Let me start by saying, if you're ever going to be stranded somewhere, the desert of California, particularly Indian Wells, when one of the best tennis tournaments in the world is going on is a great place to be stranded. New York and the entire Northeast U.S. Coast are getting pounded with snow currently, and my flight home today is cancelled. In fact, virtually every flight into NY today is cancelled, and most are for tomorrow too. 

Cancellation Is Only The Beginning Of The Problem...

It's the knock on effects that get you. Los Angeles to New York flies full almost all the time, and with an entire day of cancellations that means an incredible amount of people scrapping for a very limited amount of seats on flights departing on subsequent days. 

There Were No Direct Flight Seats Until Thursday At 11:50 PM, The Last Redeye...

When I called American after (not) being notified of the cancellation it was understandably chaotic at their call center. The earliest flight I was offered was the 11:50PM Thursday March 16th, which doesn't really do it for me, given that I'm supposed to be on a flight this evening, Tuesday. So I armed myself (beforehand)...

Arm Yourself, Stay Calm, Offer Options...

I lucked out and had a nice agent. I told her that I really need to get home, I understood that there were no direct flights, but I asked if she wouldn't mind indulging me in a few flight searches I had just performed. I asked about connections, she didn't have much of anything. I then said "oh, what about this city, or that city". Seats were being grabbed up quickly, but we managed to find an itinerary leaving mid day Wednesday, getting me home Wednesday evening, just with a connection through Charlotte.

The Lessons Here...

First, book with the right credit card, which can cover you during delays. To take it a step further, If you can swing it, make a refundable back up booking (or use miles) ahead of a storm to hedge a later flight. If an agent says there are no direct flights, find flights before you call and spoon feed them possibilities that you're finding. It's not their job to be creative geniuses, that falls on you. So whatever you can find that will get you from one point to another, jump on it. When I turn up tomorrow for my painful connection flight, you better believe I'll ask to standby on the direct flight. Once you have something palatable, keep looking to improve it as you go.