Illustration by Wren Johnson/ The Sunflower
Amongst other global and national issues, several U.S airlines have been seeing an increase in delayed or canceled flights due to pilot, crew and plane shortages according to CBS news.
I was not spared from this and found myself stranded in New York City for a weekend with nothing but my wallet and carry-on items: no toiletries, no change of clothes and no idea how to survive on my own in one of the biggest cities in the world. To say that I was panicked is an understatement; however, my detour in the Big Apple taught me several valuable lessons about travel, safety and how to enjoy unforeseen incidents.
If you ever find yourself stranded in an airport, first assess your surroundings and options. When I was told that I would not be able to catch a flight home for at least another 30 hours, I had to contemplate whether I would be safer staying in the airport or if exploring the city would be the better, more logical option. If you’re in this situation and have friends or family that live nearby, I would 100 percent recommend contacting them and asking for help.
An essential and often overlooked step is to contact friends and family and tell them about your plans and whereabouts. Send your location to loved ones, keep others in the loop and take photos of the license plates of taxis you plan on riding in if you feel the need. Since I had reliable access to wifi and mobile data, I told my partner that I would contact him at least every four hours that way my location was being updated, and if anything were to go wrong, he would have a general gist of where I last was.
I then debated if it was worth finding an affordable hotel that could provide security, reliable transportation and a nice warm bed.
In big cities, finding and contacting a reliable taxi company is a must. Some airports, like the JFK International Airport, have taxi companies on site that are secure. You can find these by asking airport personnel or at a help desk.
Don’t leave the airport until you know you have a way to safely get to your desired location/hotel and that they have a room for you. Alternatively, if you are asked to leave the airport or cannot stay at the airport/terminal for any reason, finding a nice, well-rated hotel and staying in the lobby to figure out your next steps is a great idea. You are practically guaranteed a safe area with free wifi, public toilets and a small shop where you can purchase food, toiletries and other necessities.
It is up to you to next decide whether staying in a hotel/hostel/inn for the duration of your visit or exploring the city is best for you. Several websites, such as the ADT Security Interactive Crime Map, can tell you exactly how safe the neighborhood you’re staying in is.
Surprisingly, New York City (specifically Manhattan) is rather safe. After doing some sightseeing at the Empire State Building and the 9/11 memorial, I was shocked at how much safer the city actually seems; however, if you are staying in a city that isn’t so tourist-friendly, I recommend putting items like your cellphone and wallet in your front pockets to avoid pickpockets. Bag straps should be worn across both shoulders and preferably underneath your shirt to prevent anyone from cutting your straps and taking off with your valuables. Don’t count your money in public and be aware of your surroundings as well to ensure that you — and your wallet — won’t be taken advantage of.
Finally, it is so important to trust your gut. If something feels wrong or dangerous, find a secure, public area with witnesses or employees or consider finding nearby law enforcement.
A delayed or canceled flight doesn’t have to mean it’s the end of the world. When presented with unforeseen circumstances that seem to spell disaster, just remember to think and act carefully, be aware and enjoy what you can. You never know what experiences and memories you may make when you allow yourself to accept the unexpected.