We have all heard the reports of delayed and canceled flights, thousands some days. Travel is expected to become even more problematic as the holiday season approaches. There are several reasons for this.
During the pandemic, travel was down 70%. Airlines were worried about surviving. This resulted in laying off staff, shedding pilots, selling and retiring aircraft.
Delta let go 30% of their employees, almost 30,000 people. Other airlines did the same. Airlines were trying to reduce expenses, anticipating that income would go down with fewer people flying.
Becoming a pilot is not an entry-level job. It takes years of training. There is also a mandatory retirement age for pilots: 65 years old. If a pilot becomes ill, there are no “extra” pilots to take their place.
Airplanes are built and sitting while waiting for chips that are few in number due to the pandemic, freeze in Texas, and problems at the ports that have delayed materials getting to Boeing and those making key components. Yes, many of the chips manufactured in the United States come from Texas.
TSA is woefully understaffed. It is difficult to find workers for loading and unloading planes when easier jobs pay more. If a TSA worker becomes ill, there are no others to replace them. Thus, loading and unloading planes takes longer.
Flight delays will be the story for months to come. And then, there is the weather.
A few years ago, the Denver airport was closed for four days due to an overwhelming blizzard. The experience of a friend who was in the Denver airport during that December blizzard should help you change your mind about traveling bare-bones light.
Wednesday afternoon, December 20th. I had just picked up my son at the airport and we were driving home when he got a frantic text message from his friend who left BYU-Idaho two days before, telling him she was stranded at the Denver airport and didn’t know if she could get home to St. Louis before Friday. Thus began a harrowing week for his friend, and her family and friends.
Let me see if I can help you understand the chaos that ensued: First the friend was talking to her dad trying to get some help and comfort when her cell phone went dead. There she was, along with nearly 5000 other passengers all trying to contact family through overloaded cellular systems, and very long lines for very few working pay phones. Passengers have just been told they will be at the airport for at least two more days.
Everyone makes a mad dash to buy some food and drink, but no one is accepting debit or credit cards because the computers are down. Go to an ATM for cash? After a very short time there is no longer cash in the ATM machines, or they are not working at all. By the time the ATMs are working again, all the restaurants and food venders are out of food and the Red Cross is still not able to get in with supplies. Everyone is stuck. It has only been one day and already there is no food, no bottled drinks, and no way to get any delivered because the roads are closed.
At this point, it is time to think about just getting some rest and hoping tomorrow will be better. The airport staff has been out to the planes and opened those planes with doors that were not frozen shut and gathered all the blankets. Another line in the terminal forms to get one blanket per person, if you are lucky. Our friend waits for two hours to get a blanket.
There are a few cots, but they are reserved for those 75 years old or older. Families have their children sleeping on luggage they have stacked together to keep them from having to sleep on the floor. And then there are those stuck in airplanes on the tarmac, where snow is too deep to taxi the planes to the gate so passengers can disembark.
Finally, the airlines unload passengers who were stuck on planes. Inside the terminal, some passengers are invited to go to baggage claim to pick up their luggage. Hundreds are now trying to find luggage that hopefully will contain a few things to make this “adventure” more bearable. But no… now that they have their luggage they are not allowed to return to the comfort and warmth of the terminal boarding areas. This is because they are only allowing those with a boarding pass through — the departure areas of the terminal are “secure” areas.
Naturally those who were stranded on planes do not have boarding passes. This leaves those who went to fetch their luggage stranded in the baggage claim and passenger check-in areas — sleeping on luggage conveyer belts or on concrete floors where, in addition to the colder temperatures, they are now joined by bugs and mice (who are also cold and looking for a warm place to snuggle). Of course, no one is really sleeping anyway, for fear someone will steal his or her luggage.
To further sour the situation, passengers are now told they probably can’t get out on a flight until Christmas Eve, three days away.
Learn from this next time you or a family member is traveling, especially during the winter months, there are a few things you should be sure to include in your carry-on baggage.
- Carry your cell phone charger: There are not many, but there are wall plugs throughout the airport and some recharging stations. Being stuck in an airport overnight is bad enough, but when you cannot communicate with loved ones, mere trials become ordeals.
