What To Do When You're Stuck At The Airport Because Yes, It Really Does Suck

With almost 4 million travelers taking to the skies this holiday, it’s no surprise that Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest travel times of the year. And while the number of passengers who choose to travel around Thanksgiving has risen 4 percent since 2007, those who fly can still expect the same problems to arise every year — flight delays, cancellations, and numerous other headaches that come with traveling. In fact, some people suggest keeping toothpaste, soap, and other necessities in your carry on luggage, just in case you get stranded in some random hangar. And if you miss your flight? Well, let's just hope you have another way to get to that Thanksgiving turkey.

That’s where I come in. Getting stuck in an airport is probably one of the most annoying things that can happen while traveling… especially during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Some people have even been stuck at the gates for days at a time (sort of a worst case scenario, but still, it happens!). Luckily, I have firsthand experience in this area (thank you, AirTran). I was even stuck at the airport overnight (again, thank you AirTran), and while I didn’t go off and build a commune with the other unfortunate stragglers who were on my flight, I have to admit that at first I was a lot like this:

But then I started to get comfortable, and wound up like this:

I came out alive, and even got upgraded to first class for all my pain and suffering. While I hope it doesn’t happen to you this Thanksgiving (or ever), here’s a short guide to survive getting stuck at the airport:

1. Don’t freak out

Yes, I know it's hard not to panic when your plans don’t turn out exactly as you expect them to. It becomes even more stressful when we realize we have (almost) zero control over our airline reservations after we book them. But panicking is actually the last thing you want to do, if you can help it. You want to have a clear mind so you can take control of the situation and try to…

2. Get your refund

Airlines often offer credit for your next booking, or an upgrade on your next trip if the flight schedule gets messed up. If you miss the last flight of the night, the company may even give you a voucher to stay at an area hotel. Try to take advantage of these offers! When negotiating, remember to be polite, yet assertive — what was that old saying about flies and honey?

3. Claim your spot

OK, you’ve (hopefully) gotten what you deserve from the nice people at the customer service desk. Now it's time to get comfy, ‘cause you’re gonna be here for a while. Pick an empty row of chairs, kick your feet up, and pretend you’re soaking up the sun on a beach in Bali. If you’re staying overnight, this is especially important; flight attendants will often come around with blankets, toothbrushes and the like to make your stay at Chateau de Airport more enjoyable.

4. Check out the scene

So maybe the whole beach-in-Bali thing is getting less and less realistic as the hours drag on. You might as well take a walk and get to know your way around. Airports have also put a ton of money into renovations in recent years, adding yoga studios, fancy restaurants, and even inviting A-list chefs to cook at these restaurants (we see you, Newark!). I guess it's sayonara to those hot dog pretzel roll things from Auntie Anne’s…

5. Catch up on Netflix

Need I say more?

6. Work on your hobby

I have a bad habit of instinctively reaching for my phone whenever I have a free minute or two. I often forget that I have my journal in my carry-on bag, just in case a stroke of genius hits me mid-flight. Whether your hobby is reading, journaling, or drawing, it's super easy to work on it while en route to your destination. If music is your thing, there’s an app for that, too. Sometimes the best ideas come to you in those quiet moments when you least expect it.

7. Mingle

Everyone’s in the same boat, so everyone’s probably just as pissed as you are about the flight delay. Strike up a conversation. It doesn’t matter whether you talk for two minutes or two hours — the great thing is that you stepped out of your comfort zone!

Safe travels this holiday season!

Images: Meme Generator, Giphy (8)