As Hurricane Sandy gains strength and takes aim at a wide swath of the East Coast, the menacing storm has already shredded travel plans from Hawaii to Europe - and options are decidedly limited for those trying to get out of or back into the region. A look at what to expect:
- Airlines canceled nearly 7,000 flights Sunday in an effort to get planes out of the storm's path, and most airports from the mid-Atlantic to Boston will suspend operations today as the storm moves ashore. If your flight is scrapped (or, as United's policy states, delayed more than two hours) you're entitled to a full refund; airlines have waived their change fees but require you to rebook and travel by Nov. 7 to avoid paying any difference in fares. Monitor airlines' and airports' websites (and Twitter feeds) for the latest updates, and expect long delays if you're calling an airline's 800 number.Power failures may keep airline employees from getting to airports to restart service once the worst of the storm passes.
- Amtrak is suspending all train service from Boston south to Raleigh, N.C., and from the East Coast to Chicago, New Orleans and Florida through Tuesday. Passengers can receive a refund or voucher for future travel.
- Bolt bus, Megabus and other commercial bus companies canceled East Coast service Monday and Tuesday; Bolt says travelers with reservations will receive automatic refunds to their credit cards.
- Hotels and vacation rentals, even those with nonrefundable rates, are issuing refunds or credits for future stays. Airbnb, for example, says travelers may be eligible for refunds under its "extenuating circumstances" policy, but warns that "any additional refunds may take several days for us to review and finalize."
And some hotels are offering storm specials: Kimpton hotels in New York City and Boston are discounting rates 20%, and in Washington, D.C., the Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown has a special rate of $229, including parking and Wi-Fi.
If you're stranded at an airport, ask area hotels about discounted "distressed traveler rates" - but you may land an even better price by going through Hotwire or Priceline.
- Plan ahead for extended delays by making sure you have a list of airline and hotel contacts, electronic chargers and extra food in your carry-on bag (which, in itself, is a good strategy for minimizing headaches on unexpected tight connections).
- Check your insurance policy. According to Chris Harvey of the travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth, "if a traveler's home is rendered uninhabitable by a hurricane, their travel insurance policy may cover them to cancel their trip or come home early and receive reimbursement." The catch: You would have had to purchase the policy before Sandy was named a tropical storm.
Copyright 2013 USATODAY.com
Read the original story: Strategies for storm-tossed travelers