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The dreaded empty gate. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

We recently had the misfortune of having our flight cancelled when we were taking our twins to college.  Luckily, it’s been a rare occurrence for us given the amount of travel that we all do.  But this travel experience has also helped us know to be prepared for when the unexpected happens, especially when traveling with kids.

When we got a text that the flight was cancelled, hubby and I went into action.  I quietly got up and called the American Airlines priority representative, while my husband, without being noticed, made his way to the desk.  By the time I had an AA representative on the phone, we received a text that we were rebooked for the first flight in the morning.  Only then did we say out loud that the flight was cancelled, so others would know, as it still had not been announced.  The AA agent got us seats together, we collected our bags, and headed home, everyone happy.

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Taking advantage of a flight cancellation. Photo credit Dana Zucker, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

Yes, happy, because we got a forced additional night at home with the twins, a big bowl of popcorn, a movie, and a nice cocktail.  But, this got me thinking of how best to handle a cancellation and how you can be prepared in advance.

Here is the list I came up with for you to be prepared if your flight is cancelled:

1.  Notify Me Option

First of all, make sure you sign up for the “notify me” option when you book your flight.  It should be available from most airlines these days for flight changes.

2.  Stay Calm

Don’t freak out or melt down.  Remain calm, because you can’t do a thing about the cancellation and you need to go into action.  Also, it’s an opportune time to set an example for the kids and show them how you react under pressure.

3.  Deal With The Situation In Private

If you find out before it is announced or posted, don’t tell anyone.  Quietly find a place to deal with the situation in private.  After you have resolved your situation, then you can share the bad news with your fellow travelers.

4.  Airline Loyalty

If you are a frequent flyer, chances are you have a rewards program with your airline.  Flight cancellations are certainly a time when loyalty to an airline pays off.  We literally will take a non-direct flight at times, just to stay on as a loyal customer of our airlines of choice.  If you are a gold or higher member, you get priority and often get rebooked without asking.  For example, with American Airlines, we are rebooked sometimes before the flight cancellation is ever announced.  If you haven’t yet been rebooked, go ahead and call the priority line of the airlines.

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Airline loyalty can pay off when flights are cancelled. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

5.  Get To The Airline’s Club

If you are at the airport and belong to the airline’s club or have access, get there fast.  The agents there can assist, especially if you have status.  We have found if an agent at the gate says no, those at the club will figure it out.  If you have already been rebooked, they can help with seats.

Then, if you don’t have to spend the night and just have to wait a few hours, get settled in.  We always prefer the American Express Centurion Lounge and often book layovers based on where these are located.  I mean, really massages and good food!  The Priority Pass is our second go to, because sometimes clubs other than the airlines you are flying on have better options, depending on the size of the hub for that airport.

6.  Get A Hotel Room Of Your Choice

If you have to stay overnight, call the hotel you prefer to stay at, if you are not at your home airport.  We prefer to stay at a hotel of our choosing if possible, and would rather pay than have to go to some of the airline voucher hotels.  If you do this, make sure you check with the airline as we have often been reimbursed.

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If you have to wait…Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

7.  Make The Most Of Your Time

Make the most of the extra time. Many airports offer so much now.  Get that manicure or massage you need, do some shopping, and check out a new restaurant.  Even hot, good restaurants from celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsey are popping up now.  If you must, you can even catch up on work or all those e-mails!

So, if you follow these tips and have a plan before you fly, stress levels will be lowered for everyone and no one’s trip will be ruined.