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Snow Delays! Canceled Flights! 7 Winter Travel Mistakes to Avoid

Written by Suzy Guese

This blog post was updated on February 6, 2023.

Every year, travelers bemoan winter travel when the latest snowstorm freezes out their holiday travel plans. Of course, it’s difficult to know what the weather is going to be if you’re planning a trip far in advance. But there are ways that you can hedge your bets to avoid some of the most common winter travel pitfalls.

So if you’re looking for cheap flights in February or beyond, make sure you aren’t making these costly winter flying mistakes.

Traveling Through Bad Weather Destinations

woman making winter flying mistakes

Perhaps the worst aspect of flying during the winter is the unpredictable weather. A snowstorm in Buffalo could affect your flight to Washington, D.C. if you’re making connections right in the heart of the storm. If you can, aim for non-stop flights during the winter. Getting on a non-stop flight ensures that you’ll keep weather delays to a minimum. If you can’t avoid making a connection, trying playing around with the connecting cities. If you can avoid frequently hard-hit airports during the winter months, you stand a better chance of dodging delays and cancellations.

Selecting the Last Flight of the Day

Again, winter air travel can be unpredictable. If you book the last flight of the day and it gets canceled, you’re out of luck until at least the next morning. Try to book a morning flight whenever possible. These flights are generally on time as the travel day has just begun. Also, if your morning flight does get canceled due to bad weather, you stand a better chance of finding other flights for that same day.

Failing To Charge Devices The Night Before

woman avoids winter flying mistakes by charging phone at airport

The holidays can leave us running to the airport in a tizzy. You forget items you need to pack and even neglect your beloved devices. A cell phone that hasn’t been charged before you leave home can leave you searching for the last lone plug in the airport. With delays a frequent reality of winter air travel, you don’t want to be stuck in the terminal without juice, so charge up your devices before you head to the airport. If you don’t have the time, at least book a seat on a plane with a power outlet so that you can charge your devices onboard your flight.

Related: 5 Mistakes to Avoid on Your Winter Holiday Road Trip

Flying on Peak Winter Travel Days

crowded airport around the holidays - one of the top winter flying mistakes

There are certain travel days you’re better off financially and mentally avoiding during the winter months. Christmas and New Year’s Eve can be some of the busiest times to be in an airport. The day before Thanksgiving is also notoriously jammed with travelers trying to get home for turkey tomorrow. You can save yourself the long security lines, potential delays, and your general sanity by avoiding these busy winter air travel days.

Not Dressing in Layers When You Fly

Traveler avoids winter flying mistakes by wearing layers

Dressing for a winter flight can be a challenge. This is particularly true if you’re leaving a location with cold weather to travel to somewhere warm. While you want to be comfortable when leaving your home, you also need to be ready to step out of the plane and be greeted with warm temperatures. It’s also important to keep in mind that airports and airplanes can get hot and stuffy. This condition is exacerbated if you’re rushing to catch a plane.

The easy answer is to dress in layers on your travel day. This will provide you with the flexibility that you need to stay at the perfect temperature as you go between weather extremes. For example, maybe wear a light down jacket over a thin fleece layer or sweatshirt over a long-sleeve shirt over a presentable T-shirt (i.e. not an undershirt). This will give you plenty of options when temperatures fluctuate. You’ll appreciate the foresight when you step out of that airport at your destination and have what you need to shed or add layers when you need to.

Not Padding Your Travel Schedule

When traveling during the winter, you run a significantly higher risk of delays and other disruptions to your itinerary. To give yourself a little more wiggle room, it’s always a good idea to build some padding into your travel schedule. If you have a layover, do what you can to avoid having to make a tight connection. The trickle-down effect from just one missed connection can shave an entire day off your trip.

Padding your travel schedule is especially important if you’re traveling through an airport that’s known for delays due to winter weather. If you have a choice in connecting hubs, you would be better off choosing an airport located in a more moderate climate. It’s easy to check airports and specific routes to verify their on-time percentage before booking your flight.

Having No Plan B

man makes common winter flying mistakes including not having a plan B

Despite your best plans to avoid tight connections and not run into inclement weather, there’s always the chance that you encounter a few weather-related hiccups as you travel during the winter. Before you set off, make sure that you know your rights as a traveler in case of cancellations or delays.

When booking your flights, it’s a good idea to look into travel insurance or trip protection. For example, if you miss your flight because of a weather-related reason, the airline may not be required to compensate you for additional lodging expenses. However, trip protection can help you regain some of these costs.

What other winter travel mistakes have you learned from? Let us know in the comments section below.

About the author

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at

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