- Emergency ID Card: Always carry an emergency card with your name, home address, allergies, and medical conditions, in your carry-on bag. Also, carry phone numbers for family and friends. When stressed, we can forget these numbers. Have them written sown just in case your cell phone dies.
- Carry cash: Small bills are best. Retailers may not accept large bills in an emergency, so be prepared with ones, fives, and tens. Consider what it might cost to eat, buy supplies, or even a magazine, and multiply by two or three days. Don’t be caught short. I recently experienced a 9-hour delay due to thunderstorms. Fortunately, the power remained on but if it had not, I did have cash in small bills on hand.
- Carry some food for backup: Stranded for four days, our friend only had two candy bars and a cookie. Consider carrying a few high-calorie bars like those in a five-day kit. Some of these bars taste terrible, but others are really good and taste like shortbread cookies. Buy some and have your family test them first. For your travel day, pack a lunch with a sandwich, a few carrot sticks, protein bars and an apple… if you don’t need them, well you were prepared, but if you do need them, they will be priceless. Avoid salty foods that will make you thirsty, like chips and jerky. . FYI, if you want to keep your food cold, freeze a bottle of water. Frozen water can be taken thru security.
- Drinks: With the new flight regulations, it is difficult to carry drinks, but as soon as you get through security, if you think there may be any chance your flight will be delayed or canceled, purchase a bottle of water. You can refill these as often as you need at a water fountain. Hard candy and lifesavers help to keep your mouth moist, too. I carry an empty water bottle and fill it when I get through security.
- Vitamins: One of the first things the Red Cross brought in after three days was a baggie with vitamins for each passenger.
- Medications: Always carry your prescriptions in your carry-on bag. Add pain relievers, stomach medication, cold relievers — you know the drill. All of these come in various forms, so you don’t have to worry about liquids at security.
- Change of clothing: Include a change of underwear and a clean shirt in your carry-on. It is amazing how much better a change of clothes makes you feel.
- Personal hygiene items: Folks in Denver were longing for their toothbrushes. You can get toothpaste, soap, shaving cream, deodorant, etc. in travel sizes now. All of these will be some of the first things to sell out at the shops, not to mention feminine supplies. Anything you couldn’t live without goes in the carry-on. While you are at it, include a washcloth.
- Mark your luggage in a unique way: If you are competing with hundreds or thousands of others with look-alike bags, attach a crazy luggage tag, colored duct tape, or a wild sticker to your bag to distinguish it from all the rest.
- Insect repellent: Sounds crazy, I know, but I would rather not be bug bait.
- Pack a diversion: If you are traveling with young children, pack books, crayons, paper, or a favorite stuffed animal. In our five-day kits we suggest including include a small inflatable beach ball and Styrofoam airplanes. These are cheap, practically weightless, and could be fun for a long time. If they happen to hit someone nearby, they will not injure or make tempers flare. For adults, include a book, magazines, crossword, Sudoku, or a travel game. If you are depending on the games on your laptop you may want to think again; you will need to recharge the battery and everyone with a charger will be looking for a place to plug in computers and phones.
- Mylar survival blanket: If you are lucky enough to get a blanket you will want to use it as a covering and that leaves you sleeping on a filthy floor. Place your Mylar blanket on the floor and even though insects may still visit you, the surface under you is clean, and the foil side of your blanket will reflect and retain your body heat.
- Travel soft: If you are traveling with two carry-on pieces, put your soft items in one bag, like your backpack, and keep bulky shoes, camera, etc. in the other bag. Now your backpack is ready to be used as a pillow if the need arises. There were no pillows provided to passengers during the Denver airport shutdown.
- Moist towelettes and tissues: If you are stranded like passengers in Denver, help and supplies can’t get in. Restrooms run out of supplies, food courts run out of napkins, and Kleenex — forget it.
- Carry on your eyeglasses: If you wear contacts you may need to take them out if you are stranded for a day not just a few hours.
You may think the above list looks extreme, but what will the headlines say thirty days from now? With a little time gathering the items we already own, and a small investment to buy a few others, we can all be better prepared and survive quite well, any airport challenge that awaits us.
