After my mother made a trip across the nation from Oregon to South Carolina and back despite the foul weather that has swept the nation this week, it became apparent that there are some things that winter travelers need to plan for to make trips in bad weather conditions as comfortable and convenient as possible. Whether dealing with flights being delayed or canceled due to snow or heavy fog, trying to return a rental car during blizzard conditions or simply waiting for a ride to help you make it to your next destination, during the winter it is better to be safe than to be sorry. Here are a few precautions that we decided are essential to winter travel.
Dress for Survival, Not for Arrival
Something that has been chimed at me from the time my brother was in Boy Scouts back in the early 90’s, when taking a trip during the winter months it is essential to dress as if you might not make it to your final destination right away. Dressing in layers and in comfortable clothes will help to keep you warm and cozy should you find yourself stranded at a bus stop or stuck in the airport terminal due to a cancelled flight. If you decide you just can’t cover up that gorgeous new sweater with an unflattering coat, consider packing a coat, hat and gloves in a backpack or rolling carry-on bag that you can take with you wherever you go.
If you are taking medications essential to treating an illness or condition, don’t just take enough for your daily dose. Because winter travel can be so unpredictable, carry an extra three day supply of important medications so that you won’t have to go without should you become stuck for an extended period of time due to foul weather. If possible, keep your extra medication rations in your carry-on as well so that you’ll have them should you be separated from checked-luggage during your travels.
Plan on Being Late
The further the distance you travel and the more stops you make along the way, the more opportunity there is for poor weather conditions to hold you up. Give yourself ample time to get to your final destination before scheduled events, meetings or time-sensitive visits. A good rule of thumb is to plan your trip for arrival 6 to 8 hours before any scheduled event so that you have time to spare for delayed flights, broken-down buses and missed connections. As a bonus, if your travel itinerary does end up moving along smoothly you’ll have plenty of time to get settled into your accommodations and get rested up before you have to show up to your big meeting.
Know the Alternatives
Whenever you travel, it pays to know what other options you have for getting to your destination. Particularly in bad weather, knowing who to call if ice and snow keeps your flight grounded can give you a leg up on the thousands of other passengers trapped at the airport. Before you go, write down the contact information for at least one major rental car service and bus service for each airport you will be stopping at along the way, as well as the contact numbers for your airline. This will allow you to start making calls for other arrangements the second it is announced that your flight has been canceled when bad weather strikes.
Consider Travel Insurance
I don’t like paying more than I have to for travel, and there are many instances where I forgo purchasing travel insurance. However, traveling in the dead of winter is one of those times when travel insurance can be a godsend. Before you buy, take the time to read what the travel insurance covers and how they handle bad-weather situations. Decide if their policy works for you, and spend those few extra dollars for added peace of mind.
Know the Cancellation Policy
If you are planning on renting a car or staying in a hotel during your cold weather travels, call ahead and find out what their cancellation policies are. While some rental services and hotels may go ahead and take your last minute cancellation without charging you if circumstances (like weather) are beyond your control, that level of generosity is often not the case. Before you are in the position of being charged for your stay or for a rental car you can’t get to, know what fees will be charged if you cancel.
Although there is no way to ensure a perfect travel experience during the winter months, it is possible to make your trip comfortable and stress free by planning ahead. Being informed, properly dressed and keeping a handle on your essential needs while traveling are all key steps to taking the guesswork out of navigating the snowy skies.
Source: Personal Experience