Winter weather got you stranded at the airport? Use these ten gadgets to kill some time!

winter weather stranded

Being stuck at an airport for any length of time is never an entertaining experience – and when winter weather forces you to spend more than a day inside the terminal building, things get really boring. There are only so many ways you can keep yourself busy with CNN Airport edition and a stale bagel.

Thankfully, technology can once again come to the rescue – we’ve collected ten gadgets and accessories that can help make the experience of being stranded a little less horrible. None of them can magically make flights appear and delays vanish, but every hour you can spend doing something fun is one hour closer to getting the heck out of the airport.Monster Outlets To Go

winter weather stranded

If you have ever spent any time at the airport, you’ll know that there is usually just one outlet for the entire terminal building. Do yourself (and your fellow strandees) a favor, and travel with a compact power strip. The Monster Outlets To Go Laptop is the perfect solution for this – it features a built in surge protector, folding prongs, 2 USB charger ports, and packs away nice and compact.

Product page: Monster Outlets To Go
Price: $29.95

Smartphone

winter weather stranded

This is a pretty broad recommendation, but a smartphone can mean the difference between reading the terminal monitors for two days, or actually having something to do. A decent phone can also help pick alternative flights, book hotels, and look up phone numbers of a cab service.

Price: from free (on contract)

Battery pack

winter weather stranded

That shiny new smartphone won’t be much use when it runs out of power. And since most phones have trouble making it past a day, you will eventually run out of power. You can of course travel with your phone charger, but chances are outlets will be rare, all occupied or worse.

Battery packs come in a variety of sizes – some are powerful enough to charge a laptop, others can only power a small device. Prices start around $15 for an iPhone battery, up to $200 for a powerful laptop pack.

You Bars

winter weather stranded

Not battery operated, and completely without any lights, buttons or touchscreens – You Bars are custom made energy bars and trail mix that are designed by you. Pick all the ingredients you want, and this company will create your very own bar. Prices are obviously higher than store bought bars. but you’ll never run into another lousy bar again (unless you pick ingredients you don’t care for!).

Product page: Youbars.com
Price: from $32/box

Boingo

winter weather stranded

When an airport terminal is full of stranded passengers, chances are your 3G mobile phone speeds will grind to a halt. Thankfully, most decent airports offer Wi-Fi, and one of the most affordable ways to get on that Wi-Fi is with Boingo. With plans starting at $7.95, Boingo Wi-Fi covers thousands of airports, hotels, restaurants and more.

Product page: Boingo
Price: from $7.95/month

Netflix streaming movies

winter weather stranded

Before leaving, make sure to fill your iPod, Windows Phone, Android, Blackberry or other device with a good assortment of entertainment. If you are lucky enough to be stuck at an airport with Wi-Fi, get online and use Netflix to stream movies to your laptop or mobile device. With a massive assortment of decent movies, Netflix has what it takes to get through a whole day at the airport (and I speak from experience here).

Product page: Netflix
Price: from $7.95/month (streaming only)

Headphones + splitters

winter weather stranded

Keeping a pair of cheap headphones in your ears for a day is going to hurt – so consider a decent pair of on-ear headphones, and if needed, carry a splitter so you can share a movie with your travel partner. If the terminal is full of crying kids (or grown ups), you’ll appreciate a pair of noise canceling headphones. If your budget allows for it, we recommend the new Denon AH-NC800.

Product page: Denon AH-NC800
Price: $349.99 (MSRP)

Kid tech

winter weather stranded

If you think it is hard entertaining an adult when stranded at the airport, then you’ve never tried entertaining a toddler. With an attention span of just over 2 minutes, keeping kids entertained on the road is a real challenge – but a challenge that can be conquered with technology.

Sure, in the old days, we had to settle for a coloring book, but unless it beeps, kids are just not interested in it nowadays. The iPod touch is a great option – it serves parents and kids, can be loaded with free and cheap games, and it does movies and videos. For a sturdier option designed for pre-K and K kids, consider the Leapfrog Leapster Explorer.

Product page: Leap Frog Leapster Explorer
Price: $69.99

Lugsac

winter weather stranded

While the rest of the terminal tries to get comfortable on the most uncomfortable seats in the world, you could be resting peacefully with your inflatable pillow and blanket. The Lugsac was picked as one of the best travel products of 2009, and is an innovative blanket/pillow in a single product.

Product page: www.lugtravel.com
Price: $28 (NAPSAC) $30 (SNUZSAC)

Combo laptop charger + USB

winter weather stranded

If you travel with the usual assortment of gadgets, you’ll most likely have a laptop and at least one mobile phone. Instead of dragging along several chargers, consider a single laptop charger with USB charger port.

