Cold and Snowy Winter Weather Travel Tips for Year-Round Travelers

Chaotic airports and people sleeping on the floor are regular sights through the holiday travel season. Snowstorms, the polar vortex and other terrible luck simply seem to catch hundreds of thousands of unprepared travelers by surprise.

Whether you’re traveling for Christmas or simply stealing time away with your family at a wonderful winter locale like Aspen or Whistler Village, you don’t want to be one of those travelers who wish that they hadn’t ruined their holiday by not preparing. Here’s what you do.

Put yourself on the first flight of the day

Airlines put their planes and pilots on extremely complex schedules for the greatest amount of asset utilization possible. This, unfortunately, means that if there is disruption to a flight’s schedule, all kinds of other flights that depend on those planes and pilots, are affected. In winter, when bad weather can disrupt scads of flights in unexpected ways, the domino effect can ripple across the country in no time. Things tend to get worse as the day progresses.

Booking yourself on one of the first flights of the day that you wish to travel allows you a fresh start — problems usually haven’t begun.

Get around the domino effect

Nonstop flights are certainly ideal; if you have to include a connection, though, you need to pick a part of the country that isn’t likely to experience weather disruptions. Connecting through an airport like Houston, Miami or Phoenix, for instance, can be far smoother than going through snow-prone Chicago or New York. It doesn’t matter doing so makes your trip longer than it has to be; staying away from winter trouble spots should be your first priority.

Plan ahead to act quickly

Keep an eye on the Global Cancellations and Delay Tracker service by FlightStats, and Airport Delays by FightAware. If you do find that your flight has been canceled, you mustn’t do what everyone else does — crowd around the gate agent demanding accommodation on another flight. Instead, directly call the airline, or contact them through Twitter or Facebook. It can help to come to the airport with all the apps for the airlines and the hotels preloaded on your phone. Apps can make life much easier when you need to work with an airline in an emergency.

Stay away from the regional airlines

Regional airlines are everywhere now, and they tend to be poorly run. Each major regional airline such as Express Jet ends up canceling thousands of flights each winter month, which is several times the rate of any major airline. If you have a choice, you should avoid getting on one of these airlines. It can take a little homework, though. Regional airlines tend to share airline codes with the major companies.

If possible, you should book your trip on whatever airline you travel on the most. In a crisis, airlines tend to accommodate their frequent flyers first.

Finally, get rooms at hotels ahead of time

When you make a hotel reservation with your credit card, you aren’t charged right away. You’re only charged when you actually show up at the front desk to check in. It can’t hurt, then, to anticipate a flight delay and book a hotel in each city that you’ll be connecting through. It can be a godsend, should you find yourself stranded.

Christy Joiner has worked as a travel planner and events coordinator for a number of years. She likes to share her industry insights with an online audience and is a regular writer for a number of relevant travel websites. 



  1. Elizabeth Matthiesen says

    some fantastic tips here that I would never have thought of like pre-booking a hotel for where ever you have a connecting flight – a great idea.

  2. Thanks for these tips. I agree, it is so important to get the hotel booked ahead of time. On the topic of winter, hubby and I started looking for winter tires today for our van, winter will be here too soon.

  3. These are great tips! I’m glad I haven’t been recently stranded due to weather — it’s happened in the past and can be so stressful. Hard to believe that winter is so close now!

  4. Direct flights are a must. My last trip had connections, and I got stuck in Chicago for hours with weather delays.

  5. Great tips Kim! It’s too bad we have to be thinking about winter travel already, seems to me like we just got the kids back to school and we are heading into November shortly, too quickly!!

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