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Cancellations and delays. Courtesy of Chris Waits.

Cancellations and delays. Courtesy of Chris Waits.

When mother nature gives you heavy rain or high winds, airports get flight delays andcancellations. This could be a blessing or a curse for the casual traveler who was just trying to escape to some warmth over the weekend. When you get that notification from your airline saying your flight home has been canceled, you are either celebrating because you get more time in the sunshine, or weeping as you worry about the extra day’s effects on your wallet. Airlines are not required to compensate its customers for any extra costs incurred due to a delay or cancellation. They are even less likely to do so if those delays and cancellations are caused by something they cannot control, such as the weather. Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your extra days in a cheap way.

Remain calm.

This may seem obvious, but it will go a long way in making the scheduling debacle work in your favor. Stay optimistic, and look at this as an opportunity for more time on vacation, not a huge disturbance in your schedule. If you panic and get upset with the airlines, not only are you making things harder on yourself, you probably aren’t helping the airline out very much either. Be cool, and let them find you an alternative return flight. If you try to take things into your own hands and book another flight, you are likely to end up paying more. The airline you were originally scheduled to fly also may not give you your money back. So let them do their thing while you sit back with your toes in the sand.

Look twice for lodging.

Vacancy. Courtesy of Lauren Mitchell.

Vacancy. Courtesy of Lauren Mitchell.

This may fall into the “remain calm” category, but when you are scrambling to find somewhere to stay after you find your flight is cancelled, do not pick the first room that pops up on a google search. It will be tempting because the pressure is on, but investing some time in the search will save you in the long run. Some airlines may offer to help compensate, but don’t count on it. The rates at some hotels skyrocket if you book the day of, but others drop as hotels struggle to fill vacancies. Take your time and find one of those options. Check search engines such as Cheaptickets.com that will do some of the leg work for you.

Keep your eyes on the skies.

A snowy O’Hare International Airport. Courtesy of Cliff.

A snowy O’Hare International Airport. Courtesy of Cliff.

If your flight was delayed because of weather, chances are dozens of other flights were delayed as well. Depending on the size of the storm that hit your home airport, it may take a couple of days to get things flowing smoothly again, meaning more delays in the days following the original cancellation. As a traveler, you are basically at the mercy of the airlines in this department, but being aware of the higher possibility of another delay can help save you money. Make time to eat a meal before going to the airport, and stock up on a couple snacks for the voyage home. That way, if you do end up getting stranded in the airport for hours, you are not forced to choose between starving and forking out $10 for bag of Cheez-Its.

Spend time outside.

The hike to Alamere Falls in Point Reyes National Seashore in California. Courtesy of Alexi Ueltzen.

The hike to Alamere Falls in Point Reyes National Seashore in California. Courtesy of Alexi Ueltzen.

One of the reasons the great outdoors is so great is because it’s free. If you spent a weekend full of activities that were accounted for in your travel budget, take your extra day or two to deviate from the expected. Explore the nature of whatever area you are stranded in, and enjoy the climate before you are shipped back to the frigid north. If the beach was your main draw south in the first place and you’ve had enough sun, check out a nearby town. Do some window shopping and see the sights.

Cut down on transportation costs.

Bike share in San Jose, California. Courtesy of Don DeBold.

Bike share in San Jose, California. Courtesy of Don DeBold.

When planning out your extra time, account for the fact that you probably do not have a car. Pick a spot you can head to in the morning and remain at for most ofthe day, cutting down on transportation costs. Renting a car for an extra day can tack a pretty penny onto your budget. Ask your airline about accommodating you with a rental car, but it is unlikely they would provide you one free of charge. If your location allows, check into alternative transportation such as Car2Go or a bike rental. Most cities with bike rental programs rarely charge more than a dozen dollars a day.

Tagged: Beach, Cheap Tips, Family, Flights, Florida, Food & drink, FREE!, Last minute travel, Tips & advice