As a frequent traveler, it's hard to get through the year without facing some kind of weather-related travel delay. I felt most defeated the time I arrived at Reagan National Airport in D.C. only to discover severe storms would delay my flight to New York City by several hours. Passengers and crew watched as the dark clouds rolled in and rain began to pound the windows at the gate. Ultimately, the airline advised they wouldn't be operating any of their scheduled flights to New York City that night and I returned home with my flight rebooked first thing the next morning. But, what if I wasn't home and didn't have a place to stay that night? Read on to learn some of my top tips that will make you feel like you're fully prepared for the next time bad weather is about to ruin your travel plans.
Avoid booking the first or last scheduled flight of the day
When you make your travel plans and book your tickets early enough, you're spoilt for choice. Try to avoid peak travel dates and times, like spring break or the November/December holiday season in the United States. Remember, the first and last scheduled flights on days with inclement weather are often the first cancellations an airline will make.
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Book with an airline that operates using hubs-and-spokes
Low-cost air carriers often schedule their aircrafts on a point-to-point transit system. For example, they might schedule their airplanes to fly in a loop from New York City to Fort Lauderdale to Detroit to New York City. What's the problem with this? If your plane ticket is from Fort Lauderdale to Detroit and the airplane is stuck in New York City, your flight is probably going to be delayed (or worse, cancelled). Airlines with bigger fleets and larger networks, on the other hand, typically use a hub-and-spoke approach. For example, Delta Airlines has flights departing NYC to other major U.S. hubs practically every hour of the day. The odds of them accommodating you on an earlier or later flight are much higher.
Insure Your Trip
Researching your credit card’s travel benefits will help you feel more prepared in case of an emergency. Many cards offer reimbursement for travel delays greater than 12 hours and also provide lost or delayed luggage benefits. When you book using your reward points, you can also get your credit card's customer service department involved to help with any hotel or flight cancellations and rebookings.
To cover the other "what ifs", like a medical emergency or an incident back home that demands your immediate return, purchase travel insurance. I've purchased through IMG Global in the past because they offer many affordable options to fit my budget and coverage needs.
Travel with a carry-on
This tip should be a no-brainer! 😉 When you're at the airport dealing with a weather-related delay, you need to be nimble and willing to work with whatever the gate agent can offer you for rebooking. The airlines don’t want to lose your bag just as much as you don’t want them to, so be sure to tell them that you have a carry-on and are ready to take whatever best offer they can provide.
Budget for emergencies
It really can't hurt to aside enough money this year for one or two emergency Uber rides or airport hotel nights. If the airline issues a travel waiver, meaning you can rebook your flight on another date and time at no additional cost, having that extra budget will make it so you won't have to worry about the cost of extending your stay in your destination. Be sure to save all of your receipts, especially if you're delayed long enough to file a claim with your insurance company.
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Try to stay positive
I know, it's particularly hard to stay positive when your plans for travel are ruined by the forces outside of your control. Katie of Stories My Suitcase Could Tell recently found herself in Mexico City after plans to visit her friends and family in Scotland for her 30th birthday fell through due to the weather conditions in the United Kingdom. I admire her and her husband's quick thinking to take advantage of the week they'd already taken off work in order to make the best of an otherwise disappointing situation.