When Hurricane Florence sent her calling card ahead of an U.S. east coast visit as a Category 1 storm, and the Governor RSVP’d with an a mandatory evacuation order for nearly all of the coast, our Luxury Simplified Retreats team sprung into action to secure the safety of our guests. As Charleston locals, Hurricane Florence wasn’t our first rodeo, and our management team has a strict storm protocol and a tried & tested action plan in place when extreme weather such as hurricanes threatens the Charleston SC lowcountry. And, while we are experienced in hurricane preparation, we know that many of our guests aren’t – and the thought of experiencing the “eye of a hurricane” making landfall can, in fact, be daunting.

Once the Governor issued a mandatory evacuation, decisions about guests staying or “riding out the storm” were solidly made, as it’s our duty to ensure the safety of our guests and our properties. While a vacation cut short by a hurricane is undoubtedly disappointing, our team does everything they can to make the process as easy as possible.

A smooth evacuation of our guests begins with good communication. Upon news of the evacuation order, our team began making calls, sending emails, and texting with guests to notify them of the evacuation order and to allow for our guests to begin making travel plans as soon as possible. We were able to address some frequently asked questions such as “When do we need to check out?”  With the airport set to close and thousands of people leaving the city, time was of the essence.

While guests currently staying with us and in the path of the storm are our first priority, we did have guests with upcoming stays planned calling to find out the status of their reservation. Our team remained at work and accessible, fielding email and phone inquiries such as, “Has my reservation been canceled?” and, “What are my options for rescheduling my stay?”

The number one question that we hear from guests in a time of uncertainty due to a weather event is regarding refunds. Earlier this year we began offering travel insurance to our guests and encouraging anyone who had an existing reservation to purchase this coverage during hurricane season – according the the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association  (NOAA) the Atlantic hurricane season is officially from June 1 to November 30.  Guests who heeded our advice had the peace of mind knowing that they would be fully reimbursed for their booking. Guests who opted not to purchase travel insurance, unfortunately are not eligible to receive a refund.  While we know it can feel like a gamble when deciding to purchase travel insurance or not, Hurricane Florence acted as the perfect reminder of the importance of protecting your trip … a change in the weather, after all, is something that neither you, nor we, can predict. For that reason we urge all guests to purchase travel insurance when booking, particularly with stays occurring during the annual hurricane season.

Once we were certain that all of our guests were safely on their way home, our team visited each of our rental properties checking them over and making storm preparations. All outdoor furniture and trash bins were brought in and secured, or located away from flood levels. At homeowner’s request, sand bags and window boards were deposited and installed. Once we had the peace of mind of knowing that our guests and properties all were safe, we are able to turn our attention to our team. Those team members who chose to evacuate headed inland, and those of us able to stay and ride out the storm stocked up on water, food, and candles before hunkering down, waiting for Florence’s arrival.

And in the end? Charleston was spared a direct hit by Hurricane Florence, experiencing instead the remnants of a Tropical Storm as she headed down the coast from her North Carolina landfall. The “coast is clear” so we say, and Charleston is now back to normal operations, with residents and visitors filling the streets once again. A city this beautiful and strong bounces back quite quickly from extreme weather events, and we thank our first responders and city officials for that. If your trip was interrupted by Hurricane Florence, or you’re waiting until after the annual hurricane season to visit, Luxury Simplified Retreats would love to host you in the #1 City in the U.S.A.