by a.b.

We just spent an hour arranging for two hotel rooms for four families stranded in New York.

In hindsight, I should have paid better attention to my in-laws’ travel plans. If I had realized they were flying from Africa to New York City Christmas week, I would have made some advance plans. Their flights were canceled and they are on standby until Friday at the latest. We are extremely lucky that my husband works in the hotel industry. He was able to call his manager, explain the situation, and they worked with a sister hotel to house our family. They were even kind enough to give us his rate.

It’s difficult to figure out a travel back-up plan in a situation like this. Even if they could’ve foreseen their flights being canceled, it’s not like you can put a “potential reservation” on a hotel. There are some things you can do when planning and if caught in a travel “cluster”:

1. Do not ever, ever, ever, have your house/petsitter leave the key behind in the house on the last day. If you are waylaid, they now have no way to get back in and continue taking care of things.

2. Contact anyone who is waiting on you to inform of the situation.

3. Call your employer, if needed.

4. Analyze the needs of your entire party when assessing your situation. While you might be able to stay in the airport until you get off standby, you may have others in your party or family who need rest. You don’t want to get on a plane only to have someone escorted off by the flight marshal for being cranky.

5. If you can, find a hotel that has shuttle service and/or free breakfast. Not only does it save money, but when it’s cold and ugly in the morning, you don’t want to be wandering around looking for warm food. Shuttle service makes it easier to go back and forth while you’re checking on your standby status.

6. Keep hydrated and eat snacks. Anything that makes your disposition better is dramatically important.

7. Remember that getting angry doesn’t help. You are far more likely to catch the pity of a transportation agent with kindness than with the same anger the other 200 passengers are displaying.

So our family is fine for the meantime, but we’re blessed. Many aren’t so lucky to have a hotel employee in the family. Those poor souls are blowing their vacation budget on $150-250/night on a place to sleep. I am so sorry.