“I’m leaving early. The rain is coming and I want to try to get an earlier flight.”
Have you ever said this when weather is bad on a travel day? I know I have.
What’s ironic is that the people saying this at the conference I was attending were all travel industry people! Experts in corporate travel booking, hotels, ground transportation, airlines – people who understand the travel routine in their sleep, yet have this reaction when it comes to their own flight.
Many of these people left the conference earlier than originally planned because of the fear of having flight issues, and you know what? The 100% chance of rain never happened. Even travel pros are not immune to the reaction that bad weather on a flight day cause.
This reminds me of the very first success principle in Jack Canfield’s (Chicken Soup for the Soul co-author) book, The Success Principles: E + R = O (Event + Response = Outcome).
In this case, the Event (rain) + our Response (leave early) = Outcome (maybe getting that earlier flight or perhaps sitting at the airport for a long while until your original fight time occurs – either way missing part of the conference education sessions).
My Response was totally different, a response that has been learned as a result of thousands of flights. I stayed at the conference to the very end and planned on taking my originally-booked flight. However, before you think “easy for you to say, you’re the travel expert,” know that I wasn’t naive to the weather and I did have a backup plan.
Let me share what goes through my mind every time a travel disruption is likely to occur:
My Bag and I Stay Together!
Plan on not checking my bag. You know at a conference it’s easy to amass brochures, tchotchkes, training manuals, etc. – things that take a bag from previously being a carry-on bag to now being way to heavy or big to fit into the overhead bin. I’ll inquire at the hotel about shipping a box home of these items, only taking with me what’s most urgent to have.
Why do I want to avoid checking my bag? Because I’ve learned the hard way that a flight cancellation (especially last flight out in the evening) due to weather or any reason (Event) + checking said bag (Response) = sleeping in a hotel room without my luggage (Outcome). The memory of an incredibly-icky hotel robe experience always come up when I think of being without my bag, but that’s a story for another day.
More importantly, switching to another flight isn’t as easy when your bag has already been checked. It’s a major effort for an airline to find your bag (perhaps already loaded onto the plane) and get it back to you just so you can switch flights – so don’t expect this to happen.
Always Have a “Plan B”
I also look at alternate flights and cities. I like to have a backup plan in case my flight is cancelled or delayed significantly. I’ll jump on Google Flights to see what other flight options there are from my carrier as well as others. I also look for nearby airports, if that’s a possibility. I’m prepared with this information if I do need to get re-scheduled as it makes it easier for the agent to switch my flights if I can offer a suggested plan for them to start with. (This is also great to do if there is an oversold situation where you might want to take the airline’s voucher offer to be bumped and take a later flight.)
By having a “Plan B” my stress level goes down when I see that there are possible options to get me to my destination.
Patience and Protein Bars Are My Friends
Of course, with weather situations, no flights may be going out. My “Plan B” in this case is to have food (protein bar, nuts, and/or fruit) and a bottle of water in my bag so I don’t go hungry or thirsty. If it looks like it might be an overnight in an airport (hotels all sold out, not enough time to get to a hotel and sleep before coming back for an early morning flight), I’ll buy a neck pillow and travel blanket from an airport store for my makeshift bed in a gate-area chair or for my rest in an airport chapel. If I don’t have ample reading materials with me, or the charge on my phone/iPad may not last, I’ll grab a paperback book or a few magazines. The idea here is to be as comfortable as possible with enough things to do to pass the time quickly.
No matter what, I pack my patience. I go with the attitude that “I know I’ll eventually get to where’s I’m going” and this greatly reduces my stress. Over thousands of flights, I’ve only slept in airports twice and I’ve always gotten to where I’m going (maybe a day late, but I’ve always arrived safe).
It’s this last tip of packing my patience that has really shifted me from fearing (FEAR = false expectation appearing real) and worrying about what could be to being a traveler with a plan who has great travel karma.
Taking it back to the original formula:
Event (possible trip delay) + Response (have a plan; be patient) = Outcome (get where you’re going without all the stress).
Hopefully this formula, along with what I have found works for potential flight interruptions, helps you travel with less stress and more success.
Here’s a resource I shared in a recent newsletter that I think is definitely worth your read:
Today’s Quick Travel Tip reminds me of the story that Jack Canfield (co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series) tells in the Foreword he wrote in my book, Business Travel Success: How to Reduce Stress, Be More Productive and Travel With Confidence! He shares what happened in a gate area when a flight delay was announced. You know that overall feeling of frustration that usually occurs – well not here because of what one passenger did. If more travelers took on this attitude, what a different travel world it would be!