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What travelers need to know about the winter storm

4:44 PM, Feb 8, 2013   |    comments
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People battle wind, rain and sleet in the early hours of a major winter storm on February 8, 2013 in New York City. New York City and much of the Northeast is expected to get a foot or more of snow through Saturday afternoon with possible record-setting blizzard conditions expected in Boston, Massachusetts. Heavy snow warnings are in effect from New Jersey through southern Maine. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
TRAVEL RESOURCES

(USA TODAY) -- With a winter storm poised to pummel the Northeast Friday afternoon and into Saturday morning, travelers already are affected as airlines, trains and bus lines preemptively canceled service as early as Thursday.

What to expect and some travel strategies for weathering the storm.

Airlines

More than 3,700 flights have been canceled since Thursday and that's likely to increase throughout the afternoon. Monitor airlines' and airports' websites (and Twitter feeds) for the latest updates, and expect delays if you're calling an airline's 800 number.

Typically when weather significantly disrupts service, the major airlines will issue refunds or waive change fees. Delta, for instance, announced it would allow customers in affected cities in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada a one-time change to their travel schedules without penalty.

Southwest, which doesn't impose change fees, will allow travelers on affected routes to alter their itineraries without incurring higher fares.

JetBlue, which operates New York and Boston hubs, also is waiving change fees and fare differences for affected passengers through Sunday.

Rail service

Amtrak has reduced service on the Acela Express and Northeast Regional routes between New York and Boston.

Other affected routes: Southbound service out of Boston South Station will be suspended after the departures of of Northeast Regional Train 137 at 1:40 p.m. and Acela Express Train 2167 at 1:15 p.m.

Northbound service out of New York's Penn Station will be suspended after the departures of Northeast Regional Train 86 at 12:30 p.m. and Acela Express Train 2160 at 1:03 p.m.

Northeast Corridor service south of New York as well as Empire and Keystone services are running on schedule.

More schedule information and status updates are on the Amtrak.com home page.

Ticketed passengers who decide not to travel can get a refund or a voucher for future travel. Some reservations booked online can be modified or canceled on Amtrak.com or by using the free Amtrak mobile app.

To be notified of major service disruptions resulting in delays of 60 minutes or more to multiple trains on the Northeast Corridor, follow @AmtrakNEC on Twitter.

Bus service

Boltbus suspended Friday service between Boston and New York and Boston to Newark/Philadelphia, along with some evening departures between New York and Philadelphia; New York and Baltimore; and New York and Washington. The line said it would automatically issue refunds to ticketed passengers.

Megabus also has cancellations in the Northeast and will honor refund requests or allow passengers to reschedule without penalty.

Lodging

If you find yourself stranded at an airport, ask area hotels about discounted "distressed traveler rates" - but you may land an even better price by going through Hotwire or Priceline.

Plan ahead for extended delays by making sure you have a list of airline and hotel contacts, electronic chargers and extra food in your carry-on bag (which, in itself, is a good strategy for minimizing headaches on unexpected tight connections).

Contributing: Laura Bly and Ben Mutzabaugh

Jayne Clark, USA TODAY

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