As a veteran traveler and travel advisor, I should have known better.  I missed my flight for the first time ever, after having a fantastic cruise on Virgin Voyages the previous week.

Why? Because I believed the airline staff that there would be a three-hour delay…and it only turned out to be 45 minutes.  RAS and I were a 15-minute walk away, in another terminal, set on getting some free food and drink.  Even the American Express attendant at the Centurion Lounge pointed this out, but we insisted we had plenty of time.  We didn’t.

This came after a three and a half hours’ delay, first because of a jetway that couldn’t be dislodged from the plane because of power failure, then because of other flights not taking from a massive rainstorm.  So, our flight, where we were supposed to return by 3:30 PM Mountain time, instead became an 11-hour odyssey where we didn’t enter our home until 2 AM.

Flight delays: just part of travel

Delays are part of travel, especially when you are flying.  Maybe it’s due to labor shortages, mechanical difficulties, weather, or any number of reasons, but it seems that being on time isn’t a given anymore.

Once, Southwest bragged that they were the best airline for on-time arrivals – so much, it was part of their advertising. I don’t think they can use that message anymore, especially since I’ve been delayed often over the past year.

Miami International Airport, where I spent way more time than I wanted to (photo courtesy of mariakray, Bigstock Photo)

But with this last flight, we had to bear some responsibility.  Had we stayed around the gate, we would’ve been back in Denver at a reasonable time.  But we didn’t, so here are my five tips to make sure you don’t make my goof.

1.)   Check the status of your flight

RAS always tells me to do this, and I must admit I don’t. I assume flights will mostly be on time and if they’re not, I’ll just deal with it.  But we could have spent a little more time on the ship because we saw that the flight would be delayed by an hour, and we didn’t have a set time to disembark.  It would’ve been better anyway.

2.)   Avoid relying on the flight staff

Maybe most gate attendants and flight crew can give accurate information.  But in this case, ours didn’t.  They said it would be a three-hour delay – after having an already three-hour delay – and it turned out to be much shorter, with our missing the flight.  Lesson: stick around your gate. Always.

3.)   Practice patience

This is probably an even more important lesson than any of the others. Expect you’ll have to sit on the plane until takeoff anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, and God only knows why.  That’s probably why RAS and I were eager to walk to a faraway terminal, just so we could stretch our legs. Big mistake.

4.)   Avoid Miami

I’m joking about this one, but I’ll just say that some airports have more delays than others. An airport staff worker told us that Miami had numerous delays over two weeks due to weather. Be mindful of your destination’s weather.  And don’t be afraid to ask staff if delays have been common there, just so you’re prepared.

5.)   Have one day to rest up

When I plan a trip, especially when other family is traveling with me, I always allow for one day of rest and recuperation.  When someone says, “I needed a vacation from my vacation,” this is what they mean.  Having one full day to get over late arrivals or just general stress is always an excellent idea.