Making the most of travel delays

When faced with unplanned travel disruptions, do you get frustrated or take it all in stride? This week, as I experienced the latest in a long string of travel delays, I had a chance to think about how far I’ve come in coping with these frustrations. In today’s post, I’ll share the tricks that help me stay calm when things don’t go as expected.

I’ve been travelling a lot in 2023—mostly work-related trips. Airport and travel services have improved significantly over last year. The long lines, lost luggage, and crew shortages that were the norm as post-pandemic travel ramped up in 2022 seem to be mostly resolved. Even so, it’s always a good idea to pack some patience when travelling.

My travels this year have tested that patience. In addition to routine operational challenges that seem to be the new normal, I’ve had flights cancelled by snowstorms, and even sat through a shelter in place order as a tornado approached one of America’s busiest airports. This week, I can add flooding and torrential rain to the list as I travelled across England by train.

Trains and tribulations

On Friday, I travelled from York in the north of England to the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England by train and ferry.

My day didn’t start out well when my train from York to London departed 45 minutes late because of torrential rains and flooding in Scotland. By the time I got to London, the 90 minutes I had allowed for my connection had dwindled to 25. I raced through Kings Cross station, then hopped on a Victoria Line train to Victoria station. After rushing to the departures board, I was dismayed to see that my 12:05 train to Portsmouth had already left. I missed it by about one minute.

At one time, that delay and missed connection would have ruined my day. Accepting that I couldn’t change the situation, I found the ticket counter where they booked me on the next train departing an hour later.

But my adventures weren’t over yet. The 13:05 train terminated at Portsmouth, not Portsmouth Harbour where I needed to be to get the ferry to the Isle of Wight. Thankfully, the rain held off for the 20-minute walk to the harbour.

Tricks to navigate travel delays

As I walked to Portsmouth Harbour to catch my ferry, I pondered how far I’ve come in brushing off these annoyances. At one time, all these delays would have made me angry but I’ve learned to take it all in stride. Here are some of the tricks that work for me.

Stay calm

Delays are inevitable. Getting all worked up won’t get me to my destination any faster, and it will just make the waiting time worse. I’ve learned to take a deep breath, accept the situation, and figure out next steps.

Refuel and rehydrate

Everything feels better when I’m nourished and hydrated. I always carry my refillable water bottle when I travel, and I also try to pack some snacks. For long delays, I find a spot to sit and have something to eat.

Catch up on reading

I never seem to have enough time to read, but getting lost in a good book is a great way to pass the time. When travelling, I usually load a couple of books on my iPad. In case I forget, I find a bookstore and pick up some reading material.

Do some writing

Travel delays provide an opportunity to write a blog post or brainstorm ideas. I use the time to jot down notes on a notepad or paper, or even a smartphone or tablet. Sometimes, the experience sparks some revelations that I can write about.

Get your steps in

Instead of sitting and waiting, I use the time to stretch my legs. During a long delay at O’Hare airport in Chicago earlier this year, my friend and I wandered around all the concourses. We got our steps in that day.

Relax and enjoy the view

As a writer, I find people-watching to be a great source of inspiration. Sometimes, it’s just fun to sit and watch the other travellers, making up stories in my head of who they are and where they’re going.

I finally arrived in Ryde, on the Isle of Wight just before 5 p.m.—only about an hour later than planned. Plus, I got a 50% refund on my fare from York to London because of the delay.

All’s well that ends well!

How do you handle travel delays? Drop me a comment below and tell me your ideas.

Learn more about me in my bio and on my personal blog at You can also find me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.

12 thoughts on “Making the most of travel delays

  1. Great advices🙂 Inevitably, we get frustrated in such situations, but then what else we can do than using that time to out benefit, like watching a movie, do some writing, catching up with our friends, whatever is possible. As long as you’re sound and safe, all is good🙂

    1. Thank you Christie! You’re right. It’s all about safety. There are lots of ways to make the most of the time.

    2. Right! We often complain we don’t have time to do these kinds of things so why not make the most of the time!

  2. Travel delays are very annoying. But at the airport they are somehow manageable. I usually walk a lot (I have the RLS – Restless Legs Syndrome and I need to walk). But what happened to me in Fuerteventura a few weeks ago when I waited 50 minutes for a bus wasn’t manageable. No comment about the poor service. I only had my mobile with me and started to read, check all my accounts, replies to my emails and blog posts, but still the bus didn’t arrive. So I started to chat with my friend who didn’t want to go with me to see the dunes. And finally the bus arrived. It was worth seeing the dunes, so no regrets for this excursion. But on my way back I took a taxi!

    1. Oh that reminds me of something that happened when I went to France the summer I turned 18. We took the bus to this little small town to visit a winery. When we got there, we learned there was no return bus. We set out walking, and then ended up hitchhiking.

  3. Hi. I know your piece is about travel tribulations, but we Americans face more profound challenges than delays. We simply don’t have the travel choices that many other people elsewhere have. We have the automobile and that’s about it. I hear rumblings about trains and trams being built here and there in the USA, but these projects will likely be completed long into the future.

    I have this pet peeve. I really hate cars. They are ruining our planet. They are money pits. They cause many of us to walk less and get fat. They have us racing through time and space so that we slowly lose our ability to take notice of all the wonderful things around us.

    I agree with crisbiecoach that travel delays are more manageable in airports. Airports are magical places. They are hub spots where the diverse peoples of the world come together under one roof. I can spend hours people watching in airports. Of course, you mention people watching in your piece.

    Perhaps delays are an opportunity to practice patience? Perhaps that’s a hidden benefit?

    Thanks for this interesting piece on a topic not often discussed.

    1. Yes! I totally agree on the lack of transportation options in America, and also in Canada, Troy. In fact, after my experience here in the UK last week, I wrote a piece on my personal blog on the weekend about my “train envy”. We have a long way to go in North America to reduce our dependence on cars.

      And, yes to the opportunity to practise patience! That’s something we can all get better at, for sure.

  4. I’ve had some doozy travel delays, but I tried to look at it from the point of view that maybe we had been spared from a catastrophe. Whether it was true or not, the sense of gratitude of being safe helped me into a positive frame of mind, so I could breathe, do the tips you had advised and even work on creating some artwork I had packed in my bag. Life is all about how we choose to see things, and when I learned that lesson it really helped me in so many areas. Bravo to you for learning those lessons and sharing them too!

    1. That’s a really good point, Tamara. After the tornado scare at O’Hare earlier this year, I admit to being extremely nervous that our flight operated when so many others had been cancelled. I was VERY glad when we landed safely in Toronto.

      Ultimately these things are out of our control so all we can do is make the best of them.

  5. Love your attitude about delays. And look at this one – you got a blog post out of it so that’s a bonus too! ” a good idea to pack some patience when travelling.” So good. And your tips for going for with the flow? So good!

Leave a Reply