Getting stuck at the airport is always annoying, but it’s especially so when traveling during the holidays. At first, nothing feels worse than spending Christmas in JFK or New Year’s Eve in LHR, but there are steps you can take to mitigate the amount of time you spend stranded—and act on what’s within your control.
Here are some tips and tricks on how to cope when stuck at the airport on the holidays.
Communicate with the airline
If you’re stuck at the airport on a busy holiday, the first thing you should do is communicate with your airline. On many airlines, if a flight is “substantially” delayed or rescheduled, you may be able to get a refund, even if the ticket is nonrefundable. Most airlines define substantial delays by two hours or more, but keep in mind each airline has a different policy.
Once you’re notified of the delay, immediately get in line at the ticket counter to see if they can book you on a different flight. Then, call the airline’s customer service number while you’re standing in line. You might be able to book a new flight through another airline. You can ask your current airline to endorse your ticket to the new carrier; however, there’s no guarantee they will do this.
If you have a layover, a delay could mean a possible missed connection. If this happens, the airline should rebook you on the next available flight. If it’s not until the next morning, the airline may provide you accommodations and meals.
Tip: TripIt Pro’s Alternate Flights feature can help you figure out what your options are for getting on a different flight. Pro members can search for alternate flights right in the Pro hub.
Accept that you’re stuck at the airport
After speaking with an airline representative, the next thing to do is accept the situation for what it is. Given weather delays, scheduling conflicts, and other frustrating variables, the truth is that you may not be able to get out of the airport to celebrate your favorite holiday. Coming to terms with this sooner rather than later will allow you to make the best of the unfortunate circumstance and not spend the entire day in a huff.
Use credit card travel protection
If you booked your flight with a travel credit card, you might be eligible for travel protection benefits. (Hint: Now’s the time to double-check what your card provider offers.) These benefits can help recoup some of the costs you might incur while stuck at the airport.
Like airlines, each credit card has different travel protection policies. For example, your flight will need to be delayed a certain number of hours under a covered reason for travel protection benefits to apply. Also, be prepared to submit supporting documentation to prove the flight delay reason and your non-refundable travel expenses.
Make yourself comfortable
While terminal furniture isn’t the most comfortable in the world, it is possible to create a lush set-up that’ll keep you happy until you’re able to leave the airport. If you don’t mind spending the money, check out a gate shop for travel pillows and blankets. Grab a couple and hunker down with a book away from the crowds. Or, if you’re near an outlet, plug in your laptop and have a holiday movie marathon thanks to the airport’s Wi-Fi.
Tip: TripIt’s Interactive Airport Maps can help you locate the supplies you need to be more comfortable in the airport. First, head to the flight details screen in your TripIt app. In the airports section, you’ll see airport maps for your departure, layover, and arrival airports. Select your current airport to see an interactive map of the airport. You can easily search within the map to locate gates, restaurants, charging stations, ATMs, shops, and more.
Look up a lounge
Looking for a little more privacy while you bide your time? An airport lounge is just the place. For elite status members, you likely already know where to go. For those travel credit card-toting flyers, this is the time to pull up the Priority Pass app on your phone (or head to their mobile site) to find a lounge you may already have access to.
For those travelers without elite status or a Priority Pass membership, fear not. You can usually buy a day pass (or even a membership) at a lounge’s entrance.