How to Survive a Winter Storm While Traveling

Air, Extras, Getting There, Leaving & Coming Home, Planning — By on January 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm

By Nancy Yeomans

LG Air Travel News Editor

Unless you’ve been lucky enough to have spent the last couple of months on a tropical beach (and we’re jealous if you have), you know that air travel this winter has been brutal. So far, 3 major snowstorms and counting have completely shut down air travel in the Northeast and severely crippled the system throughout the rest of the country. If you’ve been affected you know how frustrating the delays and cancellations can be. Short of hibernating, what’s a person to do? While it’s impossible to predict far in advance when and where the storms will be, there are some ways to minimize their effect on your travel plans. A little advance planning can ensure that your travels are as smooth as ice.

Before Your Flight

1)  An Ounce Of Prevention

Travel insurance is your number one defense against the weather. It won’t make the snow go away but insurance will ease the financial burden if your travel plans go awry. Make sure that the policy you’re buying covers what you need it to cover. More detailed information about travel insurance policies here.

2)  Avoidance

The northern cities in the U.S. are obviously the ones most likely to be affected by winter storms. If you’re traveling to or from these parts, you’re at the mercy of mother nature to some extent. If not, avoid, avoid, avoid! Booking your Washington to L.A. flight through Atlanta instead of JFK could make all the difference. Beware, this isn’t foolproof… your Atlanta flight could be coming through one of the impacted cities.

3) Be Pro-Active

Call your airline ahead of time to check the schedule. Airlines are trending toward waiving change and cancellation fees during weather situations. Since winter storms are somewhat known in advance, the airlines can compensate for this. If you check ahead, you could be waiting for 8 hours in the comfort of your own home instead of in a hard plastic chair with thousands of other people. Also, for me, it’s happened that by calling ahead I’ve been booked on an earlier flight to beat the storm. It made all the difference.

4) Do Carry-On

If there is ever a time for packing light, this is it. It could mean the difference between getting to where you want to go or not. Many times an airline would be happy to book you onto another flight only to have to deny you because your bags are checked onto your original flight.  If you have your bags, you can be rebooked and going somewhere sooner.

During Your Travels

1) Be Prepared

Have the phone number for your airline’s customer service handy. When the airline’s schedule goes wrong it can be bedlam at the ticket counter. Be on the line as soon as it’s apparent that your flight is not going anywhere. With some luck, you’ll get through to an agent who can rebook you over the phone, and you’ll be out of the stranded passengers line and on your way.

Tip: If your flight has an indefinite delay, don’t venture too far from the boarding area. There could be a window of opportunity and the flight might be cleared to depart very quickly.

2) Charged Up

So you’re at the airport and the delays are mounting. How do you spend your hours of waiting? You could drown your sorrows along with everyone else at the overpriced airport bar, or you could find a nice little corner and catch up on all those movies on your laptop you’ve been meaning to watch. Make sure your electronic devices are charged and you’ll be entertained for hours.

Tip: If you’re not using the Wi-Fi on your laptop, disable it to extend the battery life.

3) Be Nice

Not that we’re not charming all the time anyway, but be extra nice to the airline employees. As annoying as it is for you to be inconvenienced by the weather, imagine how much fun it is for them to have to listen to whining travelers all day. Remember, you catch more flies with honey. Tell the rebooking agent how much you appreciate the great job she’s doing. If a seat becomes available on the last flight out, who do you think she’s going to give it to: the person who empathized with her or the one who yelled at her for 10 minutes?

4) Give In

Sometimes you have to know when to say when. Despite all your planning, your flight is just not going to happen. If you’re delayed 24 hours or so for a weekend trip, it’s probably time to give up and plan for another day. Airlines are usually understanding of this during times of severe weather and will happily reschedule for you…you’re one less person they will have to transport when the snow clears.

Photo credit:  essygie, lunchtimemama/flickr

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