Always have a travel backup plan ready in case your itinerary melts away

Be sure to make a backup travel plan

If you don’t have a travel backup plan for your next vacation, you need to read this. Seriously. Itineraries go sideways all the time.

I ought to know.

I love to ski. I grew up in Europe, where a few weeks on the slopes is every child’s birthright. So this year, I planned a big itinerary through Colorado and Utah. I wanted to share my love of the sport with my kids, ages 11, 13 and 15.

But I picked the wrong year. It’s been an exceptionally dry, warm winter. No matter where we visited — Wolf Creek, Crested Butte, Park City — the snow was uniformly so-so. I watched our big plans melt away. Literally.

Having a travel backup plan in your back pocket

My experience offers you a valuable vacation strategy. As you make your spring break plans, remember this: two itineraries are better than one. Take it from someone who made just one and lived to regret it.

Yes, visit that Florida beach, but be prepared for rain and cold weather (sure, it happens in the Sunshine State in early spring) and check the museums and theme parks, which are not dependent on the weather. Having a backup plan in your back pocket could save you a little time and hassle if things go sideways.

And they just might.

Make sure to have a travel backup plan
Erysse and Iden Elliott at The Burg, a mineral pool in Pagosa Springs, Colo.
Try an immersive experience

Southern Colorado had a dreadful January for snow. People I met were apologizing for the lack of it, to the point where I had a ready comeback.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “It’s not like it’s something you can control.” I wish it were, though. At Wolf Creek Ski Area, only half of the slopes were open. Skiers scoffed at the “packed powder” euphemism used in the weather reports. “Scrapey,” they complained.

What do you do when you’re off the slopes? You adapt.

For us, that meant spending a lot of quality time in nearby Pagosa Springs, Colo., home of the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring. We’d never been to a hot spring resort, and the idea of soaking in a 109-degree pool while it’s below freezing outside held a limited appeal to the kids. But we tried it anyway at the Springs Resort & Spa, and they seemed to like it, at least in the sense of, “I can’t believe I just did that.”

Talk about an immersive experience.

Always have a travel backup plan
Aren Elliott trudges through the snow along a Nordic trail in Crested Butte, Colo.
Adapt to the conditions

A few weeks later, in Crested Butte, Colo., the same lack of snow kept us from spending much time on the slopes (although we had one fun morning of skiing after a few flurries). Our alternative: snowshoeing around town and exploring the historic downtown. The Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum in the center of town offers insights into this region and the part it played in the development of Colorado. The museum has a vintage gondola from the early days of skiing and an impressive display of mountain biking memorabilia.

Since my kids are homeschooled, our museum visit doubled as a lesson — but please don’t tell them.

If you’re in Crested Butte during a normal ski season, you might not realize that under all that snow, there’s a hiking town. Not all of the trails are accessible in the winter, but to make up for it, they have hundreds of miles of Nordic ski trails. Since my daughter was nursing a knee injury, we stuck with snowshoes. It was a great plan “B” that, on second thought, probably should have been part of our plan “A.”

Always have a travel backup plan
Iden Elliott looks for a little snow at Park City, Utah.
Don’t follow the crowds

In Park City, Utah, our snowless streak continued. Mother Nature teased us with a brief, but intense, snow deposit on the day we visited, but then the skies cleared and left us with those same “scrapey” conditions we first encountered in Colorado. Of course, none of this was within Park City’s control, which didn’t stop anyone there from apologizing.

There’s an alternate that should actually be at the top of your list. It’s the Utah Olympic Park, which hosted several events during the Salt Lake City Olympics back in 2002. For sheer thrills, you need to try the Winter Bobsled Experience, billed as a “highly physical and extreme” experience. That’s not hyperbole.

This is a real Olympic run where you’re subjected to up to five times the force of gravity. I know because a friend pushed me onto one of the bobsleds (and at the back of the sled, where the Gs are the most extreme) and then asked me what I thought. I couldn’t answer because my top teeth were lodged in my lower jaw. But the people in the front of the bobsled could still walk away after the run and they highly recommended it. Olympic Park offers several less strenuous activities, including several obstacle courses and a museum.

Have your travel backup plan ready

Switching itineraries at the last minute requires some quick thinking. There’s a better way. Just in case your carefully planned itinerary melts away, have a travel backup plan ready. That little piece of vacation wisdom applies not only to ski resorts, but to your trip to the beach, your Thanksgiving trip to Grandma’s and your next getaway to the islands. Come to think if it, that advice applies more broadly to anything you plan in life.

Have a travel backup plan — just in case.

Have you ever had your vacation plans foiled by bad weather? How did you save your vacation?

Christopher Elliott edits the family adventure travel blog Away is Home. You can follow his adventures on Twitter or Facebook.

Underwritten by

Underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

%d bloggers like this:
Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.