How to Survive Flight Delays

This is a guest post by Jess Signet

Flight delays are part of travel

Now, I’ve been traveling long enough to survive some pretty nasty flight delays. They’re sometimes unavoidable, either because of weather or because of mechanical issues. But an ugly delay can really ruin a trip: you’ll spend more time in transit and are more likely to be exhausted when you reach your destination, at which point you’ll spend the whole trip cranky and trying to get caught up on sleep. Or on the return, it’ll put a damper on that post-trip enthusiasm and have you stressed out and frustrated even before you’ve really returned to your everyday life!

Here are my top four ways to survive flight delaysso that you can minimize your frustration:

Don’t Wander Off

Unfortunately, the best place to learn about further updates to the delayed flight is right near the gate. Even if airline staff have told you it’ll be another two-hours until take-off,  they may make further updates following that announcement. For example, they may cancel the flight and offer hotel vouchers to those waiting at the gate. Of course, there’s no harm in going off to get some food or to use the restrooms, but I wouldn’t disappear for hours at a time! If you’re traveling with someone else, you could take shifts at the gate and relay information back and forth; otherwise, set up a camp and try to get comfortable.

Take a Nap

Honestly, I can kind of sleep anywhere. At airports, I generally consult the Sleeping in Airports guide to figure out where the most comfortable place is going to be, then I spread out and crash for as long as I have (just make sure to set a really loud alarm so that you don’t miss your flight!). Even if you’re not blessed with the ability to sleep anywhere, there are plenty of ways to make yourself more comfortable.

First, bundle up a little. Airports are generally cool, drafty places teeming with germs, and the last thing you want is to get sick. I’m a pretty minimalist packer, but I carry this tiny fold-up blanket that my brother gave me for Christmas one year; it’s a godsend. Second, take your shoes off. Don’t worry, you won’t look homeless; we’ve all been there. Third, if you’re trying to sleep, throw on an eye mask and some earplugs—you’d be surprised at how much they can help.

Get on the Internet

Increasingly more airports are beginning to offer WiFi access (and if you’re lucky, you may even find it for free). So you can do the same things at the airport that you would back home: catch up on emails, let your bank know you’re going to be traveling abroad, fine-tune your itinerary, plan the next adventure or whatever else catches your fancy. I’ve generally found WiFi that’s strong enough that you can even stream movies or your favorite television shows from Netflix—just make sure you have a Virtual Private Network installed prior to your departure so you don’t have to deal with the site’s geo-restrictions as you travel abroad; otherwise, you’ll receive an error message the moment you try to stream. Again, the key is to get comfortable (as much as possible).

One thing I would not recommend is taking to Twitter, Facebook or other social media outlets to badmouth the airline. I know the experience is pretty frustrating, but unfortunately, there’s nothing the airline can do about most flight delays—and based on their terms and conditions, they’re really not required to help you out in most cases. As unfortunate as the situation is, ranting about it won’t help anything, and it’s more likely to just make the whole thing more arduous and make you and everyone around you more unhappy.

Grab a Bite to Eat

I find that one of the keys to minimizing the stress of traveling (and for me personally to deal with jetlag) is to snack lightly every couple hours. I never like to fly on a full stomach, but snacks like peanut butter sandwiches, apple wedges and really anything that you might feed to a kid keep me going without overfilling me. I find that there often aren’t many healthy options available in airports, and what food there is available is often ridiculously overpriced. But as long as you’re not packing gelatinous or liquid substances (unfortunately, this includes yogurt), you can generally carry your own food through security.

I prepare for unexpected flight delays prior to my trip (especially during the winter, when the likelihood for problems with air travel is pretty high). If you’ve still got food left when you arrive, you can always snack on it that first day while you’re still finding your way around the new destination. I also carry an empty water bottle and refill it when I get through security, which saves me from paying that exorbitant $5 per bottle at the duty free!

Unexpected delays can be incredibly frustrating, but they’re the price we pay for the privilege of jetting around the world. Still, there’s no reason why they have to be pure torture either. What’s the worst/best flight delay you’ve ever had? Share your stories below!

About the author: Jess Signet is an avid traveler and enjoys writing about her adventures. Knowing there’s more to the world than the bubble she lives in makes her want to travel even further. She is no stranger to travel delays and really hopes these tips make any delays a little bit more pleasant for you on your travels. Read more at her blog, Tripelio.com.

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