Friday, April 7, 2017

Ten Pro Tips for When You're Stuck at the Airport

Friday, April 7, 2017
Today I'm trying to fly to Portland, Maine from Columbus, Ohio. But the travel demons are afoot and the only flight delayed from the John Glenn International Airport in Ohio's capital city is the one I'm on to Detroit. This means I will probably miss my connection in Detroit to Portland, Maine. ¡Así es la vida!

This kind of thing happens and it's happened to me before. So here are some tips, coping strategies, and suggested activities for you, the stranded birding traveler, the next time you find yourself in an airport with a loooooong delay.

Pro Tips for Dealing with Flight Changes & Challenges

1. Calm Blue Ocean. Don't let this unexpected wrinkle rattle you. Say your mantra. Count to 10. Do some yoga breathing. But don't lose your cool because that helps exactly zero percent.

2. Take Action Immediately. Often the first folks trying to re-book are the lucky ones who get a satisfactory result. Find an actual person at the airline's help/service desk. Then...

3. Be Super Nice & Cheerful. The folks at the counter or gate hold you destiny in their hard-working hands. Upset travelers are almost never nice to these professionals, so if you are, they are more likely to empathize with you and help you to solve your travel dilemma.

4. Ask for Advice. I've had several trips saved from oblivion by throwing myself on the mercy of an airline gate or ticket agent. This is helped mightily if you can abide by #3 above. They can use their computer wizardry to find alternate flights, routes, and solutions to your travel dilemma.

5. Stay Informed. I keep abreast of flight delays, gate changes, and other curveballs via my airline's app and other helpful apps, such as FlightStats. I'm often the first to receive updates—sometimes even before the gate agents.

6. Long, Unexpected Layover? Buy a magazine or newspaper (I treat myself to the New York Times when traveling). Buy some WiFi and download a movie or TV show. Get an airport massage.

7. Rest & Recharge. Find an unused gate with a quiet corner seat and an electrical outlet or charging station. You can recharge your electronics and yourself. I recently did this in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and the nap completely saved my day.

8.  Use Yelp for Food. I use the app Yelp to find the best non-chain airport restaurants. So what if you need to go to another terminal to get the best shrimp-n-grits? That beats eating a hotdog that's been in the weiner broth since the Wright Brothers took flight at Kitty Hawk.

9. Avoid the Bar. I know a beer or bloody Mary would taste super right now, but airport bars are great places to have one too many, lose track of time, and miss the announcement that your flight is boarding. "William Thompson, William Thompson! Please report immediately to Gate Z-74. Your flight to Oskaloosa is ready for immediate departure!"

10. Bird the Airport! If you're  birder like me, you're never not birding. Believe it or not there are birds inside most airports the world over. And there is often good birding outside the airport windows. Walk around, find the best habits and start watching. NOTE: Some international airport security officials may not understand that you are just birding. You may want to tell them in advance just what you are doing. Showing them your field guide helps.

11. Accept Your Fate. If the travel gods are frowning upon you, don't rage against the machine. If you're truly stuck, you're stuck. Inform your peeps what's happening, find a hotel room, and live to fly again tomorrow. And get that bloody Mary.