-book a flight because you know something's coming and you have to leave early or you have added expenses because you're stuck some place. Your travel protection is going to cover those sorts of expenses for you."

But what happens if your wedding location is wiped out by a storm? Many winter weddings are destination weddings and resorts affected may take some time to get up and running again.

"It may be a short period of time and they'll be up and running the last one that hit the Bahamas Sandals Royal Bohemian, they were closed for like, a year," said Buus.

And you may have to be not only flexible about where you get married -- but also your wedding date.

"There's a lot of questions that have to be answered before you can just say 'Oh well, I'll move it to another island,'" said Buus.

The No. 1 tip experts offered? Book with a travel agent!

If you have plans you need to change because of severe weather, they said you can expect to sit on hold with a booking agent through a travel website for up to 10 hours at a time because so many other people will be trying to change their plans too.

Travel agents said a common misconception is that using an agency costs more money. AAA South Dakota says airline tickets are the only thing they make commission on -- and only if you book an airline ticket by itself using a travel agent. AAA also said they usually get better deals for booking all-inclusive resort vacations and cruises than you can find online because of their relationships with the companies.