5 Tips to Survive Travel Delays

From delayed flights to airport closures to lost luggage — savvy travelers know how to survive it all!

FlightBoard appYes, to travel these days often means enduring flight delays — and I have had my fair share of delayed flights!

One day, as I sat stuck on the tarmac on a broken plane for over three hours, I jotted down some notes on how to survive the madness of travel delays. We sat there for over three hours. Eventually we flew to Seattle and then on to another city to stay for the night before finally reaching our destination the next day — 23 hours later!

So, here are five tips (and a bonus tip!) to make sure you are prepared for whatever delays you encounter on your next trip.

5 Travel Lessons Learned on the Tarmac

1. Plan to be separated from your luggage

I always pack everything I really need in my carry on luggage. I have a change of clothes, my “important outfits” and shoes for speaking, meetings, or parties, and essential toiletries and makeup.

Not only could your luggage very easily get “lost,” but it may not make it to your plane when you have a tight connection. I have run through an airport and jumped on the plane seconds before they closed the doors. I made it, but my luggage certainly didn’t!

And, in cases like me overnight flight delay, I had everything I needed to comfortably spend the night and start the next day of traveling fresh and ready to go!

2. Have food and water with you

I never get on a plane, (unless I have been upgraded to first class,) without water and snacks. I always travel with nuts, trail mixes and or energy bars. It can be a long time before your flight attendant delivers the “complimentary beverages,” so don’t be stuck waiting.

When I was stuck on the tarmac for three hours, I was incredibly grateful I had water and food with me!

3. Avoid afternoon flights

I knew better. When I booked that afternoon flight I had a little voice saying, “Don’t do it!” But not having to wake up at 4am was too tempting and I risked it.

The problem with late flights is that when a plane breaks or is delayed, there are very little flight options waiting for that day/evening. If it all goes wrong at 9am, you have a much better chance of not spending the night in the airport or hotel.

4. Relax — you can’t do anything anyway

It is stressful. You are exhausted and in a hurry. And if you have kids traveling with you, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

But the key is to relax and surrender to fate. You can’t change the situation, but you can change your outlook. Read a book, get some exercise by walking around the airport, or maybe even write a blog post!

5. Most of all — be grateful!

We would ALL rather be stuck in an airport waiting on a delayed flight then saying our final prayers as the plane crashes into snow capped mountains!

Count your blessings and be glad that you and your family are safe!

As I write this post in the airport today, CNN is broadcasting devastating coverage from tornadoes in Missouri. How can I complain about flight delays when others are suffering so terribly!

All in all, life is about more than getting from point a to point b. Sometimes it takes longer to get where we are going than we want. And sometimes there might be reasons or twists of fate that turn those delays into unexpected blessings.

I hope your travels are on time and most of all safe — but in case you have some delays waiting for you, I hope these tips come in handy!


Josh Becker from DadStreet.com just showed me a fabulous app for your iPhone and iPad called FlightBoard. (pictured above) Definitely an incredible tool to track flight schedules


  1. says

    Great tips! But this year, since so many want to travel with me…I’m driving! Any tips for a 14 hr drive with 4 adults who all listen to different types of music? LOL

  2. says

    Great tips! I didn’t think about being stuck on the tarmac, so the snacks are a great idea.

    I also try to get morning flights whenever possible (and fly direct when I can, even if it costs a bit more).

    My husband and I were going away for our anniversary and our flight was grounded. We were going to miss the ONLY connection that would have gotten us where we needed to go, so we knew we were going to miss the whole first day of our luxurious vacation. I was irked, but tried not to stress out, but I couldn’t convince him to take that very wise advice of yours!!

  3. says

    I don’t do planes however I did have a 4 hour delayed train once. I just put my feet up, plugged in the laptop and enjoyed the free wirleess internet. I am sure it would have been a bad time if my son was with me but I was travelling alone for a conference. I did learn from that trip though to never book the last possible train out. The next time I travelled for a conference I took 2 trains earlier than what I really needed.

  4. says

    Great advice! If you plan for a delay or being separated form your luggage it makes is much more bearable when it happens and if it doesn’t happen you’re not out anything. The biggest adjustment that is important to make when traveling is our attitude. If you get delayed or separated from your luggage being angry won’t fix anything. Being grateful and polite to service providers can only help the situation- always!

  5. says

    Thanks Mom for the great tips! We all hit delays. One way we tend to get through travel delays is not panicking and just focusing. Many carriers in the US still have a rule from when the airline industry was still regulated by the government called provision 240. It states that carriers must do everything in their power to get you on the next flight. Call the reservations center. Talk to someone. You might just get the last seat on the next flight!


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