When bad weather strikes, it can cause headaches for airlines and passengers alike.

Airlines have coping strategies. Most cancel flights even before the bad weather strikes to cut down on the numbers of people stranded at the airports. They also allow passengers to change flights free of charge.

Travelers need coping strategies, too.

To stay sane, be proactive. Call the airline and ask to rebook for free even before your flight is canceled or the airline has publicly declared that its passengers can change plans with no fee. Even if they say no, you will have studied your options and be ready to pounce. Just check the forecast and make your best guess about when planes will fly. No one wants to change to a flight that is also later canceled.

Book a hotel room, just in case. If you are out of town when bad weather strikes, book a hotel room — one at the airport, perhaps — that will keep you ahead of the panicked masses. Just make sure that it is cancelable. That way, you can cancel the reservation if your flight takes off. Unfortunately, the cost would be all yours; airlines aren't responsible for weather-related cancellations and delays.

I wish I'd deployed this scheme during a recent trip to Europe. My flight home went through Amsterdam, but I missed my flight out of that city because the first flight had been delayed by winds. By the time I got to the reservation desk at one of the Amsterdam airport hotels, the only available rooms were at the club level and high-priced. And I was hardly in a strong bargaining position.

Log on for solutions. People who wait in lines for help from a gate or phone-based agent may miss out as flights book quickly by those who went instead to the airline website or app.

Know the airport where you could potentially spend hours. Where are the sit-down restaurants, the kids' play areas? Where are the chapels? You may need to pray for a change in the weather.

Contact Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com; follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.