Gadling’s winter storm air travel survival guide

storm survival guide

The recent storms have probably been the best reminder in a long time that it pays to be prepared during a storm disruption. You probably all know the basic tips to keep in mind, but we’ve gathered a couple of our own tips in this storm survival guide that could help you when your travel plans become messed up.

Some of these are important to take care of before you leave, others could help keep you (and your fellow passengers) sane when you end up being stuck at an airport for a couple of days.

Been through your own airport hell? Share your tips in the comments section!Do you have to go?

This is the most important thing you should ask yourself before you leave on a trip that will involve passing through a storm. If you are departing for a job interview or funeral, you may not have any options, but a leisure trip means you may have some flexibility.

Best of all, when airlines know things will be disrupted they’ll almost always let you do flight changes without adding change fees. In other words – if the weather reports show nastiness on the way, make a decision about the importance of your trip and change it when possible. Especially when you are traveling with kids, think about the prospect of being stuck at the airport with them for a day or two.

Check before you leave

storm survival guide

When storms hit, you are always told to “check with your airline before departing” – but you may want to expand that to the airport, hotel, taxi service and public transport. Every part of your trip could be impacted by a storm, and merely calling the airline (or checking their web site) is not enough.

Get your tech in order

Remember the last time you used a payphone? Well, unless you carry your phone charger or a backup battery booster, you’ll be using that payphone again if you get stranded at the airport. Check out this list of gadgets for getting through a couple of days at the airport.

Before you leave, make sure you checked the weather, so you have an idea just what kind of trip this could become. There is a time for packing lightly, and a trip during a storm is not it. Double check your chargers, battery packs, cables and anything else you might need.

Keep your sanity

storm survival guide

There is no denying that not knowing when you’ll finally be able to board a plane isn’t exactly a relaxing experience – but getting upset about it won’t help anyone.

In fact, if you approach a gate or ticket agent expecting some help, walking up to them in a bad mood will most likely not get you anywhere. Understand that everyone at the airport is in the same situation – take a deep breath, and try to make the best of it. See someone who could use some help? Offer it.

Remember the roads, not just the flights

storm survival guide

Your flight is most likely the least of your worries – when the December storms hit New York City, plenty of planes still made it to the airport, only to deliver passengers to a destination where trains, cars, cabs and bus services were shut down.

Make checking traffic part of your pre-departure checklist, and if you have a rental car reservation, check with the local reservation office that they’ll actually be open if you arrive during a storm.

Know your way around the airport

storm survival guide

If you find yourself stuck at the airport, with the prospect of being stuck there for an overnight stay, you’ll thank yourself for taking the time to learn your way around the terminals. Check online for the location of cots and sleeping areas, know where the 24 hour coffee shop is, where to find restrooms and changing rooms. Memorize decent quiet seating areas and prepare yourself for the worst.

One great tool for navigating airports is mobile application GateGuru. This comprehensive database of airport amenities contains everything you need to survive the airport turning into a hotel. Looking for an ATM, restaurant, Wi-Fi hotspot or electrical outlet? GateGuru has what you need. Best of all, you can submit your own tips in the app, making it another great way to kill some time.

Prepare your parked car for the snow

storm survival guide

If you plan to park your car in an uncovered garage when a storm may hit, prepare it well – you wouldn’t be the first person to return to a vehicle buried under 10 feet of snow. Think about basic things like an antenna topper, photos of where you parked your car, noticeable features to determine where your car is, and a way to dig it out if necessary.

Leave a shovel in the trunk, along with any winter gear you may need to help dig it out. Keep in mind that locks may be frozen, and if possible, carry gloves in your luggage so you don’t need to dig through the snow in your bare hands.

Mobile apps are your best friend in a time of need…

Just ten years ago, getting anything done with the airline involved waiting in line at their service desk, or waiting on the phone with them. Nowadays, mobile apps make it easier than ever to do a lot of these things on your own. Need a hotel? Open HotelPal. Need to find alternative flights? Check Kayak or FlightTrack Pro.

By using these apps, you’ll be able to do a lot of homework on your own, and beat others to booking a room for the night. When they are on hold with the hotel chain, you could be finding affordable rooms and booking them in a matter of minutes.

Know who to call, Tweet or email

storm survival guide

If something goes wrong on your trip, do you know who to call? Always carry phone numbers for your airline, hotel, airport and other travel providers. Nowadays, access to social media sites can also help with some airlines. Not all of them will be able (or willing) to assist, but it never hurts to Tweet and let the airline know you need their help.

Have a backup plan ready

If the weather is bad enough, your plans may be messed up for several days – do you have backup plans for spending a couple of extra days on the road? This means enough medication for 3-4 extra days, a way to find a hotel and a way to get there.

Pack wisely

storm survival guide

Every time a bad storm hits, there are always stories of people who left their medication in their bag, or only carried enough baby food for one day. Don’t be one of those people – pack wisely, and be prepared to be without your checked luggage for at least 3 days. When flights are canceled or diverted, luggage isn’t always available, and you could easily be separated from your bags for ages. The same obviously applies to expensive items – if bags are left in a storage area for days, you never know who will be taking a peek at your belongings.

Finance wisely

Look – we all know that the economy is still in the middle of its own perfect storm, but during major disruptions, there are always reports of people stuck at the airport with just a couple of dollars left. When you travel in the winter, always make sure you have enough funds to cover several nights of hotel stays or to pay for extra cab rides. You don’t need Warren Buffet style funds, but keeping $500 stashed away is the very least you should consider.