The weather is fierce for travelers this winter!

The weather is fierce for travelers this winter!
Photo by: Colin Brough (Stock Exchange)

Howdy, all! Say, remember way back a couple of weeks ago when we talked about “enhanced” security screening? At the time, it seemed like this was going to be the big news of the travel season – but that was before the blizzard! Even my very own Surviving the Holiday Rush post could use a boost for “Snowmaggedon,” so here it is.

With wild winter conditions leaving travelers of all stripes stranded on tarmacs or far from destinations, it’s high time to share some tips for those times when weird weather actually changes your travel plans. Disabled travelers and their travel companions will want to hear this!

CNN says “redial, patience best tactics for stranded travelers.” There are a lot of good tips in this article, especially if you find yourself having to book a new flight after cancellation or delay. Be aware that airlines are “excused” when weather interferes with travel plans: some might go out of their way to offer meals, accommodations, and other help, but they aren’t required to. That means the savvy traveler will have a back-up plan.

Here are a few tips for travel when weather might be a factor:

Winter weather moves fast: Unlike summer hurricanes, which forecasters know about well in advance, winter weather can appear almost out of nowhere. Until mid-November, much of Florida was roasting with temperatures in the low nineties: then, in the space of a week, the whole eastern seaboard was hitting record lows! In short, if you plan a trip any further than two weeks away, expect weather conditions to change. Winter “technically” runs from about December 21 to March 21, but virtually all of December can be trouble.

Be wary of layover flights: Fewer and fewer carriers are offering direct transit to major destinations, but a huge proportion of travel trouble pops up unexpectedly when you’re on your way to that connecting flight. If you can’t avoid taking a connection, plan as if your layover in that airport and its local area might take days. Does the airport have a hotel on the grounds? Are accessible taxis available? If your flight is delayed 24 hours or more, you’ll be glad to know your options. Not all disabled travelers can “rough it” on the terminal floor!

Take more supplies than you need: If you take medication, you’re familiar with the routine of making sure you have enough to last a trip. When delays are possible, plan to bring that much and more. Even if nothing crazy happens, spillage or a simple mishap with a pill cutter could lower your supply of meds. If possible, keep needed medication in carry-on bags in case you get separated from the rest of your luggage. This also goes for food and drink. You can purchase sundries after going through security: stock up on bottled water and healthy, low-salt snacks in case your flight can’t take off as planned.

Stuck at an airport? “There’s an app for that.”: There have been a lot of reports about travelers getting automated confirmation of flights from their airline, only to find out that the flight is delayed or cancelled. Though airline courtesy notices can be useful, news moves fastest among the “connected” crowds at airports, most of which now offer wireless internet. Check your phone’s “market” for applications that include up-to-the-minute feedback from other passengers – the kind that have already arrived at the airport ahead of you. Airlines and some airports also offer their own “apps” you can use to book flights or change plans, especially useful if customer service lines are busy.

Now seems like as good a time as any to mention one of the issues near and dear to me, the airline passenger’s “Bill of Rights.” In the U.S., legislation has been enacted to establish air travelers’ rights when it comes to serious situations like tarmac delays. Also check out the “Help! I’m Stranded!” page from for hotlines and important resources. Now, it deserves to be said that long ground delays are exceptionally rare, but snow and ice are the conditions most likely to cause them. Be safe out there, and we’ll see you back at Disabled Travelers next week!


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