And the travel nightmares begin at Logan Airport (Photo: Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
The blizzard of 2015 is proving to be deja vu for Rob Perez, who is stranded in Las Vegas for the second year in a row. “Flight has been rebooked, motel stay extended,” he wrote on Twitter. “Thanks NY Blizzard of 2015.”
Bernard Gershon’s United Airlines flight from Miami to New York was canceled, and the airline offered to rebook him on Wednesday — but he didn’t want to fight the crowds, so he opted for a flight on Friday. “Here I am, stranded, sipping a piña colada by the pool,” he told Yahoo Travel.
Traveler Bernard Gershon posted this photo on Facebook from his unplanned extended getaway to Miami (Photo: Bernard Gershon)
And the New England Patriots celebrated earlier Monday with a going-away rally, before heading to Boston’s Logan Airport to board flights to Arizona — just in time to beat the storm.
But it’s not guaranteed to be such smooth sailing for all travelers during this epic blizzard, which has already resulted in the cancellation of more than 5,000 flights scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. Boston’s Logan Airport has announced that all flights will be canceled — taking off and landing — after 7 p.m. And it’s looking similarly bleak for New York.
So what’s a traveler to do? We’ve got the tips, whether you’re traveling by air, train, car, or trying to book a hotel.
A satellite photo of the winter storm developing over the mid-Atlantic region (Photo: NOAA/NASA GOES Project via Getty Images)
Yahoo Travel lead editor Leah Ginsberg was in Maui on business and was supposed to fly back to New York today; now she is finding herself being rerouted on Delta through Seattle. She’s scheduled to fly back to New York tomorrow, but it’s not looking very promising. “They are being very nice and helpful,” she said. “But nothing is covered because it’s an act of God.”
“Unfortunately, the rights of airline passengers in the United States are not as clear and detailed as they are in other countries,” says William J. McGee, the author of Attention All Passengers. “Thankfully, news reports indicate most carriers seem to be doing the right thing and waiving re-booking fees this week.”
Many of the major airlines, including Delta, have announced that they will also offer full refunds for any passengers who can’t rebook their flights.
And according to McGee once the storm is over and flights start operating again, tougher questions will arise: Which passengers will be accommodated first? How will such decisions be made? How can passengers stay informed? “For those traveling this week, it’s a good idea to make sure the airline has your email and cell phone contacts. And you should be sure you’re still booked before you leave for the airport.”
Prepare for canceled flights (Photo: Thinkstock)
Be prepared for long wait times both at the airport and on the phone. And use social media to get through to the airlines. “I always suggest that people use Twitter,” says Airfarewatchdog founder George Hobica. “The 800 numbers will be jammed.”
Another trick, according to John DiScala, aka Johnny Jet: “Hire someone like CrankyConcierge.com to do the dirty work.” For a fee, CrankyConcierge will help you make other flight arrangements, find a hotel or transportation, and assist in resolving disputes.
Trains and Cruises
You’re not much luckier if you’re traveling on Amtrak: The Acela Express and Northeast Regional service have been suspended between Boston and Washington, and Amtrak is warning passengers to expect reductions in frequency elsewhere. Like the airlines, Amtrak is trying to accommodate passengers on other trains and will also issue refunds.
The cruise lines, on the other hand, aren’t being quite as generous. “If you booked a cruise, you’re probably going to miss it,” says Hobica. “All you can do is ask for a refund, if it makes no sense to go. If you had insurance, your cruise will be covered in most cases.”
Get your car blizzard-ready (Photo: Thinkstock)
Past storms have proved to be nightmares for travelers on the road, including a 90-car pileup earlier than this month in Michigan or 1978’s historic blizzard, where cars in Boston were abandoned on the highway. If you can’t stay off the road, take precaution by keeping a cellphone or two-way radio in the car. Keep the gas tank full. And put together an emergency kit. According to the Disaster Center, that should include:
- Several blankets or sleeping bags.
- Rain gear and extra sets of dry clothing, mittens, socks, and a wool cap.
- Extra newspapers for insulation.
- Plastic bags for sanitation.
- Canned fruit, nuts, and high energy “munchies. Cans of broth or soup. Non-electric can opener.
- Several bottles of water. Eating snow will lower your body temperature. If necessary, melt it first.
- A small shovel, a pocket knife, and small tools, such as pliers, a wrench, and screwdriver.
- A small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels, a set of tire chains or traction mats.
- Jumper cables.
- A first aid kit and necessary medications.
- A flashlight with extra batteries.
- A candle in a metal can or other fireproof container. While candles are generally not recommended in disaster situations, having one in your car can be a source of heat and light if you are stranded.
- A brightly colored cloth to tie to the antenna.
Airfarewatchdog‘s Hobica advises stranded travelers to call their credit card company and see if the card has any protection, either for nonrefundable lost reservations or to pay for a hotel. “A lot of cards have built in travel insurance and will pay $100 or $200 a day.”
Don’t have a credit card with travel insurance? Book a hotel fast. DiScala keeps a list of hotel contacts on his site and says his favorite sources for last-minute hotel rooms are HotelTonight and Priceline.com. Another resource: try AirBnB or, according to DiScala, “ask friends on Facebook if they have any friends that could put them up.”
One thing to be aware of is hotel price gouging, which has been an issue in past storms and incidents, such as Hurricane Sandy or the Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco in 2013, where local properties raised prices by as much as 600 percent. Many states have regulations to protect consumers against price gouging, but the rules are still ambiguous, as most pricing is based on supply, meaning that as rooms go, the rates increase. If you’re concerned that you’re being price gouged, keep all evidence and report it to the Better Business Bureau.