It can be especially stressful and arduous to travel during the winter holidays: Airports and flights are crowded. Roadways are jammed with vehicles. Snow and ice storms can delay your journey.
You can’t make other people or bad weather just go away as you try to reach your destination, but you do have ways to smooth things along.
Here are eight tips to avoid a sticky travel situation altogether or at least more easily get yourself out of one:
1. Check your flight, no matter where you’re going
Think you don’t have to worry about bad weather because you’re flying from sunny California to sunny Florida? Not so fast. That airplane you’re picking up in San Diego may have been coming from Minneapolis or Chicago.
If your aircraft is coming from a city hit by foul weather, it can hold up your warm-weather travel. Check your aircraft’s journey on your airline website. Aviation Queen travel blogger Benet J. Wilson recommends the Flightview app to track your aircraft’s path. (And don’t rub it into the snow-bound folks that you’re heading to the beach!)
2. Don’t drive into a storm
Monitor your local and regional forecasts. If the weather report in your departure or arrival city advises staying put for safety reasons, consider not hitting the road.
If there’s a possibility that bad weather could hit while you’re on the road, make sure to have cold weather clothing and shoes, extra water and snacks, charged up devices, diapers for the little ones, a full tank of gas and flares in case you get stopped by weather.
3. Rebook your flight for free
Many airlines have teams devoted to tracking the weather and rearranging flight schedules to avoid bad winter weather. If the weather proves too dangerous for flight, airlines often offer customers the opportunity to rebook their flights to leave earlier or later free of charge, before you leave for the airport.
Sometimes, the airlines will even waive fees to rebook customers who see the writing on the wall and call before the bad weather hits. No guarantees, but it’s worth a try, says Airfarewatchdog President George Hobica.
4. Follow your airline and airport on social media
Follow your airlines and airports via Twitter and Facebook. Many airlines and airports post the speediest updates to their Twitter feeds, so start following them now. Sign up for your airline alerts to get flight updates e-mailed to your smartphone.
5. Charge your devices
Be sure to have your smartphone fully charged when you leave home for your winter holiday trip. Expect crowds surrounding the electrical outlets at your departure airport to increase if your flight is delayed. And don’t expect rest stops to share their outlets with you. Have a car charger and stash a power pack or a few battery chargers for your portable electronic devices (useful for driving or flying).
6. Stock up on snacks
Stock up on non-perishable snacks and drinks for the car. If you’re flying, avoid the drinks, but carry an empty water bottle to refill after you clear airport security.
Granola bars, beef jerky, dried nuts and fruit and other protein-rich snacks can keep you and the children going without spending a fortune at rest stops or the airport.
7. Are you already stuck at the airport?
If you’re stranded, multitask. Don’t only go to the ticket counter. Use an app such as NextFlight and type in your city pair to get the next flights for the major airlines, travel blogger Wilson suggested. Then, call the airline on your phone and give them your preferred options.
You might get booked on another flight before you reach the front of the line. Also consider nearby cities where you can rent a car and drive to your final destination.
8. Consider taking a train
Trains might be able to better handle winter weather than your car during a holiday trip. If you live in a part of the world where train service is common (say the Northeast US, Japan, England or many other parts of Europe., for example), consider taking the train for your winter holiday travel.