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Travelers brace for Hurricane Irene

By A. Pawlowski, CNN
Hurricane Irene looks massive even from the International Space Station.
Hurricane Irene looks massive even from the International Space Station.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Airlines are allowing passengers to change plans as Hurricane Irene approaches
  • Travel waivers mean you can make changes to your itinerary without a fee
  • Hurricane has also forced more than a dozen cruise ships to change their itineraries

(CNN) -- Traveling to the Caribbean during hurricane season is always a gamble, so if you bet on a storm-free vacation this week, you are out of luck but not out of options.

Hurricane Irene took aim at the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday after lashing the Dominican Republic with 100-mph winds and heavy rain.

It is expected to reach the southeastern and central Bahamas by early Wednesday.

The dangerous storm has prompted the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation to "strongly" recommend that people with plans to travel to the Bahamas in the next five days postpone their trips.

"Even though the hotels ... are fully prepared to accommodate our guests under these circumstances, we recommend that all visitors who wish to depart begin to do so starting today (Tuesday)," the ministry said in a statement.

If you plan to fly in or out of the region this week, most carriers will let you change your itinerary without a fee:

United Airlines will allow changes for travel to, through and from more than a dozen airports in the Caribbean -- including San Juan, Puerto Rico; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and several locations in the Bahamas -- for travelers scheduled to fly through Friday. Continental has a similar policy.

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Delta Air Lines is waiving change fees for travelers scheduled to fly to, from or through Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Bahamas through Thursday.

US Airways has also relaxed its change-fee policies for passengers scheduled to fly to or from the Bahamas and several cities in Florida -- including Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami -- through Friday.

American Airlines has issued a travel waiver for passengers flying to or from more than a dozen airports in the Caribbean, including St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos through Friday.

JetBlue is waiving change/cancel fees and fare differences for fliers traveling to and from the Bahamas, the Turks & Caicos, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Irene has also forced more than a dozen cruise ships to change their itineraries, CruiseCritic.com reports, and Royal Caribbean is preparing to evacuate CocoCay, its private island resort in the Bahamas.