Sometimes things go awry when you travel. There’s not always something you can do about it except to be prepared and not freak out. That doesn’t help anyone. When you find out that your short layover has unexpectedly turned into a long one due to mechanical failure, weather or a missed connection, there are plenty of things you can do to pass the time. Look on the bright side! At least you’re indoors and every airport has bathrooms, dining and seating, so your basic needs are covered right off the bat.
Right now the budget cuts have hit the airports, which means fewer employees all around and the higher possibility of delayed or cancelled flights. It might take you a lot of extra time to get through security, so it’s possible your long layover is just from you having to get to the airport earlier than usual to make sure you don’t get hung up in line and miss your flight. Whatever the case, here are some ways to prepare yourself and not have a nervous breakdown.
Is there something wrong with the plane? If there is, then the airlines owe you fair compensation for your time waiting. If they can’t get you onto a new flight right away, you are entitled to the cost of your one-way ticket (for flights arriving within two hours of your original flight) of twice the cost of your one-way ticket (for flights arriving two hours or more after your original flight). This means that even though you still have a way to get to your destination, the airlines are paying you for your “wasted” time, up to $1,300. While you may be inconvenienced for the time being, you are also getting free travel out of it in the future.
When technical malfunctions and other airline issues occur that make it impossible for you to fly within a reasonable amount of time after your original flight would have taken off, you may be able to get more than a monetary reward from them. If the next flight you are booked on is hours away or even the next day, you may be entitled to food vouchers or even a complimentary hotel stay (including transportation to get there). Always know your rights before you fly, so you know what to (politely) ask for.
Has the weather turned against you? When weather is to blame for your travel delay, you are on your own. The airlines aren’t liable for acts of nature, so if a hurricane suddenly sweeps in or ice piles up on the runways, you just have to wait it out. Make sure you have essentials with you, like a change of clothes, toothbrush and toothpaste, prescription medications, battery chargers and anything else you may need. If you travel with just a carry-on, this makes it much easier to have all the necessities at your disposal. It also eliminates the possibility of the airlines losing your luggage while you’re stuck in limbo for who knows how long.
Make sure you have some room in your budget for an extra hotel stay and meals. If you packed any snacks, they can only go so far. It’s good to have an emergency credit card that can cover some unexpected expenses. Just don’t use it up while on your trip there or you may be in for a rude awakening if you have troubles on your way home.
What to do when stuck at the airport for ages? Luckily, most airports are built to entertain passengers with time to spare and have everything from wine bars to art installations. It’s always nice to get up and walk around after sitting on a plane for hours, but eventually pulling around your carry-on will probably get old, so here are some other ways to pass the time:
Read a book or magazine. No time like the present to catch up on your book club novel or Hollywood gossip.
- Answer all your email. Most airports now offer free Wi-Fi, so get online and email back friends, family, colleagues or that Nigerian prince who keeps telling you he has billions of dollars for you (he’d love to hear about your vacation, right?). This free time also gives you the chance to do some school work, blogging or put together that PowerPoint presentation for that board meeting you have coming up.
- People watch. The airport is one of my favorite places to check out people, because most are in a hurry to get somewhere and are whizzing past on their way to their gate. It’s a fun way to “shop” for luggage and make up stories for everyone you see. Where are they going and why? If you are traveling with a friend, you can entertain each other with your ideas.
- Shop for souvenirs. If you’ve just got to get up and walk around, then browse the shops for fun things to bring home for family and friends (or yourself). Key chains and pens are inexpensive and easy to pack, or get really into your trip and pick up a t-shirt with the city’s name on it.
- Go eat something. Flying while hungry is never a good idea. It makes you cranky and increases jet lag. Find a café where you can get something substantial to give you energy and help your body deal with the stress of travel.
- Relax. Just need to chill out? Hit up the airport spa for a manicure or a foot massage. It won’t cost a lot and a bit of pampering is always good for you.
Whenever you travel, remember this rule: Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. How to do this? By being calm and realizing you can’t control every situation you’re in. Make the best of it by bringing things to amuse yourself with – like a crossword puzzle or your iPad – and making sure all your electronics are charged. Wear comfortable clothing while flying and look online before you leave home to download airport maps and find things that might be of interest to you if you end up with a little extra time on your hands. You might find you’re disappointed to not be delayed.