By Mark Chesnut
The devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy brought into sharp focus the dangers of natural disasters. For travelers, it also brought to the forefront how a single event can wreak havoc on travel plans, as thousands of flights were canceled and airports were shuttered. And while there is only so much that anyone can do to make travel go smoothly during such trying circumstances, these five tips may help.
1. Check cancellation policies at the time of booking. It may be worth paying extra to get a refundable rate. For travelers booking via Orbitz, the Orbitz Team is available to assist, and if a hurricane warning or hurricane watch is in effect where you’re traveling, the company will waive any Orbitz cancellation fees and help you rebook your flight, hotel, car or activity.
2. Consider trip protection. Trip insurance can help things go a bit easier when circumstances beyond your control require last-minute changes or cancellations.
3. Use all your communication options. If it’s reached the point where you need to speak directly with an airline or hotel, and you’re having trouble getting through on the phone line, try Twitter or e-mail. If you speak Spanish, try the Spanish-language phone line. Any of these methods are worth trying—even as you’re standing in line at the airport.
4. If you’re stranded at an airport, splurge. A day pass to the airline VIP club can provide a bit more comfort—not to mention free refreshments, snacks and WiFi.
5. Bring a car charger. When power goes out, it’s just a matter of time before your cell phone and computer will run out of energy. A car charger will allow you to recharge, without having to plug into an electrical outlet (of course, when gas lines get long, a car charger is of limited use).
Mark Chesnut is a travel writer, editor and publisher of LatinFlyer.com, which focuses on travel to Latin America. Hurricane Sandy had him stranded in Fort Lauderdale for more than a week.