Winter storms mean all kinds of problems: delays, cancellations, long lines, and changed plans. But they don’t have to mean stress. Here are steps you can take—and tools you need in your arsenal—to prepare for anything the snow can throw at you this season. Safe travels!
Change your flight.
The simplest way to avoid the hassle of a storm is to avoid the storm altogether. So if you don’t have to travel when a blizzard is on the way—don’t. When big storms are expected, airlines will often take preemptive action and allow you to change your flight without fees. Check your airline’s website or Twitter feed to find out more. If do you have to travel, consider rerouting your flight to avoid the storm altogether. Look for hubs with good weather; this FlightStats chart tells you which airports are seeing the fewest cancellations.
Use the right technology.
Speaking of Twitter, watch your airline’s feed closely for info on flight changes or cancellations. Another option is to download the airline’s app, which will also keep you updated about last-minute things like gate changes or flight delays.
Other apps that come in handy during bad weather include FlightStats.com, which can alert to you delays or weather cancellations (sometimes more efficiently than the airline will), and LoungeBuddy, which will help you find pay-by-day airport lounges so you can relax a little while you wait for your flight. We’ve got a full list of problem-solving apps here, and more info on airport lounge day passes here.
Use the right humans.
Even with all the right apps, you might still need to talk to a real person to solve your travel snafu. A great way to avoid long hold times is to call an airline’s customer-service office in a different country (here’s more on how to never wait on hold with airline customer service again). Your credit card concierge can usually be of help as well, but you can also call in the experts and let them handle it for you: Brett Snyder of Cranky Concierge specializes in emergency air travel assistance, and his team is well prepped for messy weekends like this one.
Prep the kids.
If you have kids, and there’s a possibility you’ll be stuck in an airport (or on the tarmac) for a while, you might want to try some of these tricks for flying with toddlers shared by contributing editor Brook Wilkinson. One of her secrets is to bring a bunch of new, very cheap toys to keep her son occupied. “Scour the library book sales and Target $1 bins for inexpensive options,” she writes. “Some of my favorites: play dough, pipe cleaners, magnetic playsets, and reusable sticker pads. On one flight, a pack of small monster trucks entertained Zeke for a good 30 minutes. Just make sure that you liberate toys from their plastic clamshell packaging at home, while you still have access to scissors!”
Do what you have to do to avoid as much stress as possible.
Business travel expert Joe Brancatelli once told me his three most sanity-saving travel tips, and this was one of them: “Even if it costs you a few bucks, do whatever you have to do to fix a travel problem on the spot so you can go back to enjoying your trip. Argue with the travel company about compensation later. But, within reason, fix the problem first, worry about compensation later.”