One week before our departure to Costa Rica, we received an email from our accommodation warning of upcoming “bad weather.” This bad weather turned out to be Hurricane Otto – the first hurricane recorded to touch land in Costa Rica. Without insurance, we decided to take our chances and continue with the trip. We crossed our fingers, packed our bags, and hoped for the best. Oh, did I mention that this was also our honeymoon?
Flying into a hurricane is certainly anxiety provoking. Still, our timing was good and we landed without even any turbulence. The weather was so calm, we thought maybe the storm had died out. By the time our connecting flight landed in Puerto Jimenéz, it was clear luck had provided us with a small window of good weather. The rain was coming down so hard, we didn’t even consider walking the ten minutes to our hotel. The two other passengers on the plane told us they had been trying to get a flight for days. It was a $100 cab ride to another airport to get out a week later, as the airport in town was closed soon after our flight landed.
Anyone who has travelled to the tropics in the wet season knows what heavy rain is, but they also know that it passes rather quickly. Imagine a tropical storm that doesn’t break for three weeks. We had been told that the Osa Peninsula received over three metres of rain in those three weeks. That’s a lot of rain.
Otto caused massive flooding all over the country as well as in Nicaragua and Panama. Roads were washed out, parks were closed, and activities were cancelled. We battled feelings of disappointment and frustration (and guilt about these feelings while lives were being lost) on a daily basis. It might not have been the adventurous honeymoon we had planned, but we were lucky to have been able to get out occasionally for some hiking and kayaking.
Most recently, Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean, causing my mom and I to delay our trip by a month. This time, I had had the foresight to purchase cancellation insurance, so we only experienced some small hassles and inconveniences (nothing compared to the destruction caused by the four hurricanes that swept through the Caribbean this year).
Hurricanes aside, bad weather can hit when you least expect it. If you’re like me and enjoy travelling in the off-season, you are pretty much guaranteed to experience rain at some point on your trip. Our recent trip to Japan to see the springtime cherry blossoms had us hiking around with umbrellas in hand for a week. Rainy days may not be ideal, but they don’t have to stop you from making the most of your time abroad.
How Not to Let Bad Weather Ruin Your Trip
Be Grateful. Remember how lucky you are to be able to travel, to be able to choose safety, to leave if you want, and to be able to complain about bad weather. And remember – rain leads to rainbows!
Appreciate that water is life and that this temporary inconvenience is necessary for many plants and animals.
Accept that your trip is “ruined.” You may not get out as much. You may get wet and be uncomfortable. You may have to cancel some of your plans and make new ones. Once you’ve accepted you will be having a different trip than the one you intended, you will be able to find other enjoyable ways to spend your time.
Leave the Hotel. If your hotel doesn’t have umbrellas to lend out, find out where you can buy one and hit the streets. Even if you don’t relish the idea of walking for hours in the rain, you can use this as an opportunity to check out some restaurants and shops you might have overlooked otherwise. Take a cab, if your budget allows, or public transportation to get out of the rain for a little while. Hit the streets to take some moody rainy-day photographs. Find a little café where you can hole up and talk to people. Anything is better than sitting in your room all day.
Ask for Information. Hotel staff are knowledgeable and can give some great rainy-day activity suggestions. If there is a particular activity you are interested in, they can call around and find out if anyone is offering tours.
Upgrade to a hotel with a pool. Sometimes, you are stuck and there’s little you can do about it. Having accommodation with a heated or indoor pool can at least get you out of your room and offer some of that I’m-on-vacation feeling.
Go Swimming. As long as there are no red flags out, you might as well go to the beach. You’re going to get wet anyway!
Keep Trying. Check in with staff regularly for updates. Sometimes the weather clears unexpectedly and you can organise a tour (which you will likely have to yourself). The availability of activities changes as quickly as the weather and we were only able to arrange hiking excursions in Costa Rica because of our daily check-ins.
Be Flexible. Maybe you can’t do that kayaking tour you wanted to do, but perhaps there is a whale-watching tour or guided hike that can offer a similar experience.
Stay Dry. You’re going to get wet, but that doesn’t mean you have to get soaked. Buy an umbrella or a cheap poncho if you don’t have rain gear. Even a cheap pair of rubber boots can go a long way to keeping you comfortable. And don’t forget to keep your stuff dry too! Make sure your electronics, money, and passport are well protected. I had my passport and some bills in a plastic bag in the pocket of my waterproof jacket and my passport still got damaged (I was pretty lucky to make it home with that passport). Leave valuables that you don’t need in a safe or at the front desk to eliminate any risk of damage.
Do you have a bad weather story? Tell me about it!
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