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Dealing With Flight Delays on Your Family Vacation

It’s hard enough traveling with kids, but when your flight gets canceled or delayed, it can add a whole other element of difficulty.  There are some things you can do to make dealing with a flight delay a bit easier – some that you can do in advance and some that you can do once the delay is announced.  Here are my top tips for dealing with flight delays, as well as some tips from other experts.

Empty airport

Dealing With Flight Delays on Your Family Vacation

Tip #1: Find a Day Stay Hotel

When my flight to Boston from San Diego was delayed over 7 hours because of weather, an airport official told me about the day stay privileges at a local hotel. For a fee, you can use all of the hotel amenities (like the hotel pool or fitness center) and get a hotel room to put down your stuff, take a nap, and shower.

Keep in mind that if you leave the airport, you’ll need to go through security again. So doing a day stay at a hotel only makes sense when your flight is delayed for an extended period. You’ll also want to make sure that there isn’t a chance that it ends up leaving sooner.

Orlando Airport Hyatt

Tip #2: Talk to the airport information desk if your flight is delayed

Some local destinations, like Grapevine, Texas near the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport, offer cheap shuttles from the airport to their destination.  The employees at the airport information desk are likely to have this information, so ask around.

Again, like with a day stay hotel, you’ll need to go through security again to board your flight. So make sure that you have plenty of time before your flight leaves.

Tip #3: Get a pass to the airline’s lounge at the airport

Even if you don’t have access to your airline’s lounge, you can often purchase a day pass.  Every club/airport is different, but you’ll often find a bar, food, complimentary snacks, televisions, showers, and other comfort amenities.

This is a great idea if your flight isn’t delayed too long, and you want to stay near the gate rather than leave the airport.

If you have a Priority Pass account and/or an American Express Platinum card, you may have complimentary access. It’s always a good idea to ask.

The exterior of Orlando International Airport

Tip #4: Travel Delay Insurance

“Recently, we found this affordable “travel delay” insurance for AMEX cardholders. For $9.95 pp, it will cover meals, hotels, and other expenses that occur if your trip is interrupted”.  – Jacquie Whitt, Adios Adventure Travel Co-founder/Director US Operations (Editor’s note: This typically has to be purchased in advance of your flight).

If you’ve purchased travel insurance, you may also have some sort of delay coverage. Check with your specific policy.

If your flight is delayed, it’s also a good idea to check with the airline to see if they are offering any vouchers. Generally, these aren’t available if the flight is delayed due to weather, however. When my flight from San Antonio to Boston was delayed 24 hours due to a mechanical failure, we were all given a complimentary hotel room that included free dinner and breakfast.

Tip #5: Be Proactive when your flight is delayed

Kory Laszewksi, vice president of the travel and hospitality group at C3/CustomerContactChannels recommends the following:

Be proactive when it comes to changing or canceling your reservations. In the case of significant storms such as Sandy, many airlines will announce expected delays or cancellations several days before the storm actually hits. Calling prior to an expected weather event will allow the airline to re-book you on another flight prior to the actual cancellation. In addition, while many airlines will waive rebooking and cancellation fees during severe weather incidents, many hotels may still enforce their cancellation policies if they are not directly impacted by the event.

For example, if a traveler is scheduled to fly through New York on route to a conference in Chicago, the hotel in Chicago may not waive a cancellation fee if not made within the appropriate window.

Kory Laszewksi
Airplane in sky

Tip #6: Be Prepared And Pack Extra Items in Your Carry-On Bag

Pack your carry on with snacks, activities, a small pillow and/or blanket, change of clothes, and any other supplies that will get you through a delay. For example if your child/children are still in diapers pack one for every hour of your journey and add ten more. I have seen many parents not prepared for a long delay.

Sara Keagle from The Flying Pinto

Because my daughter has food allergies, I’m always prepared with extra snacks for her. That way, if we are delayed on the plane, she always has something safe to eat.

You’ll also want to make sure that your carry-on bag contains anything you may even potentially need, like all medications, chargers for cell phones and mobile devices, as well as portable chargers.

Tip #7: Have Contact Information Available Easily

Make sure you have your travel agent, airline, and travel insurance telephone numbers saved on your mobile phone in case you need to reschedule a canceled flight or miss a connection. Rather than standing in line at the airport ticket counter, try rebooking a missed connection by visiting the airline’s website on your smartphone or call the airline reservation telephone number.

Adam Bates, Vice President, Insurance for Trips

I also like to bring printouts of all of my flight confirmations, just in case I can’t access my mobile phone. I keep these in a folder in my carry-on bag, so they are easy to grab if I need them.

Tips for dealing with flight delays on your family vacation including ways to prepare in advance just in case a delay happens.

How do you deal with flight delays while on a family vacation?

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Thursday 10th of January 2013

While these are all great tips I had no idea about the Amex Delay insurance. That is really really good to know!

Lori Lavender Luz

Wednesday 9th of January 2013

What a helpful post! I'm bookmarking it to refresh myself before each trip we take.

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