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Staying sane when stuck at the airport

Woman with a bored look on her face sitting in airport waiting area

The holidays are a great time to travel home to see friends and family or to get some rest with a much-needed vacation. Unfortunately, the winter season also brings snowstorms and other adverse weather conditions that make traveling a challenge.

Winter storms often cause flight delays and cancellations that can throw off a perfectly planned travel schedule and leave you stuck at the airport for hours. The last thing you want is to be is stranded in the airport when you should already be on the beach enjoying warmer weather or back home after a long journey.

If you’re in a hurry to make it home (or get away from home) but find yourself stuck at the airport due to delays or cancellations, here are several strategies for making your escape.

Multi-colored Airport Flight Board Showing Delays and Cancellations

Check the status of your flight regularly.

If your flight has been delayed, it is important to stay aware of what's happening because it could be delayed longer, rerouted, or cancelled. Many airline companies have apps that send flight updates directly to your phone so you can check frequently wherever you are. Before your trip, check the airline's website to see if this is something they offer for download.

Consider alternative flights.

Sometimes an indirect route can get you to your destination more quickly. If your delay is severe, consider purchasing a ticket for a different flight. For example, if your flight from Orlando to New York is delayed, a trip from Orlando to Minneapolis and then to New York may be a better use of your time. If you find that all possible alternative flights are sold out, keep checking. When weather conditions for flying are poor, there are often so many cancellations and delays that many miss their connections and leave open seats. Persistence is key!

Consider alternative airports.

If you're lucky enough to discover a smaller airport nearby, consider forging a new path! After checking for open flights that will take you to your destination more quickly, make the journey with a taxi, a ride sharing driver, or another form of public transportation (if you don't already have your own vehicle at the airport). Of course, utilizing alternative flights and airports does require a larger travel budget. If timeliness is a necessity for your trip, set aside a “rerouting budget” for unexpected changes in your flight plan.

Unfortunately, some delays are inevitable and there's nothing you can do to speed up the process. Instead of twiddling your thumbs and playing the waiting game, reduce stress and conquer boredom with these fun ideas!

Explore the airport.

If you know you have time to spare, go for a walk or take the shuttle to see what you can discover. Some airports feature interesting attractions like bookstores, museums, spas and live music performances.

Go to the gym.

Working out is a great way to reduce stress and clear your head. Many airports have gyms available for customers so you can invest in personal health and wellness while waiting for your flight.

Find (delicious) food.

Even the best of us get hangry. Food may not completely remove your stress and frustration, but hunger certainly won't help either. Airports tend to offer a variety of dining options so you have a chance to try something new!

Write emails or make phone calls.

In the busyness of travel, you often don't have time to stay up-to-date with your inbox—this may be the perfect time to catch up! You could even take time to call a friend or family member that you haven't spoken with in a while. I'm sure mom would appreciate hearing from you!

Man sleeping in an airport terminal with a book on his face

Spend time with books.

It's true what they say: Having fun isn't hard when you've got a library card! The wait for your flight may be the perfect opportunity to dive into a book you've been meaning to read or an audiobook you've been planning to listen to. Puzzles and coloring books are also a fun option!

Take a nap.

We all wish we had more time for sleep. Now—if you can find someplace comfortable—there's nothing stopping you! Taking a nap will help you get rested and revitalized so you can take on the rest of your trip.

Winter travel is unpredictable and you may find yourself in situations that are less than ideal. It's easier said than done, but try to have patience—this too will pass! Who knows, maybe this unexpected free time will turn out to be a blessing in disguise? You could find yourself being surprisingly productive or maybe even enjoying yourself. In any case, if you're planning on traveling this winter, good luck and safe travels!

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