6 tips to ease winter travel woes

Snow & Cold Bring Out Warm Hearted Couple

(CNN) — It’s going to be a long journey home for many travelers this weekend. Blizzard conditions in the Northeast and winter weather across much of the United States mean a whole lot of waiting for people itching to be on the move.

FlightAware.com, which tracks cancellations due to weather and mechanical problems, showed about 2,000 flight cancellations for Friday. On Thursday, more than 2,600 U.S. flights were canceled. Flight operations were suspended at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday morning because of zero visibility and blowing snow, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Twitter feed.

With 1 to 2 feet of snow on the ground in parts of the Northeast, driving is not advised.

Here are some tips to ease the trip home, but above all else, patience — and caution — will be key.

Rebook your flight for free. Airlines rolled out their customary winter weather waivers this week, so most passengers traveling to or from affected areas can make one itinerary change without paying a change fee. Delta, American, US Airways, United, Southwest/AirTran and JetBlue have all posted weather policies on their websites.

Follow your airline and airport on social media. Many airlines and airports post the speediest updates to their Twitter feeds, so start following them now. Sign up for airline alerts to get flight updates e-mailed to your smartphone.

If you’re stranded, multitask. Get online, get on the phone and get in the ticketing line (if you’re already at the airport). With thousands of flights delayed or canceled, competition will be fierce for seats when operations start humming again. Use the NextFlight app and type in your city pair to get the next flights for the major airlines, suggests Benet J. Wilson, Aviation Queen travel blogger. Then, call the airline on your cell phone and give them your preferred options.

Charge your devices. Hopefully, you’re not among those travelers stranded at the airport, where jockeying for electrical outlets is inevitable. Charge up before you head out, and keep a car charger and a power pack or a few battery chargers for your portable electronic devices handy.

Check your flight, no matter where you’re going. Think you don’t have to worry about bad weather because you’re flying from sunny California to sunny Florida? Not so fast. That airplane you’re picking up in San Diego may have been coming from New York. If your aircraft is coming from a city hit by foul weather, it can still hold up your travel. Check your aircraft’s journey on your airline website or with an app like Flightview.

Use common sense: Don’t drive into a storm. It’s treacherous out there. Monitor your local and regional forecasts, and don’t drive if you don’t have to.

AAA advises motorists to check tire pressure and make sure car batteries, cooling systems and antifeeze levels are in order. Keep gas tanks close to full, the automobile association advises, so that you’ll be able to run the engine for heat in case you get stranded.

AAA suggests keeping the following items in your car: a shovel and a bag of sand, a snowbrush and ice scraper, jumper cables, a spare tire, windshield wiper fluid, a cell phone and car charger and blankets, gloves, hats and food, water and essential medication.

By Marnie Hunter, CNN

CNN’s Katia Hetter contributed to this report.

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