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Flight delayed or cancelled? Make your airport nightmare less awful

Flight delayed? Make it less awful with these tips.

woman in airport Credit: Getty Images

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Whether you’re traveling to visit family or on a work trip, getting stuck in the airport isn’t any fun. Unfortunately, winter weather increases the chances of flight delays and cancellations, even if you're not flying directly into the path of a storm.

With a little preparation and creativity, though, you can make a delay less awful. Here’s how the expert travelers at Reviewed.com do it.

1. Take a nap

The Minute Suites in Philadelphia International Airport.
Credit: Minute Suites

The Minute Suites in Philadelphia International Airport.

Sure, you could curl up on the floor with your head on your suitcase—but there are plenty of other ways to get some shut-eye during a delay.

Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Dallas-Fort Worth airports all have Minute Suites—small, private rooms where you can take a nap on fresh pillows and blankets. If you’ve got a larger group, some airport hotels offer half-day rates. Other airports have “sleep and rest” centers, often included in airport spas like Freshen Up! at San Francisco’s airport.

If all else fails, make sure you have a good inflatable pillow in your luggage, and check out sleepinginairports.net for a good guide to finding peace and quiet no matter where you’re stuck.

2. Join the Club

Airport Club
Credit: Reviewed.com / Keith Barry

Not all airport clubs are this nice—but they're all quieter than the airport outside.

Airline clubs and lounges are great places to avoid crowds, but they aren’t just for frequent travelers or first class flyers. In fact, most lounges and clubs allow limited access to the paying public.

If you’re flying on an airline that has a club in your terminal, consider asking about buying a day pass. They usually cost between $50 and $80 per person, but usually offer comfortable seating, free snacks, and even complimentary drinks. Some have showers, and others allow kids to enter free with a paying adult visitor. Another perk: Dedicated staff inside the lounge can help you rebook a flight.

Many smaller airports have private lounges that aren’t affiliated with specific airlines. They’re often not as fancy, but still a good choice if you’re flying an airline that doesn’t have its own clubs. It’s rare to find a lounge that’s open overnight, but some do have private areas for taking a nap during the day.

3. Plug In, Tune Out

Kid using tablet
Credit: Getty Images

A charged tablet makes a happy kid.

Despite a spate of renovations and upgrades, plenty of airport terminals lack outlets for charging phones, tablets, and laptops. We recommend bringing a fully-charged external battery pack and a multi-plug adapter.

In an airport full of grumpy people, wouldn’t it feel good to bring a little bit of cheer? That’s exactly what will happen as soon as you plug your adapter in and give two more people the chance to charge their devices, too. Or you can make sure you’ve got enough power for your kids’ devices, too.

Another benefit: With a fully charged phone, you can even skip that long line at the customer service desk and call the airline direct to get information about your flight.

4. Take a Spa Day

Spa Day
Credit: Getty Images

Most travelers don't look this relaxed.

Don’t be that guy who takes out his frustration on a helpless gate agent. Instead, look at a delay as a rare opportunity for some forced free time. Listen to a podcast, or get some reading done.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to be optimistic if you’re at one of the many airports that offers spa services for travelers. Whether it’s an affordable 15-minute massage or a full day’s beauty, companies like Be Relax and XpresSpa bring a little tranquility for hectic travelers.

In fact, the biggest reward might be for those who brave New York’s notoriously miserable LaGuardia Airport, where the upscale Warren-Tricomi Salon opened a particularly unlikely outpost.

5. Explore

Today’s airports are trying to give travelers a taste of local life. So skip the Cinnabon and try something you couldn’t have anywhere else.

For instance, the Berkshire Farms Market at Boston Logan Airport’s Terminal B has food, drinks, and gifts from nearby farmers and artisans. There’s an outpost of the famed Anchor Bar at Buffalo’s airport, and O’Hare has Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera.

We don’t recommend straying too far from the airport just in case a delay miraculously disappears. But if you know you’ve got time to spare and don’t have the whole family with you, why not explore the city outside the airport’s walls? Newark, Boston Logan, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Portland, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Chicago O’Hare airports all have direct public transit connections to downtown.

Most U.S. airports don’t allow long-term luggage storage for security reasons, but a friendly ask and a good tip might encourage a nearby airport hotel’s front desk to store your bags.

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