Product page: Kensington Laptop Chargers
Price: from $49.99

49 of 50 U.S. states have snow

49 of the 50 U.S. states now have snowWith ferocious blizzards pounding the East Coast, and a number of other storms blowing across the western U.S. and plains states, the country now has the presence of snow in 49 of the 50 states. An arctic blast rolled across the country earlier this week, sending temperatures falling in southern states that normally are spared winter’s wraith. Only Florida remains free of snow at the moment.

Despite the fact that snow was found in all 50 states last February, it is a rare occurrence to have so many places in the U.S. have snow on the ground at the same time. According to CNN, meteorologists estimate that approximately 69.4% of the lower U.S. states are currently buried under some amount of snow. Alaska of course has snow all year round and it is not uncommon for Hawaii’s Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea mountains to have snow throughout the winter either.

The news didn’t improve as the week has gone along. A Midwest storm combined with the one that hit Atlanta a few days back, and created the massive blizzard that dumped plenty of the white stuff on the New England states yesterday. Many residents in the Northeast are still digging out from 10+ inches of snow, and travelers have been left stranded throughout the country as well.

Here in Texas, where I live, we’re suppose to hit 60 degrees Fahrenheit by the weekend. But for those of you living in less warm conditions, keep your chin up. We still have several months of winter to go, and we’re probably not through the worst of it yet. Perhaps now would be a good time to take up snowshoeing or skiing?

Tour operator Goldtrail goes bankrupt, strands 16,000

UK company Goldtrail Travel Ltd announced it had gone bankrupt at 4pm yesterday. The revelation, made just an hour before the end of the work week, has left the travel plans of thousands of customers in doubt. About 16,000 customers are already abroad on Goldtrail flights and package tours, mostly in Turkey and Greece.

Goldtrail operates under the names Goldtrail Holidays, Goldtrail Travel, and Sunmar.

While flights returning this weekend and Monday will operate as normal, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority is left to pick up the slack for the remaining passengers. All outbound Goldtrail flights have been canceled. You can read the CAA’s statement about the failure, and advice to those affected, here.

The number for the CAA helpline in the UK is 0844 856 2585. Customers outside the UK should call 0044 203 441 0846.

The Gadling “stranded at the airport” survival guide

What better time to remind you of the possibility of being stranded at the airport, than in the aftermath of the Eyjafjallajoekull ash cloud disruption?

During that dark period of air travel, 7 million people were stranded at airports all around the world. Flights were canceled as far away as New Zealand, and even passengers just two hour flights away from home found themselves taking $5,000 cab rides just to get home.

So – what are the best ways to deal with a situation like this? What can you do to get yourself on the first available flight, and how can you compete with 7 million others, who all want the same thing? We’ve collected the best tips – but remember the most important one: stay calm, take a deep breath and make the best of a bad situation. Getting mad won’t get you home any sooner.Money – make sure you have some

This is a tough one – without money, being stranded can turn from an inconvenience into a nightmare. During the Icelandic volcanic ash disruption, there were countless stories of people that were stuck at the airport without a penny left. In those cases, tourists suddenly found themselves begging for food at the airport and sleeping on a cot for a week. Always make sure you have access to some backup funds in cash or on a credit card.

Another important tip is to save all your receipts – if the airlines are held responsible for the delays, you may be able to claim refunds. Before you go spending money, ask whether your airline is issuing hotel and food vouchers. If delays are no more than a day, many airlines will help their passengers, but don’t expect anything past that 24 hour period.

Always pack to be prepared

This rule applies to any trip – stranded or not. Any time you hand over your bags to the airline, make 100% sure there is nothing in it that you may end up needing.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people still pack wallets, laptops, phones or medication in their checked luggage. If the airline goes on strike, or cancels flights, your bags may be stuck in the luggage basement for days with no way for you to retrieve them.

Mobile technology is your best friend

Put your technology to good use – if you have a smartphone, make sure you install all the apps that can help you out. Check out our iPhone airport survival guide for some tips. Similar applications are also available for most other platforms. Your most important resources will be access to online search and the mobile site of your airline.

Once you are at ease with the idea that you are going to be stranded for the time being, use your phone to keep yourself entertained. Just remember that your battery won’t last all day, so keep an eye open for outlets, and read our airport power guide for tips on keeping your gadgets going.

Know your way around

When disaster strikes, spend 10 minutes to find your way around the airport. Some situations may require you to make a mad dash from gate to gate, and only those people that know their way around will be on time. Use smartphone tools like Gate Guru to find airport amenities, and on your way around, be sure to make a mental note of the quietest airport security checkpoints or other time saving tricks.

Find the most effective way to rebook yourself

During massive air delays, social media sites like Twitter are full of people complaining that they had to spend an hour or more on hold with the airline. Sadly, this is par for the course when thousands of people are stuck – you’ll be competing with every other stranded passenger on your airline.

