Getting stuck on the runway for hours. Missing your connection. Having to cut a trip short. These are all a traveler’s worst nightmare, but if you travel frequently enough, all bound to happen eventually. In fact, after a surprisingly long streak of luck, all three of these things happened to me last weekend.
At least I had a good view?
Are you thinking the title of this post must be misleading? Well it’s not, because I had a great time when I missed my connection to Miami on Friday and had to spend an unexpected night in NYC. I may just have a “glass half full” attitude about life… but here are my tips for turning travel disasters into a positive:
The worst thing you can do is start to panic when something goes wrong. If you’re traveling with companions, you’re just making the situation worse for everyone. If you’re alone, you’re doing yourself no favors. A missed flight is no need to freak out. Especially if you’re heading off on a vacation!
Of course, part of the reason why I don’t panic when I miss a flight or my baggage doesn’t show up on the carousel is that I have excellent insurance. Which brings me to point #2…
Have Travel Insurance!
Last weekend I was planning to spend three nights in Miami visiting a friend. But on Friday, the weather said otherwise: a snowstorm hit Boston. I had booked a 3:00pm flight and a 5:30pm connection in New York City. But when we were delayed on the runway at Logan Airport for five hours, I obviously missed flight #2. In fact, we were so late that I missed the last American Airlines flight leaving New York for Miami that night.
photo: Chad Kainz/Flickr
Here’s where if I didn’t have travel service, I’d be SOL. When delays are weather-related, the airlines are under no obligation to compensate you for them. So while American was happy to book me on the first flight out the next morning, I was stranded at LaGuardia Airport for the night with nowhere to sleep.
So how do you find the best travel insurance? My recommendation is to use a credit card that offers comprehensive insurance, and my favorite card is Chase Sapphire Preferred. Chase’s travel insurance provides coverage when airlines don’t, such as in cases of extreme weather.
Being stuck in New York for the night was inconvenient, but the peace of mind from my travel insurance let me relax and try to make the best of it. I booked a lovely room at Hotel Chandler, grabbed a taxi there and ordered dinner from a Thai restaurant I used to love when I lived in the city. All of which will be reimbursed by insurance!
I was able to chillax, watch TV and open the bottle of wine in the mini bar (unfortunately, wine is not covered by travel insurance). It was nice, since I hadn’t packed a coat for Miami and sure as heck wasn’t going out to do anything on a February night in NYC without proper attire!
If you are using travel insurance, make sure you check the fine print. Chase, for example, wouldn’t cover anything that the airline would (like if the delay was the airline’s fault). Also, make sure you save all receipts (itemized for meals) and request a delay letter from the airline.
Pack Entertainment & Snacks
There’s nothing more frustrating than being on a plane going nowhere. Many people mistakenly believe you can’t be stranded on the runway all day anymore because the U.S. recently implemented a law that requires planes to return to the gate after more than three hours. However, unless you’re actually planning to get off and not take your flight, this only means you’re going to be on the runway for even longer.
photo: Whit Andrews/Flickr
Last Friday, after waiting for three hours in the line of planes to get de-iced, we were told that instead of taxiing to the runway, by law we had to now return to the gate and give passengers the opportunity to deplane. As per an aviation attorney, these procedures are necessary to ensure the safety of everyone. Cue groans from the entire plane, but it’s the law and pilots have to abide. After we returned to the gate, we gave people a few minutes to stretch their legs and then – how fun! – we had to go through the de-icing process all over again.
So how was I not jumping out of my seat in frustration? Easy – I’d packed both entertainment and snacks. Once you board a plane, you never know quite how long you’re going to be on that plane. So you better be prepared! While some more modern fleets come equipped with plugs and televisions, there are plenty of old school planes out there that have nothing.
Some essential items to pack in your carry-on:
- A back-up battery pack for your phone. I own the above from Incase and it’s great – it charges my iPhone twice! (Note I included an affiliate link to Amazon, which means I earn a small percentage of any sales. However, I have owned battery pack for more than a year and love it!)
- Bottle of water (although if your airline isn’t terrible, they will offer you water in case of extreme delay)
- A laptop or tablet with a movie or two downloaded
- A physical book or magazine in case you need to conserve battery life
- Snacks. I suggest a variety of salty (pretzels?) and sweet (M&Ms!) to mix things up and keep life interesting when you’re stuck on a plane all day.
- Vodka nips and Xanax. Just kidding. (Kind of).
Next Time, Be Proactive
If bad weather is on the radar and you need to fly out, call the airline and try to rebook your flight if possible. Most airlines will waive change fees in this situation, and you’re better off having to leave earlier or later than wasting precious time stranded at the airport.
In fact, the day I was returning from Miami, Boston had yet another snowstorm. Wary after Friday’s incident, I was monitoring the weather. When I received an alert notifying me of a delay and suggesting I rebook, I didn’t hesitate. I called American Airlines and put myself on the latest flight in the day so I would miss the storm. We were still delayed, but only by about an hour this time.
Having to spend an extra day in Miami while Boston was pummeled by snow? I wasn’t complaining.
Have you ever had a flight cancelled or missed a connection? Did the airline or travel insurance cover it? Let me know how it worked out!