Some people would call me a road warrior. I started traveling for business 25 years ago as I began speaking for and consulting with a wide variety of organizations across the country. In 2019, I took 38 trips to 52 different cities and was away from home 110 days. I guess that gives me the qualifications to know something about how to best survive travel.
While most of you don’t travel to the extent that I do, I have learned some tips and tricks over the years that can help make your travel experience the best possible. I hope that a few of these items will help make your holiday travel as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
Your Airline App – You should always make sure that you have downloaded the appropriate app and created an account for the airline that you are flying. These phone apps have gotten more capable over the last few years and can provide you a vital link for information about your flight, and most importantly, about any delays.
TripIt — This website and app manage my travel information. I automatically forward email confirmations (using Outlook Rules) for my airline reservation, rental car reservation, and hotel confirmation. The information is automatically added to my “trip” and is listed in the right order. Having all of my travel information in one place is extremely helpful. The TripIt mobile app also provides alerts when your flight or gate changes.
FlightAware — This app allows you to track (in real-time) specific flights for any airline anywhere in the world. This can be very helpful when you want to know information about your inbound flight – specifically, is it on time? It’s not accurate 100% of the time as airlines often can swap out equipment if there’s a significant delay.
My Radar — This weather radar application shows the current weather radar for your location. It helps you understand when that next storm will arrive, helping you plan for any delays. It will indicate the speed of the wind as well as the intensity of any rain or snow. This gives you more visibility into potential delays.
Dark Sky —Another weather app that provides micro forecasts for the next hour. It gives you very localized weather information, including timing for when the rain will start and stop around your location.
Hopper — If you haven’t purchased your flight tickets yet, this app uses historical flight pricing information to help you find the best time to buy your ticket for an upcoming trip.
How to Keep Cool During the Storms
There are several strategies that I use when traveling to help keep my cool when travel plans don’t go the way I expected. Perhaps a few will help you the next time you are stuck.
Strategy #1: Plan Ahead
I make it a practice to monitor the weather whenever I am traveling, so I have an idea if my travel might be disrupted. I use a combination of desktop websites before my trip and the mobile apps described above to keep me informed. At smaller airports, it’s essential to also understand flight options from other airlines that you could jump on.
Strategy #2: Pack Lightly
A key to being able to quickly and easily change to a different flight is not having to worry about checked baggage. I rarely check a bag when I’m traveling for business. Having to deal with checked luggage almost always limits the flexibility you have in changing your travel plans.
Strategy #3: Take the Right Clothes
Making sure you have the right clothes with you is another strategy that helps reduce stress when the unexpected happens. Over the years, I’ve purchased many clothes including sports jackets from TravelSmith. They are an online retailer of travel-friendly clothing for both men and women. The blazers are specifically designed to stand up to heavy travel, resist stains, and contain 12 different pockets. I’ve also purchased their ExOfficio travel underwear. It’s expensive but well worth it.
Strategy #4: Use the Right Tools
I mentioned above that I use a combination of website tools and mobile applications to keep up to date with what’s happening during my travels. Having the right tools, and knowing how to use them, is vital so that you can have the most current information possible. This information helps you make more informed decisions.
Strategy #5: Be Nice
I’m always amazed to watch other travelers who scream and yell at the gate agent who’s trying to help them. I do my best to not take my frustration with disrupted travel plans out on them. They, in fact, are the ones who are in the best position to help me. I go out of my way to acknowledge them, thank them for their help, and try and relieve a little bit of their stress at the same time.
Strategy #6: Call and Wait In Line
If your flight is canceled, go ahead and get in line to talk to the agent about the options for changing to a different flight. While you are waiting, also call the airline help desk. If there is a significant disruption, the phone may be your fastest option.
Strategy #7: Be Loyal
There is some debate about how valuable airline loyalty is in today’s environment. I have read some writers say that it is just not that important anymore. Loyalty to a particular airline may not be as important as it was five or ten years ago. But I’m convinced that in difficult situations, I have a better chance of getting home when I have status with the airline. There always is a balance between the cost of the ticket and loyalty to a particular airline, but at least for right now loyalty helps.