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How to Handle a Missed Connection Like a Pro

Mishaps are bound to happen when you travel—here's what to do and how to stay calm if you miss your flight connection.

We’ve all felt it before: that sinking sensation in your stomach when you’re delayed on the tarmac, as the minutes inch closer to your connecting flight. AFAR Deputy Editor Jennifer Flowers, who recently missed a connection to India because of bad weather, offers five tips to help minimize the damage.

1. Carry essentials with you, especially on long-haul trips. This sounds like a no-brainer, but not enough people put it into practice. Simply pack your carry-on as though you know you’ll lose your checked bag for a couple of days: take all crucial meds, toiletries, and a change of clothes. After I missed my connecting flight in Paris, it took seven days before I saw my luggage again. Luckily, I had my toiletries with me, but had no change of clothes and a flimsy pair of flats to walk in, so I had to make a mad dash to a clothing store. (And if you end up needing to buy extra provisions like I did, check your airline’s reimbursement policy when you’re back home.)

2. Rebook yourself before takeoff. Airlines usually reroute you automatically, but if you’re proactive, you’ll have more control over which flight and seat assignment you end up with. Airline apps often allow you to rebook yourself, and if you have frequent flier status, use the VIP reservation line. Remember that airlines typically don’t cover incidentals such as hotels in the event of force majeure—literally “acts of God,” or anything out of the airline’s control—such as bad weather, air traffic control issues, or civil unrest. So if you decide to overnight in your connecting city, finding and paying for a room is on you (try last-minute booking apps like HotelTonight or BookingNow).

3. Splurge on an airport lounge. If you have a long wait ahead of you at an airport and don’t already have access to a lounge, it’s worth the money to buy a day pass (depending on the airline and the location, they usually start at around $50). When I was stranded in Paris for 12 hours, I took a sanity-saving shower at the AirFrance lounge, consoled myself at the cheese and bread station, and found a quiet corner where I could recharge my devices, check my email, and catch some Z’s.

4. Consider travel insurance. This is important if you’re investing a lot of time and money into a trip, such as a safari, or in my case, a two-week trip through northern India with Uniworld River Cruises. When things go sideways, insurance companies are in your corner to help with such travel disruptions as missed connections. (The cruise company and the hotel concierges were a great help to me, but ultimately they’re not obligated to reunite passengers with delayed bags). Companies including Travel Guard are comprehensive, but you can also look into coverage through your credit card. The travel support offered via my American Express Delta Reserve card included bag tracking, and would have filed a claim on my behalf if my luggage never showed up.

5. Roll with it. One of my favorite skits from comedian Louis C.K. is about how absurd it is when people complain about air travel, especially because flying is a modern miracle. “Delays, really?” he says. “New York to California in five hours—that used to take 30 years!” Mishaps are very much a part of the journey, and can even enrich your travel experience. Case in point: thanks to my impromptu shopping spree in India, I got to show off my multicolored new wardrobe of Punjabis and kurtis on Instagram. It turned out to be a highlight of my trip—and a story worth sharing back home.

AFAR Deputy Editor Jenn Flowers at the City Palace, Jaipur

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