Stranded at the airport? 5 must-follow tips

man stranded at the airport holding a laptop
Find out how to survive every traveller’s worst nightmare. (Credit: Anete Lusina / Unsplash)

The idea of getting stranded at the airport is every traveller’s worst nightmare. It can mean frustration, confusion, and often a lot of waiting and can even prove a drain on your travel fund. To make sure you’re prepared the next time you face a delay or cancellation, we’ve put together five essential tips every traveller needs to know.

1. Find an alternative mode of transportation

Often when facing a cancelled or delayed flight, our instinct is to immediately put ourselves on another flight. Often this can come with extra added costs, particularly if you’re trying to book a last-minute fare with an airline different to your original carrier. But think laterally: there’s usually more than one way to get from A to B.

Consider taking a bus, train, or even a ferry or rental car (if available) to your destination instead of flying. A bus or train fare can often be cheaper than a last-minute plane ticket, and you can avoid the airport crowds and queues that delays can cause.

Rome2rio makes finding alternate means of transport easy. Simply plug in your origin and destination and we’ll show you how to get to where you want to go almost any way there is to get there.

In some cases, however, flying may be your only option. If you happen to find yourself in this situation, read on.

Related article: 7 ultimate tips to survive a long-distance bus ride

2. Find a second city

Getting stranded at the airport can be made even worse if there simply aren’t any flights (or other means of transport) to your destination. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to get to a city nearby. Again, Rome2rio can help you find nearby cities and towns that may have airports from where you can fly out to your intended destination.

Rome2rio will instantly show you any routes to nearby cities and towns (as well as accommodation, should you need to stay overnight), and you can also work with local carriers and operators. Smaller airlines will sometimes service areas outside major cities, and bus and train operators may have a stop just close enough to where you want to get to.

3. Get a room

In some cases, you may find that there simply is no way to get home that day, especially if you’re stranded due to extreme weather conditions or a natural disaster. In these cases, it’s best to stay put and find affordable accommodation somewhere close to the airport. Luckily, you can use Rome2rio to find available rooms in the area.

You’ll want to act fast, since other travellers will be scrambling to book up any available rooms. Being quick will help you secure accommodation within your price range and without having to travel too far. You may even be able to find a local hotel that will accept frequent flyer points as payment or offer discounts for certain credit-card holders or priority airline members.

hand scanning a credit card through a reader
Stranded? It might be time to read the T&Cs of your credit card. (Credit: rawpixel / Unsplash)

4. Whip out the credit card

Delays and cancellations can mean long lines and maddening crowds, but matters can be made worse still if you’re left without funds. This is exactly what happened to one Primera traveller who was stranded at a US airport without money for a next-day flight or even a hotel after the company suddenly collapsed.

This is where your credit card comes in handy. No, we don’t mean simply putting the airfare on the plastic. If you booked your travel with a credit card, you may find that your provider can help you out in the event of delays or cancellations.

If you find yourself stranded and broke, get on the phone with your credit card company and enquire about your options. Depending on the terms of your card, they may in some cases cover the cost of accommodation and even meals up to certain dollar amount.

5. Use social media

It’s likely you’re not the only one dealing with a delay, cancellation or the complete collapse of an airline. Once you’ve waded through all of the people inevitably airing their frustrations, social media can be a powerful tool to find an alternative means of transportation.

Use Facebook and/or Twitter to check:

  • whether the airline or airport have made any official announcements
  • whether other airlines have announced flights or special deals in response
  • what other stranded passengers are doing (you may just uncover a good idea or two)
  • what the best or most economical choices for accommodation are in the area

In these situations, it’s important to arm yourself with as much information as possible, and social media, as well as the travel alerts page of your carrier’s website, can be a great way to stay on top of the latest developments.

6. Remain calm

Above all, it’s important to remain calm and remind yourself that you will eventually find a way to get home. It’s easy to panic when stuck in a strange place with seemingly no options, but that will only make the experience harder.

Think of your situation as a problem to be solved, and remain cordial with airport and airline staff – they could end up being your closest allies.

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Rome2rio, based in Melbourne, Australia, is organising the world’s transport information. We offer a multi-modal, door-to-door travel search engine that returns itineraries for air, train, coach, ferry, mass transit and driving options to and from any location. Discover the possibilities at rome2rio.com