I am Canadian, and winter is a big part of my life. In fact, our winters are very cold with some days in January and February with temperatures as cold as -40C/-40F with the windchill. Traveling in wintertime can be challenging. I’ve spent more than 15 years of my previous career traveling multiple times a week, a good portion of that time in winter conditions. I want to share 7 tips that could make your winter air travel easier.
1 – Do your research. Google is your friend, and researching the current and average temperature of your destination will help you plan when choosing your clothing for your trip.
2 – If your trip involves layovers, choose longer layovers. It always amazed me how long de-icing takes when flying in ice and snow storms or very cold conditions. Many of my flights were delayed due to the time needed to de-ice numerous planes. Expect that it could add anywhere from 15-45 minutes in the total transit time. Don’t choose a shorter layover during the winter. It is much better to be in an airport for 2 extra hours rather than miss your connection by mere minutes.
3 – Travel wearing layers. It is much easier to deal with temperature changes both in the airplane, train or car when wearing layers. I often had to change planes in Chicago Illinois known as “the windy city”. Believe me, in the deep winter, Chicago can be brutally cold. My first bad experience flying in the winter saw me making the choice to wear a lighter coat for my flight. Little did I know that commuter planes often land away from the terminal, and we are required to walk on the tarmac, wait for our curbside luggage while braving the elements, and proceed to walk a few minutes to the terminal. When the temperature is in the minus double digits, strong winds are knocking us over and the snow is making it challenging to see ahead of us, a few layers of clothing works well. You can also have the option to take off a layer or two while traveling, for your own comfort.
4 – Always, always, always check your flight status. Winter storms can occur quickly, and it is always a safe practice to check and verify the status of flights. Your local weather might be fine, but your destination weather might be the issue. I always sign up for text or email notification of flight changes, but messages don’t always get sent real time.
All airlines have online flight status which lists cancellations, delays, on time schedules etc. Have your airline numbers handy, as well as websites and check for any update messages.
One website I like to check is FlightAware – it lists information on delays and cancellations by airlines and airports. It even has an interesting page called the MiseryMap.
5 – Add extra time for travel to and from the airport. I never hesitate to add lots of extra time to get to or from the airport. Snowfalls might have already occurred, but winter winds and snow drifts can drastically slow down travel to the airport. Plan accordingly.
6 – Bring snacks in case of weather delays. I often sat on the plane for hours waiting for a window of good weather for our plane to take off. Delays do not always occur when you are in the airport terminal. Bring nuts, power bars, dried fruits and other authorized food to carry you over should you be stranded on the tarmac for an extended period of time.
7 – Be patient. It can be very challenging traveling by air in the winter. Please be patient with the ticket agents, captain, crew and other passengers. They are also inconvenienced by the weather challenges, and it doesn’t make for a good flight if tempers flare.
Winter weather doesn’t have to curtail your travel plans but it does require a bit more planning than summer weather. I personally thrive on leaving the blistering cold city to head off to a warm island or a beautiful cruise in the warmth of the tropics.
What do you do to ensure a good winter travel experience?