6 Tips for Winter Travel
Winter doesn’t start for several more days yet the U.S. has already seen four major winter storms that have impacted travel. Traveling in winter is a challenge but being prepared will help get you where you are going and remain safe.
In the past few years, airlines started to cancel flights more proactively in advance of storms while offering passengers flexibility in either rescheduling flights or canceling plans altogether.
Once flights begin to be canceled due to weather, there will be fewer open seats on flights that are still running. Not all airlines cancel flights in concert, so it’s possible that another airline may still be able to get you where you are going.
If the planes aren’t taking off where you are, consider rail service, which is typically less impacted by snow. Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Service, which runs from Boston to New York to Washington, has a better track record in inclement weather than the Delta and US Airways shuttles to the same destinations.
Here’s what you can do to minimize delays when problems due to weather arise.
1.) Travel to Your Destination Early
If you have to be somewhere on a specific day, don’t leave anything to chance. Arrange your schedule to arrive at least one day early. If you’ve already booked your flight, you may be able to change your reservation, especially once the airlines start to issue travel waivers, which will allow you to make changes or cancel without incurring any fees. In fact, many airlines will encourage you to travel early.
2.) Consider Canceling
If the storm is imminent, stay put. Last February, practically every major U.S. airline waived change fees and other restrictions for travelers impacted by a massive winter storm. If you find you cannot travel due to weather, and it’s close to departure time, check whether the airline has issued a waiver.
3.) Take a Train
While trains aren’t 100% exempt from winter weather cancellations, they still tend to be a more reliable means of transportation than planes when bad weather hits.
4.) Stay Informed
Listen to news and weather forecasts for your own region as well as the destination. Make sure you are enrolled to receive flight alerts from your airline, and check the weather forecast frequently, as many storms that are forecast turn out to be much ado about nothing.
Consider using a flight information service such as Expert Flyer, which gives you the same information airline agents and travel agents have access to, to check seat availability on other flights. Finally, if a storm is affecting travel en route, but not at the departure and arrival points, ask about alternate routes.
5.) Don’t Get On Line With Everyone Else
When flights cancel, most passengers simply get on line at the ticket counter to get rebooked. Skip the line and turn on your laptop, tablet or smartphone, and do the legwork yourself. While everyone else is standing on line for an hour or two, you might be able to rebook yourself in minutes. You can also try making requests via an airline’s Twitter account, but, while social media tools promised quick results when only a few travelers were using them, some passengers report long delays in responses now. If you are a member of the airline’s frequent-flyer program with any kind of status, call the number for the program and make sure to enter your frequent-flyer number so your call is routed correctly.
6.) If You Do Drive
If part or all of your trip is by car, make sure you have the appropriate tires (in many regions, local laws require winter tires at this time) and keep extra supplies on hand including a fully charged mobile phone, ice scraper and brush, blankets, at least one flashlight, a battery-operated radio, and several bottles of water.