With one of Museyon’s roving reporters stranded on the road we’ve experienced first-hand the effects of the volcanic eruption in Iceland. But while Eyjafjallajokull’s eruption may be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, bad weather halts planes all the time. So here’s some tips on what to do next time snow, lightning or plain old bad luck puts the kibosh on your travel plans.
1. Stay Calm
The call it an act of God for a reason; when your flight is canceled, there’s nothing mere mortals can do about it. So relax. Even if money is an issue you need to accept that you’re not going anywhere and you need to plan accordingly. There are ways to save money when stuck, but understand that your extended stay will cost you.
2. Talk to the Airline
Sudden cancellations can leave airlines as clueless as passengers, but you want to talk to your airline as soon as possible to make sure there’s a seat reserved once planes are running again. This is one time where it pays to have a frequent flyer account. Look for a direct number for account holders for faster service over the phone. (American Airlines AAdvantage customers can call +1 800 882 8880; from outside the U.S. call British Airways’ Executive Club at +1 718 335 7070; in Europe, reach Delta SkyMiles at +44 20 8 867 8897).
3. Think Fast (But Smart)
While the bulk of travelers will head straight for the exit, when your flight is canceled the best thing to do is sit down. Even if the airport offers a hotel-booking agency, it’s probably going to be slammed, so find a room on your own. Most major airports offer wireless internet service for about $10 for 24 hours and it’s worth it. (With a little searching you might even be able to find a free hotspot, like the McDonald’s at Paris-Charles de Gaulle.) Log on and research hotels and ground transportation in your area. Stay put until you have something booked.
Another great way to use the internet while traveling is Skype. Set up an account for about 10 Euro and call internationally on the cheap. Global rates are as low as 2 cents/minute.
4. Be Flexible
Keep in mind that most passengers will be trying to return to the city or book hotels by the airport. Don’t do it. Think of popular day-trip destinations in the area; more than likely they are accessible by public transportation, and you might even find a deal.
When our flight was canceled from Milan’s Malpensa airport we used Hotels.com to book a room at the Vista Lago in Brunate, a small town with a beautiful view of Lake Como. The hotel was much cheaper than anything we could find in the city, and it gave us a chance to check out another part of the country. All it took was a quick train ride (with one transfer), a short trip up a funicular (really!), and within about an hour and a half we were settled in, far away from the chaos in the city caused by the delay. Whenever you end up in an unexpected destination take advantage of the Tourist Information Point, usually located near bus and train stations. They’re there to help and can usually offer maps and directions in English.
5. Save Like a Local
Chances are your vacation has taken a hit on your bank account. This is the time to think like a local. Once you’ve checked in to your hotel walk around. Practice the local language. Instead of pricey meals out stock up on produce, bread and other at the local market. And most of all…
6. Enjoy It
When there’s absolutely no chance of flying, make the best of where you are. Vacation days have become increasingly few and far between, so make your extended stay one to remember.
Have you been affected by the volcano? Share your stories with us!