Sometimes the best laid travel plans can be thrown astray by bad weather. / Andrew Holt / Getty Images
Flight cancellations and lost luggage can ruin even the best-planned holiday vacation. The key to a stress-free trip is having a backup plan.
Fly non-stop. The worst problems involve connections, so itís important to take non-stop flights whenever possible. If you do have to make a connection, try to route through a Southern city, where snowstorms and de-icing delays will be less likely. Always allow at least two to three hours for flight connections.
Check the weather. Check the weather in your connecting city, not just the arrival and departure city. If your departure flight is canceled because of weather, you can go home or back to your hotel. If youíre stranded at your connection, youíll be scrambling for a place to stay with or without your luggage. Airlines promise to get you on the next available flight, not the next flight. That could be several days later on a sold-out holiday weekend.
Go early. The earlier in the day you fly, the better your chance of getting rebooked the same day after a missed connection. It will also put you ahead of stranded passengers who arrive later.
Rebook immediately. As soon as your flight is delayed or canceled, get on the phone and rebook your flight instead of waiting at the ticket counter. If your rebooking is delayed, call or ask your travel agent to find a seat on another carrier, and then ask your original carrier to endorse your ticket to the new airline. Airlines are not required to do this but often do. Learn more at www.dot.gov/airconsumer/fly-rights.
Ship bags. A few days before your flight, ship suitcases or holiday gifts to your destination by a documented express service. Itís preferable to losing bags because of re-routed flights and sometimes cheaper than paying airline overweight bag fees.
Know your rights. Airlines are not required to compensate passengers for delayed or canceled flights, but it never hurts to ask for goodwill vouchers for meals, taxis or a room.
Laura McKenzie is the host of the syndicated program Laura McKenzieís Traveler (www.lauramckenzietv.com).