Last week, we got word that a family member had passed away in Medford, Oregon (about a 5 hour drive South of us). When we found out when the funeral was going to be, Nick and I scrambled to find a way to be there. At first (on a Monday evening), it didn’t look like we were going to be able to make it due to schedules and flights (because we’d only be able to be there for the day due to committments and it’s too far to drive for that). But on a second look the following day, we figured out a way to make it work. Sometimes there are things that you just have to make it for and you have to book flights/transit at the last minute to be there which can prove very difficult. Here are a few tips to make the booking and whole trip for an emergency a little easier.
This is something that isn’t well known, but most airlines will offer a bereavement rate for airfare. It might not necessarily be cheaper than a normal fare but it’s more flexible, so if you need to change it last minute or book super last minute, it can be really helpful. It’s worth making the phone call to the airlines to ask about this option before you book, because you never know if it might end up being your best option.
For us, we immediately went for our miles to fly down to Medford. We fly Alaska down there and always keep a stash of Alaska miles in our accounts which worked out really well for this last minute trip. We ended up still having to pay some for the trip, but it was way cheaper than having to pay for the entire last minute fare which was really high.
For a last minute situation like an emergency, airline mileage can become a really valuable thing. If you have MVP or elite status, this can also help you as well with getting a seat, even on planes that are mostly full.
We originally looked at our fares on a Monday evening and the flight we needed to be on coming home (as we had another previous commitment that night back here in Portland) wasn’t even showing up with any available seats. However, when I checked back the following morning, 4 seats had opened up. Whether this is due to cancelations or seats maybe being on hold and then opened up, sometimes checking back the following day can make a big difference on availability.
Traveling in case of a family emergency can be stressful enough, so being flexible with flights and planning for the unexpected can be helpful. Know that things might go wrong, flights may be delayed, connections missed, so just be ready to be flexible. Especially booking last minute, you might not get the perfect times or connections, so be ready to just go with it.
Our flight home on Friday ended up being delayed due to a mechanical issue. Luckily we could call and book ourselves on the next flight (to confirm we’d get home that night) as well as rescheduling our commitments that we had that night back in Portland. Use the technology available to you such as smartphones to rebook things that might come up spur of the moment and just know ahead of time that things might not go exactly as planned.
Because traveling in case of an emergency can be hard emotionally, don’t worry about hiding that. In fact, you may just find that people around you will help pick up the slack if you need. Be honest with airlines or airport security about why you’re flying if it’s going to make things easier. They might be more prone to help you or let you board early for example, if you’re honest about the reason for your trip.