Airlines will be dealing with thousands of passengers on hold – so don’t expect things to magically happen on their own. In the aftermath of the volcano, it took some airlines two weeks to clear their backlog of stranded passengers.

So – you’ll need to be smart and find the best way to get in touch with the airline. If you are abroad, make sure you find local access numbers. If the airline has a toll free number, use it. If your only option is to call the United States on a pricey international call, find WiFi and use Skype.

Some airlines have electronic rebooking options available on their kiosks. Other quick ways to find an employee not being harassed by 100’s of passengers is to check the airline lounge or even ask whether employees at the baggage desk have access to reservations systems. Remember – a smile goes a long way. Don’t whine, rant, grunt or complain. Just ask whether the employee would be willing to help and compliment them on their fantastic hair.

Need a hotel? Be quick and book ahead

As soon as you realize something is going wrong, find a hotel. Seriously – don’t worry (too much) about cost or whether the hotel has a room available with a jacuzzi tub.

When you call the hotel, book a night, and ask whether you can add extra nights without any cancellation penalties – then book these extra nights right away. This way, you can prevent spending one night at the hotel for $100, and having to pay $400 a night when the hotel realizes they can start gouging stranded passengers.

Got friends in high places? Use them!

Do you know someone who is an elite member of the airline? Now may be the time to ask them for that one big favor they owe you. They may not be able to magically call for a new plane, but they may be able to call their own elite desk and beg for a little help. Use the power of the Internet to find the elite passenger helpdesk numbers – yes, elite passengers will yell at me for this tip, but when you are in trouble, you do everything you can to fix things.

Get away from the airport for a bit

Do you already know that your next chance to get back home won’t be for another couple of days? Get away from the airport! Pick a hotel away from the airport area, but close to a rapid public transport system. This will get you a cheaper room, cheaper food and less stress from all the other stranded passengers.

Make the best of a bad situation

Look, everyone knows that being stranded is a waste of time – but getting upset about it isn’t going to help anyone. Make the best of a bad situation and have some fun. Make new friends at the airport and try to cheer others up. If you can help someone else – do it. I’ve been stuck at the airport several times, and despite the major inconvenience and cost, I ended up flying back home with new memories and new friends.

Galley Gossip: Will the volcanic eruption trigger a baby boom?

During 9/11 I was stuck in Zurich, Switzerland for over a week. Sure there are much worse places to be, but I spent ninety percent of that time sitting around the airport waiting to get back to the United States. Every single day I checked out the hotel, dragged my bags a few blocks in the dark to the train station, and waited at the airport just like thousands of other stranded passengers. I was number 800-and-something on the standby list and all the flights departing to the US – two of them a day – were full. Some passengers became impatient and decided to rent a car and drive to airports in neighboring countries in the hope of getting out sooner. A few days later they were back. The rest of us just sat around waiting for our names to be called. It didn’t take long for strangers from all over the world to become friends.

Now with a volcanic ash cloud over Iceland shutting down European air space, thousands of passengers are stranded at airports around the world. With so many passengers spending time together, I can’t help but wonder if any love connections have formed over the last few days. What can I say, I’m romantic like that. Put a group of people together, throw in a natural disaster, and relationships are bound to form. And with all that time just hanging around airport hotels with nothing to do but, well, ya know, babies are bound to be born nine months later. Don’t ya think?

Remember the 2003 New York City blackout? I wanted to know if it resulted in a rise in births. So I did a little research and found out that the baby boom theory after a disruptive event is an urban legend. Isolated events like blackouts, and I’m going to assume erupting volcanos, do not cause babies to be born. It’s a misconception that people use their downtime to, well, ya know, get busy. Apparently that is the last thing on their mind. Don’t know why. I guess they’re just a little too busy waiting to board a flight that isn’t going to leave for days than to get jiggy with it. So what does cause a baby boom? According to Judith Nolte of “American Baby” magazine in an article written in 2003, the only thing that will create a baby boom is a surging number of women who are fertile. Like we didn’t know that.

I don’t care what the scientists and baby experts say, I predict there will be quite a few babies born as a direct result of Eyafjallajokul erupting. So what do you say we help name all those little volcano babies? After I sent out a tweet asking for a few suggestions, the names came pouring in. Valen, one of the more interesting ones, came from Infobitsystems. It’s a variant of Valentinus; the name of more than fifty saints and three Roman emperors. Now that’s a powerful name! NavyAirCrewman came up with Pele for a girl (Hawaiian volcano goddess) and Hephaistos for a boy (Greek god of fire). Now it’s up to you to decide.

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Photo courtesy of OMI