Heading to the airport in wintery conditions? Here are a few tips to prepare – as best you can – for the adventure that will likely follow:
- Join the chaos and arrive at the airport early…like three hours early.
- Study the timetables before you get to the airport: how often do flights leave from where you are to where you want to go? What other cities can you fly through to get to your final destination? What options do you have to leave earlier or later to guarantee arrival? Bottom line: don’t rely on the airline to thoroughly vet all your options when they are getting the same requests from thousands of travelers. Be proactive about finding a solution.
- When the weather wrecks havoc on travel plans the airlines get overwhelmed with customer service calls. Try to solve the problem, or get your questions answered, on multiple fronts. On a recent trip to Chicago (where the -15 degree weather had resulted in hundreds of cancellations) and I wanted to make a change to my flight to avoid a cancellation later in the day. While I waited in line at the airport to speak to a ticketing agent I was also on the phone waiting to speak to a reservation agent, and also on my computer trying to change my flight. Think of it as the amazing race. Ready, set, GO!
- On that same trip to Chicago, I finally made it, but because of delays I landed at 12:30AM. By this time there was only one restaurant open, leaving the hundreds of people stuck in the airport to fight for a table at the one open restaurant and the food was running out! Lesson learned: eat early and carry snacks and water!
- When weather is the cause of cancellations and delays airlines will not pay for your hotel room or ground transportation. So you can choose to pay for your own hotel or stay at the airport. I am not a proponent of sleeping in airports but I understand that sometimes its just the best option. So if you need to sleep in an airport (or if it might be in your future) here are my suggestions to prepare and make the best of it: find a quiet place, generally upstairs by airline offices, meeting rooms, etc. Use your luggage lock (or pack a bicycle lock) to attach your purse, bag, etc. to something so people can’t take your bags while you’re asleep. Bring a small blanket or towel to lay on and use a sweater or coat as a pillow. If you can get a few hours sleep before you board your morning flight you’ll generally be OK.
Cheers to travel, adventure and making it to your final destination!
Living Big Travel Founder + Chief Adventurer and Travel Designer