At some point, most air travelers get stuck in an airport somewhere because of bad weather. It’s one of the most irritating and frustrating travel problems, mainly because there’s not really a good solution when you’re trying to get from point A to point B. We’ve put together some tips for what you should do if your flight is delayed or canceled for bad weather.

Our years of experience have paid off a little, in that we can offer some workarounds and planning suggestions, especially if you always seem to find yourself stuck in a snowstorm in an airport. There may be ways to stop this from happening.

Consider an Alternate Flight Route

Where you live and where you fly from can’t be hacked, obviously. However, like a lot of us, if you find yourself connecting through cities to get to your final destination you may have some options. For example, if you need to get to Denver, and you live in Philadelphia, you might try connecting through one of the southern cities instead of Chicago or Detroit (both of which often get affected by weather delays).

Even better? If you can book a direct flight (even if it’s more expensive or from an airport slightly less convenient to get to from your house), you might save time and inconvenience later. When people are booking flights and looking at budget options, finding the cheapest route often seems like the best option. But later, when you’re stuck in a city far from home, you might have wished you’d have just spent a little extra up front and avoided the layover.

Book the earliest flight out

Ouch! Yes, this one will hurt a little, but it’s a great way to stack the deck in your favor. The flights with the most on-time statistics are almost always early morning flights. And here’s why. The first flight out in the morning often hasn’t yet been affected by whatever other systemic problems might be looming. A bad storm that is grounding flights in New England in the morning, will often start to affect flights in the afternoon in the southwest. There’s a domino effect that happens as the day goes on. Being on one of the first flights out is a better bet in the winter months, especially.

Have a back up plan in place

Maybe you can’t avoid the possibility of a weather delay. Blizzards don’t care about your Christmas plans, after all. However, you sometimes can come up with a roads before skies option. One intrepid traveler we know likes to reserve a van at the layover stop he’s been burned at before. He travels all throughout the winter for work, and often gets stuck in midwestern airports on layovers. Now, when he gets grounded, he has a backup plan and can even ask around the gate for other travelers who might want to kick in and share the cost of the van. It might be a few hour drive, but he’s not stuck.

You can also research the train or bus schedules from tricky layover stops in advance, to see if you can quickly pivot to another plan if you get grounded.

Call the airline and confirm on your flight day

If you see a nasty bit of weather coming in and you’re still at home? Call the airline or check your app to get any communications to make sure your flight is still scheduled. It’s much more pleasant to be waiting, cozy at home rather than at a cold airport, wondering if you’re going anywhere.

If you’re not home and the news says a lot of flights may be grounded, you might also check with your hotel (if you’re staying in one), just to see if you can potentially have a late check-out or even if they’ll work with you to put a tentative reservation in place for you in case you have to turn around and come back.

What if you’re already at the airport and they delay your flight?

That all sounds great. But what if you’re already at the airport? Sometimes you can even sit on the runway on a plane before being told that the weather is grounding the flight. That’s the worst.

Well, first triage. We always bring extra snacks and entertainment on a bad weather travel day. If you’re going to get stuck on the plane, you’ll want provisions. If you have a good book or movie to tee up, that can help with a longer wait. This is also why we always travel with our phone charger in carry-on, not checked baggage.

Ask questions early, and politely

We like to get out ahead of trouble, so if you can low-key ask a friendly gate agent what is going on, you might get the inside scoop. Gate agents aren’t always the most forthcoming, but you might get one who will give it to you straight. The worst situation is getting stuck in the airport for hours only to finally be told the flight isn’t leaving until morning.

What happens if they cancel your flight? Manage your own expectations

First, the most unproductive thing you can do is to freak out on a gate agent. While missing your niece’s wedding is awful, the gate agent isn’t trying to ruin your personal plans. When flights get canceled, everyone on that flight likely has somewhere they need to be.

The airlines will almost always offer to put you up in an airport hotel, previously contracted for exactly this scenario. It will not be a Four Seasons, if that’s the standard you expect and are used to, but it will be comfortable. Usually, the airlines contract with 4-star, Hilton and Hyatt standard business hotels.

Generally speaking, if this happens, you’ll be given a voucher and put on a shuttle, taken straight to said hotel. Most of the time, you’ll be put on one of the first available flights in the morning.

Can you ask for your money back if an airline cancels your flight?

If you prefer to get your money back when the airline cancels your flight, they will return your money to you. It usually gets returned to travelers within a week or so, if you choose this option. It’s also true that sometimes the airlines will offer inconvenienced travelers credits / vouchers for future travel. Not always, and they are not obligated to offer these. But again, keeping a level head and being polite is much more likely to get you a better deal.

And we don’t want to give you the impression you should be meek about it. You should ask for a credit for your inconvenience. Even saying, “this has been really disappointing and upsetting. I know it isn’t your fault, but is there anything else you can do to mitigate my inconvenience” is good. It puts the gate agent in charge, and you don’t know what they’ve been authorized to offer the most aggrieved passengers. Let them know how you feel, just do it in a respectful and calm way,

Remember the Details for Next Time

Finally, you should remember as many details as you can about the itinerary and schedule that caused the issue. When we started this post, we reminded people that there are sometimes airports and routes that suffer from more regular weather delays. If you can put your snafu into your mental rolodex, the next time you fly you can hopefully avoid that situation altogether.

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