One of the “true” stories in Peter in Flight is that I once sat out a hurricane at the Marriott International Center in Orlando. Yes, even as Mickey battened down the hatches for the first time, and NASA put the reverse on the giant mover to store the shuttle inside, I sat in my hotel room on a high level floor watching red and purple blobs move across the radar screen. After that experience, I have become better at planning for the unexpected while on the road.
With the recent series of bad storm cells moving through the area, I am reminded once more of these important guidelines of travel:
1) Always have a plan B or C in your back pocket. This also applies to the zombie apocalypse. If bad weather conditions are heading your way, it’s good to get on an earlier flight. Some airlines will allow you to do this free of charge. Others have a $100 fee. Still, a $100 is minor compared to finding an open hotel room at the last second, or sleeping on the floor of the airport.
2) Keep a list of alternative hotels phone numbers with you. Keep them on your cell phone, or print them out, anything around the airport that you can call in a pinch rather than hunt down and find the right contact.
Okay, say that you booked plan B hotel by the airport just in case the storm was coming, but you were able to get out of town on a flight. Most hotels will waive that cancellation fee as swarms of people who did not plan ahead are fighting over that room now.
3) Keep ahead of the crowds. On a flight from LAS to DTW I was detoured to MSP over night. Knowing that I was staying the night due to the storm, I made the choice to go to the closet hotel rather than stand in line waiting for a phone or to get instructions from the gate agent for re-booking. At the hotel I was able to get a room then go online/phone to re-book my flight. In the morning, after a good nights rest, I walked by many of my fellow travelers who slept on a cot in the lobby after waiting in line to speak with an agent.
4) Can you drive away from the weather? In “Peter in Flight” Tatiana is able to take a car from Orlando to Georgia and get on another flight. Weather conditions between ORD and MWD in Chicago can be very different. Think about all your options.
In general terms, you want to make certain you have some cash on hand to “tip” your way out of a situation. ATM’s run out of cash in some situations. Keep a few energy bars in your bag to get you over the hump. I have been stranded during hours when nothing is open. Keep a small empty bottle with you, fill it up at the drinking fountain. This may be too personal, but if you are checking your bag, something you should avoid when you can, keep your meds and a change of underwear and socks with your carry on. Just enough to get you through 24 – 48 hours can make all the difference in most cases.
Above all else – be good to one another out there. Travel is hard enough to be away from home, in a strange situation, and at the mercy of airlines.