Getting there and away may be more complicated than you imagine during the winter months. Winter storms, ill tempers and heavy luggage stuffed with overcoats and boots are just a few details that can cause delays on any leg of your journey. While many airlines will allow a free change in your itinerary due to weather conditions, the simple task of changing a flight can take an hour or more on the phone. And your new flight may not be so pleasant (think jam-packed with travelers desperate to reach their destination after a canceled or delayed flight).
So why go at all during the winter? Outdoor activities, visiting family or just plain getting out of town can be an alluring reason to travel during the frosty months. If you've decided to take on the challenge of winter travel, here's a few simple tips to help keep your journey a smooth one.
1) Know the weather. It seems simple enough, but check the weather of your destination AND all of your connecting cities.
2) Check your flight status early and often. Also check for notices that the airline puts in their website. Often there are special offers to switch flights well in advance of an approaching storm.
3) Do NOT wait until the day of the storm to switch flights. Be proactive and take care of the details as early as possible.
4) Use the internet to do as much as possible. Wait times on the phone can exceed an hour during foul weather. If possible reserve your seats early.
5) Consider alternate transportation if you cannot reschedule. Trains or buses can be an excellent alternative.
6) Pack smart - bring your large overcoat on board with you. It makes more room in your luggage for other items, and you'll be prepared for weather when you arrive. You might consider wearing your bulkiest shoes for the same reason . .
7) Take advantage of free luggage services. If your airline offers free checked baggage, great! If not, ask at the gate if there is an option to "gate check" your luggage. The airline may offer early boarding as a reward for this convenient way to offload your roll-away.
8) Be prepared for the delays that may occur. Books to read, games for the kids, meals and/or snacks are all a good idea to bring. Remember you could be "stranded" at an airport for 24 hours!
9) Take your vitamins. Preparing yourself physically for your upcoming travel should be high on your list. Start weeks in advance so your immune system is in tip-top shape by the time your trip comes around. It is flu and cold season after all . . .
10) Inform your family or friends of any changes in travel plans or flight status. No sense in having others worry.