Packed planes, long lines, and wild weather delays may confront airline passengers, especially during the upcoming holiday season. Here are some techniques we use to minimize travel stress.
1. Update your smartphone.
Be sure it is loaded with the important contact information of your travel agent, hotels, and airlines, as well as your frequent flier and other loyalty program numbers.
2. Apply apps.
Download your airline’s app or use another to track flight status. Here are some we find useful (available on Apple or Android):
FlightAware (flightaware.com) and FlightStats (flightstats.com). If your flight is delayed or canceled, these apps will often let you know before the info is posted at the gate.GateGuru (gateguru.com). It shows terminal maps and restaurants. The Weather Channel and Weather.com. Check the forecasts at your connecting city and destination.
3. Get social.
Follow your airline and airports on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites to get updated information.
4. Have a backup plan.
If your flight is canceled, get in the customer-service line, but also get on your smartphone to make alternate bookings. Learn in advance what hotels are near the airport where you might be stranded. If you’re a member of the airline’s frequent-flier program, say so. In case of trouble, airlines typically take care of their elite fliers first.
5. Know your rights.
If a delay or cancellation is the airline’s fault (a mechanical or crew problem), the airline should give you a voucher for meals and a hotel stay. If weather is to blame, you’re responsible for those costs.
6. Travel with only carry-ons.
You’ll be flexible if there’s a change of plans. Send gifts ahead via FedEx or UPS.
7. Join an airline club.
These havens offer complimentary coffee, tea, and snacks, and agents there can rebook you. Memberships cost $350 to $750 a year; some clubs offer day passes for about $50.
Recent travel delays have reminded us that patience, kindness, and a sense of humor are the most important things to pack for trips—during the holidays and at other times, too.