In the event and exhibit industry, airline travel is frequent and common. Usually, it all goes off without a hitch. You grab your stuff, get to the gate, board the plane, and off you go. However, if you’ve racked up millions of frequent flyer miles, there’s a chance you’ve also racked up an airline delay or two. And despite our best efforts at managing delays, layovers, connections, and other unforeseen stresses, we might even be faced with an overnight airport stay due to weather or airplane mechanical issues.
This can feel a bit unfair after dashing from gate to gate to make a connection or shuffling with the huddled masses through security, but the many moving parts of airline travel make it all the more unpredictable. And let’s face it, this isn’t some scam or conspiracy out to get you. Airline staff and personnel have as little control as passengers do over the plane’s mechanics and especially the weather.
The best thing to do when faced with a potential delay, whether short or long, is to have a good attitude. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is improved by a bad attitude. Everyone else is as put out as you are, and the poor airline staff is getting an earful by the minute. Take a breath, make a plan, and ride out the inconvenience with grace and class.
Actually, the BEST thing you can do is to plan ahead of time to try and minimize the risk of having to potentially stay all night in the airport. Try these tips:
To Lower Your Chances of an Overnight Airport Stay:
- Choose a direct flight, if possible. The fewer the connections, the less chance of being delayed at any point.
- If you must choose a flight that includes a layover, try to have enough space between the flights so that any delay has time to be resolved.
- Check here for the airports that report having the worst delay records. Avoid those airports, if possible.
- Schedule your flights for morning or early afternoon. The later in the day the flight is, the more likely the flight is to be delayed statistically.
- If you know ahead of time that your flight is delayed or could be delayed because of weather, make a plan before you get to the airport. Maybe it’s better to cut bait than to fish. Could you bump your flight? Reschedule? Pre-book a hotel for a possible stay? Push your meeting back until you can schedule a safe flight?
If an overnight stay in the airport is unavoidable, there’s still a lot you can do to make the most of it. Try these tips:
To Survive an Overnight Stay at the Airport:
- Be prepared. It’s not just for the Boy Scouts! Pack assuming that you might not see your luggage for a while. For this reason, make sure your essentials are in your carry-on. If you do have to spend the night in the airport, you’ll have your toothbrush, contact lens case, medications, and other necessities like a change of comfy clothes.
- Take care of essentials first. In order to feel your best and stay nourished and hydrated, make sure that you have a supply of food and water nearby. Even if you just need a snack and a water bottle, make sure you get it and use it so that you don’t add low blood sugar or a headache to your stress. Sometimes, airlines who’ve had to cancel flights will provide a meal for inconvenienced passengers, but not always. Sometimes, airport food vendors will stay open extra hours to serve stranded travelers. However, this isn’t always the case. So, first things first. As soon as you realize you’re going to have to stay put for a while, get some food and water.
- Do your regular nighttime routine. When you realize you’re about to pull an all-nighter in the airport, do your best to get some rest. Find the cleanest bathroom you can, wash your face, brush your teeth, and complete your normal nighttime routine. Change into a comfortable shirt or pants (and slippers , if you have them!). Keeping your routine even at the airport will signal your body that you are about to get some much-needed rest.
- Get some much-needed rest! Your options might be limited, but do the best you can to secure a cot (some airports provide them free of charge), an inflatable raft, or a short armless row of seats to grab some shut-eye. If none of these are available, use your travel neck pillow to lean back on and prop up your feet on your carry-on bags. This makes you more comfortable and protects your bags from being stolen.
- If you don’t mind paying a small fee and you’re really craving a shower or some space or some luxury, consider hunkering down in a lounge. Lounges are no longer just for first-class passengers. There are now some wonderful pay-in lounges that all passengers have access to for a fee, which includes buffet style meals, drinks, alcohol, Wi-Fi, showers, and lounge chairs.
Whatever you’re situation and however long your stay, you can definitely make do for a day or so. Even if you’re compelled to whine, fight the urge. Fight the urge to complain. Fight the urge to be rude to the gate attendant, who cannot shorten your delay at all. Remember that you aren’t the only person to be inconvenienced , the situation will soon be resolved, and you’ll be headed toward your destination. Air travel is still a marvel, after all! Safe travels, everyone!
This article was inspired by "Top Safety Travel Tips: What You Need to Know For Your Next Trip" by Jeanette Armbrust and first appeared at skyline.com