Your guide to traveling in the storm, from canceled flights to driving

How to prepare your car for winter weather, track flight cancellations and get a refund from airlines

(iStock/Washington Post Illustration)

Heading home — or somewhere far away — for the holidays? We have two words, as a monster winter storm bears down on much of the country: Good luck.

By Friday morning, thousands of flights have been canceled or delayed, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware. And the storm isn’t done. Anyone getting ready to fly, drive or take a train should prepare for extra headaches.

Here are our best tips on surviving the holiday travel mess.

Get the latest update on the ‘bomb cyclone’

On one of the busiest travel days of the year, an exceptional Arctic blast has sent temperatures tumbling in the eastern U.S. while a powerful blizzard is underway in the Great Lakes region. From Montana to north Georgia, icy winds are producing subzero wind chills as blinding snow pastes portions of Michigan, Ohio and the interior Northeast. Follow our live coverage for the latest updates.

Six maps that show severity of Arctic blast and winter storm

How to track flight cancellations and delays

Airports in Chicago and Detroit are among the major travel centers expected to see some of the worst blizzard conditions. Heavy winds, rain and ice could also affect highways and airports around D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston. Here’s a look at cancellations and delays at some of America’s busiest airports, and what officials advise for travelers in different locations.

How to get a refund for a canceled flight

If your flight has been canceled and you don’t take an alternative option, you’re entitled to a refund, per Transportation Department rules. Delayed? Getting your money back will depend on the length, circumstance and airline. If you’re one of the unlucky holiday fliers who ends up stuck, we compiled a guide on how to get a refund you’re owed.

Winter storms can wreak havoc on flights. Here’s why.

Planes, like butterflies and cars, don’t like ice and snow on their wings or under their tires. Because of that, de-icing, closed runways and crew schedules can lead to serious delays and cancellations. To better understand how winter storms affect flights, we spoke with aviation experts about some of the biggest mysteries surrounding icy and snowy weather and flying.

Driving in snow? What to do if your car gets stuck in a winter storm.

If you haven’t stocked your car for a worst-case scenario, you could wind up hungry, dehydrated and in danger of hypothermia. We spoke to experts about how to prepare to drive in winter weather and what to do if your car gets stuck in a scary storm.

10 cities in the path of the blizzard

Forecasters say travel during the peak of the storm — between late Thursday and Friday night — is likely to be severely impinged if not impossible. As you reconsider your plans, here are forecasts for 10 cities that could see some of the worst of the storm’s effects.

How to track down lost luggage

Canceled flights, delays and general chaos at the airport can increase your chances of your bag not making it to your final destination. Step one is to file a claim at your airline’s baggage desk at the airport. And if you haven’t left for the airport yet, put an AirTag in your bag to track its whereabouts. Here’s what else to know about recovering lost luggage. Lose something at TSA or on your flight? This is how to try to get it back.

Stuck at the airport? Finish your shopping.

Your flight is delayed for hours, and now you’re stuck. Or you had to rush to get on the road and didn’t get to make that last Target run for a gift for Grandma. Don’t worry; our procrastinator’s guide to shopping at airports, train depots and gas stations has got you covered. We promise you can find more than gum and neck pillows.

Find a decent airport meal, too

Airport food doesn’t have the best reputation. But if you’re stuck in one, you likely need to refuel at some point. We compiled the best places to eat and drink at the 13 busiest airports in the United States, from Atlanta to Los Angeles, based on recommendations from local food experts and travel pros. If you end up in Chicago’s O’Hare, check out chef Rick Bayless’s Tortas Frontera, a favorite of many frequent fliers.

Hannah Sampson, Matthew Cappucci, Luz Lazo, Ian Livingston and Gabe Hiatt contributed to this report.