Business and leisure travelers alike are still stranded in New York in the wake of superstorm Sandy, which caused nearly 20,000 flights to be cancelled. With a devastating hurricane season segueing into winter, weather disruptions weigh heavily on travelers’ minds - but there are steps you can take to travel smarter before, during, and after a storm.

Along with New York, 11 states along the busy eastern seaboard were affected by the deadly storm, compounding the problem of getting people into or out of the region. Airports in the storm’s path are trying to recover from the physical aftermath, while airlines grapple with the logistical nightmare of rebooking passengers and rescheduling flights. While one would never plan to travel in this kind of situation, sometimes it’s unavoidable. If it happens to you, here are some tips on how to better manage travel plans in the face of severe weather events.

Before the storm: Follow airlines on Twitter. When a large storm is forecasted, many airlines waive fees to rebook your flight if you’re traveling within or to an affected area. A quick, easy way to find out if your airline has started offering waived fees for weather-related flight changes is to follow them on Twitter - you’ll get the news immediately and be able to rebook ahead of the crowds.

During the storm: Don’t head for the airport. Unless you like waiting in lines and possibly sleeping in the terminal, check your flight status and airport status before you make your way to the airport. It’s safer to stay where you are and manage travel disruptions from a more comfortable place (that hopefully has electricity and an Internet connection), either over the phone or via the Web.

After the storm: Reassess travel options. If it’s going to take longer for the airport to clean up after the storm and reopen than it is for you to hop on a train or rent a car to get to your destination, it’s worth weighing your options. (If the airline cancelled your flight, you can request your money back since they can’t charge you for a service not provided.) But these alternatives depend on the severity of the storm - in the case of Sandy, not only were all airports in the region closed, mass transit was shut down and roads in and out of some cities were closed.
If the 2013 winter weather predictions recently released by Accuweather.com are right, these tips will come in handy in the next few months as “big snow events” may impact travel hubs in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.