Europe is in the midst of a long, cold, and icy winter. With temperatures hovering at or well below 32 degrees, ice- and snow-encrusted Berlin is no exception. Since mid-December, canceled flights out of Berlin’s two airports, Tegel and Schönefeld (as well as layover airports in Frankfurt, Munich, and Heathrow) have been a regular event.
Cheapos traveling from the German capital (or beyond) when snowy conditions prevail should take a few steps to prepare for the absolute worst: cancelled flights and missed connections. The following precautionary measures will make an unplanned night or two in Berlin or your layover city more cost (and time) efficient.
1. Carry on your essentials
It is all too often the case that travelers aren’t allowed to re-claim their bags once they’ve checked them, even if their flight is cancelled or they’re stranded in a layover airport. As a result, a well-packed carry-on is key to avoiding the cancellation blues.
Pack a change of underwear and a clean T-shirt, as well as three-ounce-or-less containers of soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and/or whatever you can’t live without for a night (or two). If you have a cell phone or a laptop, bring along the energy cord and converter plug. If you’re easily bored, pack reading material or a deck of cards.
2. Check your flight
If it’s snowing or the weather forecast calls for snow on your departure date, check the status of your flight online before heading to the airport. If flights out of your airport and/or your layover airport are canceled, call the airline to find out if your flight will make it.
3. Consider Re-booking
If airline officials suspect that your flight (or flights) will be canceled, they may encourage you to book a seat on a flight the leaves in a day or two, or after weather conditions have improved. If you have a flexible schedule and enough euros to tide you over for an extra day or two, you shouldn’t hesitate to extend your trip. Waiting around in a crowded airport is a lot less fun than roaming Berlin’s warm and cozy museums.
4. Avoid the airport
If you find out that your flight is cancelled before getting to the airport, don’t waste time or money on transportation to the airport. Since both Tegel and Schönefeld are too small to handle a crowd, you’d probably be turned away or stuck waiting in a confusing, slow-moving re-booking line. Your best bet is to find the nearest phone or computer and work the airline’s customer service line.
5. Book a room with flexible terms
If it is likely that your flight will be canceled, reserve a room at a hostel or hotel that doesn’t require a credit card hold or advanced payment. If you end up making the flight, you can always cancel the room before boarding. Ensuring that you have a place to stay is especially important if you’re flying through Tegel; sleeping in the airport isn’t an ideal option. (Sometimes guards kick travelers out after the last flight of the evening has arrived; sometimes they herd everyone to Terminal D.)
6. Know your rights
Luckily, travelers passing through the European Union are entitled to reimbursements for food, transport, or accommodation if their flight is canceled (some restrictions apply). Treat yourself to a nice hotel and a big meal if the airline is footing the bill!
7. Bring along a snack
Before heading to the airport, where food is overpriced and not very good, stock up on granola bars, nuts, or other lightweight snacks at a Cheapo grocery store like Aldi. If you get stuck overnight, at least you’ll have something to nibble on.