The recent Arctic blast that froze the nation caused the cancellation of many thousands of flights. Particularly hard-hit was Southwest, which suspended flights out of Chicago for a stretch, and JetBlue, which shut down flights out of New York City area airports and Boston Logan. Very chilling, especially for those stuck sleeping on cots in airports.

Winter weather delays are nothing new to Minnesotans. Savvy fliers here head to the airport well stocked. Here’s my list of what you should pack when winter weather threatens:

1. Your airline’s telephone number: Program the customer service number into your smartphone. When 200 people suddenly rush to ticketing for rebooking, the line can get maddeningly long. Get in line, too, because sometimes going eye-to-eye helps your cause, but also call immediately to try for a quick fix before empty seats on other flights fill up.

2. Food, water, drugs: Don’t underestimate the benefits of steady blood sugar and hydration. Snacks and a water bottle that you can fill once you pass through security can help you stay calm, even if the airport experience turns frenetic. Be sure to pack any medication you need in your carry-on so you have it on hand.

3. Polite persistence: Friends trying to return from Vermont as the deep freeze took hold were told they couldn’t fly out until the next morning. But they had overheard a fellow flier as he was rebooked on another airline. They quietly but firmly requested to also be booked on the flight and got home that night.

4. Your credit card: Because sometimes you do get stuck, prepared to pony up for meals and hotels. Airlines are not bound to cover such costs for delays caused by weather.


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.