By Stacey Vogler

When you finalize a date to travel to meet your most important client for a big in-person meeting or book travel to head to that important sales conference, you’re probably not thinking about what could possibly happen that could cause it to go wrong. Of course not, you have a presentation to give, a PowerPoint to start crafting and you’re already envisioning success.

What you’re not thinking about is the flight delay or cancellation that leaves you stranded at the airport for 6 hours, causing you to miss your connecting flight. Instead of being in the conference room, giving a great, engaging presentation, you’re in the airport, bored and full of anxiety about what to do.

Trip cancellation happens more frequently than you would think, and delays and cancelled flights don’t care that you have a big meeting to be at in 4 hours. In addition, there are plenty of other reasons that cause a trip to be cancelled, including:

  • Client cancels – things come up in business that may cause the meeting to be delayed or rescheduled
  • Illness – this can happen on both sides, you or the client can get sick enough that you cannot make it to the meeting
  • Inclement weather – this is a common reason for a delayed or cancelled flight

But it doesn’t have to be a complete disaster. Check out these tips for what to do when your business trip gets cancelled.

Start Making Calls

Once bad weather or an emergency causes you to cancel, you should prepare to make plenty of calls. The first should always be to your client. Alert them of the changes to your travel plans, let them know what kind of delays you are looking at and how they may affect the meeting, and let them make the ultimate decision on whether or not to move the meeting to a later time or cancel completely.

If your flight is delayed but you think you’ll still be able to make the meeting on time, still alert the client anyway. In this case, a quick email should suffice, just letting them know about the delay and alerting them to the possibility of further delays. This way, if the plans ultimately get cancelled, they’re in the loop and not surprised.

Next, if your flight or trip is completely cancelled, make a quick list of important people and places to alert of the cancellation, including:

  • Your office and team at home – they should know about the possible delay and any changes to the plan as soon as possible
  • Travel agent you’ve made plans through
  • Airline or other trip transportation
  • Hotel or other accommodations
  • Rental car

If you’ve prepaid for a rental car, hotel and more, make sure you ask the agent or customer service representative if there are any refunds available when you’re cancelling. The earlier you can cancel, the better, because there may be a better chance of receiving a refund and avoiding penalties for cancelling.

Insider Tip: when they cancel or delay the flight you’re on, instead of waiting in line at the customer service desk with hundreds of others (or even more efficiently, while you’re waiting in line), hop on your phone and call the airlines customer service number. They may be able to rebook you on a later flight quicker than the desk agent can, and by getting to them sooner, you’ll have more flight options.

Plan Before you Leave

If you are concerned about the possibility of your trip being ruined due to inclement weather or even the client cancelling (this happens more often than you would think!), you may want to consider purchasing travel insurance. You should purchase travel insurance prior to leaving for your trip, the best time being when you book your other major travel details like flight and hotel reservations. However you can typically purchase it up to the day before departure.

Plans and services vary, so make sure to pay close attention to the type of travel insurance you’re purchasing. Typically, travel insurance can cover things like:

  • Trip cancellation and interruption
  • Medical and dental emergencies
  • Flight delays and missed connections
  • Lost, damaged or stolen baggage
  • Rental car damage and theft

If the trip you’re planning is an important, expensive one, travel insurance is a must. It can protect you against a ruined trip and ensure that your company doesn’t lose money on top of it all.

Stacey Vogler is US Managing Director of Protect your Bubble by Assurant ( Protect Your Bubble helps protect the things in life that matter a lot, like phones, tablets and travel plans.