Plan B-elow zero: Winter travel contingency planning

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Winter travel is always tricky. As much as you want to escape somewhere sunny or need to get from point A to B, Mother Nature doesn’t always make the journey an easy one. Snow, sleet and ice, or a messy mix of all three, can toss wrench after wrench into travel plans and cause frustratingly long delays. If you’re planning to travel this winter and want to make the process as painless as possible, here are a few things to consider before you book your flight (which you found on Cheapflights.ca, of course) and while you’re en route.

Fly in the morning

Plan B-elow zero: Winter travel contingency planning 1
Saad Faruque, The first sun via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

More often than not, if there’s going to be a delay it will be later in the day or into the evening when there are typically more flights out and the tarmac can get busy. By booking your flight in the morning you may minimize your chances of getting stuck.

Build in extra time

Plan B-elow zero: Winter travel contingency planning
Kalyan Chakravarthy, Tick tock via Flickr CC BY 2.0

During the winter, giving yourself more time than you think you need is essential. You never know what’s around the next corner weather-wise, so having a built-in buffer can prove to be the difference between a flight missed and a flight successfully boarded.

Try to get a direct flight

Plan B-elow zero: Winter travel contingency planning
Bernal Saborio, A330 via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Booking a direct flight isn’t always possible depending on where you’re going and when, but being able to avoid a layover can be a huge blessing during the winter. Because if you’re headed to a beach destination where there’s zero chance of snow, the last thing on your wish list is a connection in Chicago where you may very well see a storm. So, if it works for your budget, see about doing what you can to fly direct.

Connect in hubs less likely to see weather delays (if you can)

Plan B-elow zero: Winter travel contingency planning
N i c o l a, Charlotte Airport via Flickr CC BY 2.0

If you can’t avoid a connection, do your best to ensure your layover is in a city that won’t likely be hit with an ice storm, like Phoenix, Ariz., or Charlotte, N.C., for example. Avoiding the snowier Canadian and Northern U.S. hubs for winter travel connections will drastically improve your chances of getting to your destination (ideally, a warm one) on time.

Search for flights to Phoenix

Stay ahead of the weather

Plan B-elow zero: Winter travel contingency planning
brownpau, Weather app via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Waiting until a storm hits to start making your contingency plans means you’re trying to make those plans alongside countless other disgruntled, displaced passengers. But by checking the weather early and often you have a better chance of staying ahead of any weather systems that have the potential to derail your plans. The sooner you know a mega storm is brewing and likely to cause delays, the sooner you can get re-booked on an alternate flight. Download a weather app and follow your airline on social media (checking often) to keep abreast of any potential issues.

Book just-in-case hotel rooms for unexpected delays

Plan B-elow zero: Winter travel contingency planning
Kevin Dooley, Sheraton Hotel via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Know you’ll be connecting in a city that’s notorious for bad weather? You can save yourself a headache and avoid cramming yourself into an airport seat to get some shuteye by booking a hotel room as a contingency plan (Cheapflights.ca can help you there, too). Most hotels don’t charge your card until you actually check in, so you could book a room at an airport hotel as a just in case precaution. Hey, it beats sleeping in the airport during a delay and it beats fighting other tired travellers for hotel space.

Splurge on a lounge pass

Plan B-elow zero: Winter travel contingency planning
Holidayextras, Lounge via Flickr CC BY 2.0

If you’re dealing with a delay and you know you’re going to be stuck at the airport for hours, stave off as much stress as you can by hightailing it to an airport lounge if you can. That way you’ll have comfortable seats, reliable Wi-Fi, snacks and drinks and in many cases, hot food and showers. Staying as calm as possible during weather delays is key to sailing through relatively unscathed so it pays to stay out of the scrum in the main terminal.

Be as informed as possible

Plan B-elow zero: Winter travel contingency planning
Cliff, A snowy Chicago O’Hare Airport via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Leading up to your flight, if it looks like there’s a good chance delay-causing weather is coming, start getting your ducks in a row by arming yourself with information that you can use to improve your situation should things go awry. This means knowing which airports are the least likely to be affected by inclement weather in case you need to be rerouted. A site like FlightStats.com can be useful and allows you to search global cancellations and delays for the day ahead (as well as up to 30 days previous). But by searching for the airports that are unaffected by delays you can ideally have at least some control over the situation and request to be rerouted to an airport that isn’t dealing with weather-related issues, then to your final stop from there.

Now that you’re in the know, start planning that winter getaway. And when it comes time to start packing, here’s how to pack for air travel in the winter.

Main image: istock.com/baona

Plan B-elow zero: Winter travel contingency planning was last modified: January 10th, 2017 by Jessica Padykula
Author: Jessica Padykula (408 posts)

Jessica Padykula is a Toronto-based writer and editor who regularly covers travel and lifestyle trends. When she’s not writing or researching a story she can be found planning trips to places near and far in a never-ending quest to travel the world.