Since it is National Emergency Preparedness month, let’s continue mitigating disasters. Catch up if you have not been preparing a little everyday this month by checking out Becoming an Emergency Manager.
September 15th If you live in an area prone to flooding, a hurricane area, or an area experiencing drought, place an ax in the attic. With the drought, flooding is possible in many more areas. Dry ground cannot absorb rain as quickly and flash floods are common. Should you need to evacuate to the attic you do not want to become trapped there. An ax provides a way out.
September 16th Place a few mylar blankets in attic and car. See the article Mylar Blankets Save the Day or refer to the mylar blanket information in your Totally Ready binder. If you do not have a stash of mylar blankets, order some today. Be sure to find the cheapest price. Do not overpay. You can find them for less than $2 and even for less than a dollar if you buy several or in bulk.
September 17th Even though you may think your community has little or no risk of flooding, the reality is that anywhere it rains, it can flood. In fact, roughly 25 percent of all flood insurance claims are filed in low-to-moderate flood-risk areas. Build or purchase a platform to raise your furnace and water heater.
September 18th Call your emergency contact today and prepare them to receive more calls. Have each child practice dialing the number and talking to your contact so they feel confident to do it on their own if they are ever unable to reach you. Be sure all family members have the phone number in their school backpacks, wallets, and phones.
September 19th Install “check valves” to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
September 20th Check and repair or replace weather stripping.
September 21st Check and insulate pipes. Remember Texas and the freeze that burst pipes? They didn’t expect a freeze, but it happened. If you live in a warmer climate, insulate the outdoor faucets and protect pool, spa, and fountain pipes.
September 22nd Locate the shut-off valves and levers for utilities. Know how to turn off the water, electricity, and natural gas lines inside and outside your home. Purchase tools needed for these tasks if you do not already have them.
September 23rd If you rely on electricity for any medical needs, make a power outage plan for medical devices or refrigerated medications. Find out how long medication can be stored at higher temperatures and get specific guidance for any that are critical for life.
September 24th Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors with battery backup in central locations on every level of your home to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning and to warn the family if a house fire breaks out.
September 25th Create a family phone tree for spreading the word during an emergency or disaster.
September 26th You have made a list of things around the house needing batteries. And how many are needed. Today go stock up and purchase the batteries needed.
September 27th Create a list of radio and TV stations that will report during a disaster. Sign up for community alerts to your phone for warnings as a storm or other emergency approaches or occurs.
September 28th Create a family phone tree. How will you let family and friends know where you are and your plans without making dozens of calls? Create a family tree and arrange for others to make those calls.
September 29th Make a list of all appliances and electronics in your home. When a power outage occurs, unplug all of these to avoid damage from surges as power is being restored. Add this list to your emergency binder for quick access when an outage occurs.
September 30th Purchase water filters. If you can only afford a pitcher with a filter begin there and save for a larger unit. Do not purchase water purification straws. These are only appropriate for hiking. You cannot filter enough water with this method.
We cannot prevent disasters, but we can mitigate them, prepare for them so the effects are less devastating. We have spent September mitigating a natural disaster.
Mitigate a travel disaster by traveling with all the “right stuff”.
Carolyn is always available to answer questions and share tips at Totallyready.com and on Facebook. For those wanting information or to participate creating Christmas ornaments for disaster survivors visit Operation Christmas Ornaments on Facebook and on Carolyn’s blog.
Catch Carolyn on Annette on America:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kLaXgPacxE (school safety)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrFKyecixeo (prepping for blackouts and civil unrest)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO_XUJMC008 (prepping for recession)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjtEdX0h2OA&t=2507s (prepping for inflation)
Becca HowardSeptember 14, 2022
Your travel tips are so important. Years ago our flight was diverted to another state due to weather, but our luggage was in limbo. My husband had to be on a job site at 7 a.m. We got a car and arrived at our hotel, and were lucky to find a 24-hour Walmart where he could get work clothes. I had enough to get by in my carry-on until our luggage was delivered. Another time we sat on our flight for several hours before they closed the airport due to snow. Fortunately, we were able to get our luggage, but we couldn't get another flight out for two days. Fortunately, we were able to get a hotel. Every bit of preparedness helps.