What I Learned from Traveling During the Worst Atlantic Hurricane Season in History, Part 2

Machu Picchu and Huayana Picchu: Aguas Calientes, Cusco, Peru Llama Alpaca

When you have to cope with unexpected travel changes:

After an additional, unplanned week in Cusco stumbling over my Spanish, it was weird to hear people speak in English at the Toronto airport. I had this thought – sleep deprived, washing my hands, staring blankly into the mirror. “Excuse me,” one woman said. I turned around quickly to unblock the sink pathway. She continued, “Did anyone in here leave a sandwich in the stall?”

I vaguely remember my parents telling me about traveling during hurricane season when I was younger, but I never listened to them until I was older (sorry, mom.) Travel around the Atlantic is sometimes cheaper from June through November, but while inexpensive trips are what every traveler’s dreams are made of, there are precautions you can take to ensure safe travels, no matter what Mother Nature throws at you (part two).

What to do when you’re stuck at the airport during a flight delay:

1. Explore, people watch, and do that thing you keep putting off.
One of my favorite airport journeys was when I was stuck in DFW overnight. I hadn’t eaten since lunch, and I was sure all the restaurants would be closed when my plane landed around 1 a.m. I did a quick Google search and found out there was a 24-hour Qdoba, which I promptly went on a mission to find. Do your research and see if there are any hidden gems at your airport. Plus, the people you find along the way can be fascinating to talk to (or observe in a non-creepy way if you’re not feeling particularly social).

An airport delay is also the perfect time to catch up on those pesky items on your to-do list that you never have time for – phone calls, paying bills, buying a birthday present for a friend, or maybe even writing a blog. Complete those long-overdue tasks and alleviate a little stress.

2. Sleep it off.
Sleeping during a flight delay is common sense, but when you don’t sleep enough, you may be less alert, more prone to conflict, among other symptoms. Always keep a sleep mask in your carry-on, or use a scarf or sweatshirt to block out light. Earplugs help muffle constant airport announcements. If there’s a coffee shop available, relax with chamomile tea. Consider melatonin or another natural sleep remedy for some quality rest for those 10+ hour delays.

3. Leave the airport if you’re stuck there for a while.
Many airports have luggage storage so you can leave your bags and check out the city. If your flight home is delayed after you’ve already made your connection, you might have an extra day in a place you didn’t plan on visiting. Take advantage of that adventure time and live like the locals. Instead of searching for hotels in the area, book a place through Airbnb, Ruma (for female travelers, coming soon!), or even Couchsurfing.

Sometimes, you can’t justify paying to stay somewhere when the delay isn’t more than a day, though. Look up inexpensive or free events through sites like Eventbrite. Find blogs about local attractions and traveling on the cheap. Then, when you’re tired of exploring, head back to the airport for a nap before your flight.

What to do when you’re back home after a tumultuous hurricane season trip:

1. Get every refund you can.
Hotel cancellations, airline delays, returning things you didn’t use on your trip – make sure your refunds show up on your credit card statements. Vacations take a financial toll, and when you’re forced to spend extra days at your destination because of severe weather, you might have to dip into your savings. Any way you can recoup some of that money is worth a shot.

2. Figure out what you missed.
Aside from checking the news or celebrity gossip sites (whatever you’re into), find out if someone you know has been affected by the hurricane season. You might be in a position to help them.

This hurricane season was hard on travelers, but harder on those affected directly by the hurricanes – those who were forced to evacuate, lost loved ones, or had their homes destroyed. There are many worthy charities for hurricane aid, but here are a few that could use your donation:

Feeding America
World Vision
United for Puerto Rico
Tim Duncan’s U.S. Virgin Island Relief Fund
Direct Relief
MAP International

3. Check your priorities.
Flight delays can put a damper on your personal and professional lives. It’s definitely important to check in with your significant other and your job, but rather than exert all of your energy on other people, also check in with yourself. Severe weather shakes up people’s lives in horrific ways. Remember to take a minute for some self-care amidst everything.

When cool stuff happens because of unexpected travel changes:

Whether you’re trying to find out the owner of bathroom stall sandwiches, learning about the shanty town communities in Lima, or taking salsa classes in Cusco, make the most of your extra vacation days. Hurricanes and severe weather situations are entirely out of your control, so if you’re safe and in a position to enjoy your unexpected time in your new home away from home, do it – you might even come back with a few stories.

Missed part 1? Click here.

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