Off Season Travel: Winter Storms

JetBlue airplanes wait at the gates outside terminal five at John F. Kennedy International Airport on January 4, 2018 in the Queens borough of New York City. A winter storm is traveling up the east coast of the United States dumping snow and creating blizzard like conditions in many areas.
Image taken from CNBC

Winter travel can be fantastic for a lot of different reasons including lower prices for flights and hotels. With Winter, however, comes a high risk for storms and difficult weather. I’ve been a little bit worried myself over the past few weeks about my upcoming trip to Italy, Austria and Germany. These areas have been experiencing heavier than normal snow storms. How can you be prepared in case you face an unexpected delay or cancellation?

Watch the WeatherĀ andĀ Events

My first piece of advise to to stay on top of weather reports and on the news for events that may be taking place. For example your airline may have a pilot strike, the government shutdown in the US causing TSA agents to work without pay, etc. You never know what is going to happen. It’s up to you to protect yourself. Sign up to receive any alerts from your airline. They are free and can come in handy.

Look Out For Waivers

Airlines will also issue travel waivers in advance of bad weather if it looks like flights will be significantly delayed or may be cancelled. Many times this occurs during hurricanes, major storms or natural disasters. Again, be diligent and watch out for alerts from your airline. A travel waiver will have a certain set of dates of the affected flights. The waiver normally allows for the passenger to change their flight to a different day without a change fee.

Now with travel waivers, you need to be advised that others on your flight will also be trying to change their flights. There may not be as many options to fly until the storm passes through. Think outside the box.
Maybe there is another airport in a city you can get to with a flight you are able to get on. I once rebooked a person from Los Angeles (LAX) to London (LHR) to Rome (FCO).

Their flight from San Francisco (SFO) was cancelled and we had horrible weather and a lot of already angry people trying to get to international destinations as well. We didn’t have any available flights from SFO until two days later. Now the passenger was supposed to connect in New York (JFK) to Rome (FCO), but it was better to send them through London, UK due to bad weather in New York as well. The passenger bought a cheap ticket from Oakland (OAK) to LA since the weather at the neighboring airport wasn’t bad and went on their trip that way. They were happy to get there pretty much at the same time. It’s a little extreme, but hey their time was more important than cost.

The airline will not pay for hotel rooms or other accommodations so be prepared to pay for your own food and drinks and hotel room. Hotel rooms near the airport may book fast so always have a game plan to book in a different part of town or even through a site like Air BNB. As a last resort, staying at the airport could be an option. I normally don’t recommend it…I’ve had to do it once as a gate agent. The airport usually has shower facilities if you get desperate.

Travel Insurance

If you are extra worried, it never hurts to have travel insurance. Depending on the type of insurance you have, if something gets cancelled or interrupted, normally you will have any expenses reimbursed to you or covered. Some credit cards have this included depending on the type of interruption or delay. Make sure you check with the card before you travel if you are depending on it. Save any receipts to submit later on. As a side note, it has to be the credit card you booked your flight with if it’s interruption coverage.

I personally don’t normally pay for insurance as I try and travel as cheaply as possible. I’m okay with paying for things out of pocket if I have to. I’ve worked in the hotel and airline industry and know what to expect if I get stuck. Unfortunately there really isn’t much an agent can do, I’m okay with accepting this and taking a chance. Now if I were taking a cruise, that may be a different story.

Wrapping Up

This post isn’t meant to scare you, but it is meant to get you thinking about what you would do in the event of a delay or major cancellation or other problem. Have a game plan. it’s also intended to keep you aware of problems associated with winter or off season travel. Hope this helps you! Until next time, happy travels.