I know this may be a little late, but there’s nothing like these major storms to make us think “what would I do if?” And since storms that shut down air space and lay waste to entire regions can happen any time of the year, here’s my checklist to consider when the next big storm comes around.
If you forget everything else, remember this. You need to avoid at all costs becoming stranded at an airport as a major storm approaches. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, you need to plan. As soon as you hear that first major (travel impacting) storm advisory. start making preparations for your plan B and C.
Here’s how you manage getting safely to your destination:
- Always to get out ahead of the storm. With an impending weather event, airlines will waive any fees associated with changing your trip. For instance American Airlines announced three days before Superstorm Sandy they would re-book people for free. Only for the dates effected of course, but take them up on it, cut your vacation short. Just. Get. Out.
- Follow your airline on Twitter. I can’t stress enough how important it is when you travel to have a Twitter account for updates and alerts as well as getting answers to your direct questions. Airlines have pulled a lot of their customer service from their phone banks to social media but not everyone is on Twitter and so you could receive a much faster response than if you call. This is even more important if you are at the airport and your flight is cancelled. It’s very possible to get re-booked on Twitter faster than if you wait in line with the 150 other people whose flights are cancelled or called the airlines’ toll-free number.
- Gethuman.com is a handy website to visit when plugging in those toll-free contact numbers in your phone. Enter the company and it will tell you what number to keep pressing to get a representative. There’s nothing worse than seeing you cell phone battery drop as you navigate through ten minutes of prompts.
- If you’re chancing it with your Plan A (your current itinerary) and heading to the airport then make a hotel reservation for a few nights at a nearby hotel or airport hotel as a safety net. At the very least have the nearby hotel numbers ready to go so you can call immediately if your flight is cancelled. And be sure to note their local number not the 800 number. If you make your flight than CONGRATULATIONS! Many hotels will likely waive the 24-hour cancellation fee since they will have about two hundred other people begging for a room.
- Plan C: If it’s safe and makes sense to drive, stay out of what will be a storm zone, then book a car rental. There’s no cancellation fee and that could be your last chance out of dodge. You may want to book online or have a pending reservation to ensure you have access to a car.
It’s very important to keep some supplies with you:
- Water and simple food staples like granola bars, trail mix or peanut butter.
- Cash. Make sure you visit an ATM and withdraw enough cash for a few days, just in case the electricity goes down or the machine runs out.
- If you’re checking bags remember to transfer your medications, toiletries, underwear and a change of clothes to your carry-on bag just in case.
Unfortunately there’s just no way to guarantee or have every angle covered when you travel. Just do your best and have a plan to deal with a major weather problem. Nightmares happen and extra money has to be spent–but as long as you are safe from harm, honestly that’s what’s most important.
Have you been impacted by a major storm while traveling?