When Weather Goes Wrong: Things to Know
It's a huge bummer, but sometimes the weather will literally rain (or worse) on your parade when it comes to traveling. There are steps you can take to make the best of an undesirable situation.
- When booking flights that include connections, consider the connecting airport. It is prone to bad weather? (Chicago in January or Miami during hurricane season come to mind.) If a different connection is available at the times and fare you want, perhaps that would be the safer choice. If not, make sure to plan enough time between flights to allow for a slight delay.
- Consider travel insurance. Sometimes shelling out a few extra bucks ahead of your trip will offer up peace of mind -- just understand the fine print on what is and is not covered. Here's more information on choosing travel insurance.
- Before traveling, put the contact information for both your airline and hotel in your cell phone. Don't forget your charger, as unexpected delays can sometimes be lengthy and you don't want to be without a method of communication. Keep an eye on the weather forecast so you're aware of any potential delays.
- The first thing to do after any hint of bad weather is to get in touch with your airline. Some airlines will pre-emptively waive change fees ahead of major storms. If your schedule is flexible, take advantage and change your plans before the figurative flood of requests comes in.
- Know any restrictions on your hotel stay. Is there a cancellation window? If it's non-refundable, can it be moved to a different date due to bad weather?
- Already at the airport? Wait in line at the gate if you're already at the airport and call the airline while standing in line -- sometimes that's faster (and calmer). The earlier you get in touch with someone, the sooner you can get your travel plans rebooked if necessary.
- Delayed flights are a waiting game. There's no telling how long the delays will be -- though new Department of Transportation rules require airlines to communicate long delays. Regardless, it's important to stay near the gate in case conditions improve quicker than anticipated. With canceled flights, most airline policies allow for changes to your itinerary at no charge or a full refund. Check with your specific airline for more details.
- There aren't any foolproof ways to avoid delays due to weather, but you can increase your odds by booking nonstop flights earlier in the day as they are less likely to be affected by the ripple effects of delayed/canceled flights as conditions worsen.