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Leap over the hurdles of wintertime air travel

Whether it’s “home for the holidays” or off on a “getaway”, when it comes to travel during winter months, it’s the “MOST busiest tiiiime of the year!” And flying anywhere between now and the New Year can feel like a race through an obstacle course with chances of flight delays, gate changes, long lines and other travel snags waiting up ahead. Here are ways to navigate air travel and protect yourself against unexpected hurdles.

Book smart

  • Try to fly nonstop. Many winter travel problems often occur at connecting airports for travellers. While non-stop flights tend to be more expensive, paying the extra may be worth saving time and added stress should something go wrong during a layover.
  • Choose a morning flight. If your flight is cancelled or badly delayed, you have time and more options for alternate flights, and the odds are good that you’ll get on a different flight by the end of the day.
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  • Choose realistic layover times. Select connecting flights that give you enough time to reach the gate for your next flight. Here are things to consider: How big and busy is the connecting airport? Is the distance between arrival and departure gates far? Will you have to go through customs and security again? Can typical weather conditions at your layover airport impact flights?
  • Consider alternative airports for departures, arrivals or connections. In addition to winter weather, the overall volume of passengers and flights in certain airports can pose problems. In cities like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, alternative airports aren’t too far out of town and tend to be less crowded. For Vancouver, a secondary airport is located in Abbotsford.

Must do’s before you leave

  • Ensure important documents are in order. Check that your passport and other identification are valid and up-to-date, and that you have necessary entry visas if they’re required. If relevant, get an International Driver’s License and local currency before you leave. Keep backup copies of your Travel Insurance policy, itinerary, passport and credit cards with someone you trust back home.
  • Get necessary vaccinations and ensure you’re covered for medical emergencies. Travel emergency medical insurance is essential any time you travel outside of BC. Many insurance providers, such as BCAA Travel Insurance, are available for a single trip or an annual multi-trip plan for coverage on multiple trips all year long.
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  • Be prepared for unexpected flight cancellations and delays. Harsh weather and busy air travel lead to cancellations, delays and missed flights. Costs related to these mishaps can be difficult to overcome without travel insurance. When researching for travel insurance, make sure you understand what types of airline schedule changes are covered.

    Some travel insurance only covers a missed connection but not flight delays while the BCAA Trip Protection Package for example, provides coverage for any common carrier for both a missed connection and a delay of at least 4 hours. Plus, BCAA Members can save 10% on BCAA Trip Protection Package.
  • Winterize your home. Prevent winter-related water leaks and flooding from happening while you’re away. Use the BCAA Winter Plumbing Checklist to prepare your home before you leave. Ensure you have adequate home insurance coverage as well to help with winter mishaps. For example, BCAA Home Insurance provides Outdoor Drain and Surface Water Coverage along with Extra Roof Leak Coverage. If you’re a BCAA Member, you can save up to 20% on BCAA Home Insurance.

Prevent airport hassles

  • Pack smart. Ensure checked and carry-on bags meet size and weight restrictions. If you're travelling with gifts, do not wrap them so they can be easily inspected by airport security. Pack gift bags that you can use when you get to your destination. Get more packing tips.
  • Use the online check-in and leave for the airport extra early. Avoid standing in a long check-in line by using your airline's online option which is typically made available 24 hours before your departure time. The holiday season is one of the busiest times for air travel, so leave an extra 30 minutes for both domestic and international travel.
  • Prep your cell phone and screen shot your boarding pass. Download your airline’s app to get alerts for flight delays or gate changes. Remember to fully charge your phone and bring your charger in your carry-on bag. In case you accidentally delete the email or text of your electronic boarding pass, or the airport’s Wi-Fi isn’t strong enough, the screen shot of your pass will be saved on your phone with your photos.
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  • Be stealth at security checkpoints. Avoid wearing clothes, shoes or accessories that can trigger an inspection. Choose easy-to-remove outerwear (including for your kids). Make sure items that need to be placed separately in a bin such as the plastic bag carrying liquids, a laptop or gaming equipment can be easily retrieved from your carry-on bag, so you don’t hold up the line.
  • Get more airport tips and details in our blog, How To Get Through The Airport Shuffle