Winter Weather Tips for Business Travelers
Whether it’s a full-on Polar Vortex or a brief freezing-rain shower, winter weather can interfere with business travel. You can’t fight Mother Nature, but you can employ some strategies to keep trip interruptions to a minimum.
Check the Forecast
When travel is in your immediate future, keep an eye on the weather forecast.
“If a big storm is brewing, call the airlines a day or two before the scheduled travel date,” suggests Ellen Friedland, president of Voices and Visions and JEMGLO productions. “Tell them you want to help them and yourself by rebooking your flight a day earlier, since they are likely to be canceling many flights and will have huge headaches trying to reschedule all the passengers. They are often appreciative and will not charge more.”
Friedland, who’s based in New Jersey, says she logs many miles producing corporate videos and documentaries worldwide. “Some days I find myself on a plane more days of the week than not,” she says.
Planning ahead works equally well when business travel involves a road trip. “If I am driving, I keep my eye on the long-range forecast,” says John Wetmore, producer of the TV show Perils for Pedestrians. “If a storm is going to be moving through, I plan to go in front of it or behind it, but I stay off the roads during the storm. I can also vary my route: If Interstate 85 looks bad, then Interstate 95 might be an alternate.”
Although it’s known to snow occasionally in the South, choosing connecting flights in cities at lower latitudes can save you some headaches.
“In January, your odds against blizzards are probably better if you’re connecting in Dallas or Houston instead of Chicago,” notes Wetmore, who’s based in suburban Washington, D.C.
“I am taking a flight next week from Newark to Los Angeles,” Friedland says. “I needed to book a stopover and had the choice of Chicago or Dallas. Since it is January, I am adamant about choosing Dallas.”
Sometimes the best way to deal with a winter storm is to get around it.
“Don’t assume you have to stay on the same airline to get where you are going,” says Robert Longley, owner of 1Cruise.com, a travel agency based in Granby, Conn.
“Maybe you can’t get to your destination, but you can get to an airport 50 miles away by looking for options on available flights.”
Longley says he researches those alternatives before a trip, so that he can swing into action quickly. “Washington National has a noise ordinance that [says] if you’re not off the ground at 9:59 p.m., you aren’t flying out of that airport. Dulles is a $75 cab ride away and flights continue through the night. Baltimore/Washington International is a train ride away, and there are lots of options for flights,” he says.
Veteran travelers say they pack as if they're going to get sidetracked by weather. Longley suggests keeping clothes and other essentials with you in a carry-on.
“If you are stuck in an unplanned city, it’s nice to be able to change your clothes, shower, shave, and brush your teeth,” he says.
Wetmore tries to have something to read or work on, too. “If I get stuck in a motel in a strange place for an extra day, I have something to do, and it doesn’t have to be wasted time.”
Whatever happens, try to avoid getting stressed about it, Longley advises. Take a deep breath and relax. “Many people are shocked and get angry when there is a problem with their flight,” he says. “It's a part of business travel, so don't be surprised when it happens to you.”