02/08/2013 07:24 am ET Updated Apr 10, 2013

5 Ways To Change Your Flight During A Winter Storm

If you were planning to travel to or from the East Coast this weekend, chances you're tracking Winter Storm Nemo. Currently, the National Weather Service predicts snowfall of 6 inches to 2 feet, between New York City and Maine. Don't wait until you're stranded at the airport with a delayed or canceled flight. Here are five ways to be proactive in light of flight delays and cancellations.

1. Plan Ahead

The flight cancellations have already started as the storm hit the Midwest with over 135 flights canceled out of Chicago O'Hare. That's just the tip of the iceberg with over 1,000 flight preemptive being canceled. Currently, the airlines have instituted flexible rebooking waivers, so don't wait until you have trouble. Remember, that there will be a lot of flux in flights for the next few days and seats can open up at any point in time. If you're still looking to change your flight don't opt for advanced check in. Once you check in, it's too late to make a change.

2. Stay informed

If you have a flight scheduled for the next two days, go online now to check the status. Check your airline's website, where you can also sign up for flight alerts. In addition, airlines will be constantly updating their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. The airline isn't your only source of information, check the weather and then check FlightStats, which will keep you updated on whether your departure or arrival airport is experiencing problems.

3. Know How to Reschedule

If you're at the airport and your flight is canceled, your first instinct might be to go up to the ticket counter. Don't follow the herd. Instead, pick up the phone and call the airline, where you might get faster service. You can also go online and use Twitter to directly message your airline's support accounts. You can also go to the airline's lounge, purchase a day pass if needed and work directly with their agent who might be able to better assist you.

4. Don't Forget to Book a Hotel

If you're stranded, you have options beyond the closest airport bench. Founder and president of Road Concierge, Lisa Morris notes:

"I always make sure I have a list of all of the airport hotels with the direct phone numbers on hand, so that when there's a situation like that I'm not going on the website. Those hotels are not going to throw the rates up online; they need to protect their rooms. I call the property directly. I'm calling them immediately and I'm getting my passengers into hotel rooms before even the airlines can."

It's important to make preparations even if you might get on an earlier flight. If you manage to book a flight, most hotels will let you check out with a cancellation fee because there will be a waiting list for available rooms.

5. Pay attention to How You Book

It might not help you now, but how you book matters in how you are treated during weather emergencies. It you booked a cheap flight through a third-party online travel agency, know that your request will not be prioritized in the same way as frequent fliers, travelers who booked through a reputable travel agency or even travelers who booked directly through the airline. When faced with rescheduling a flight in a weather emergency, remember, if possible, to opt for an airline where you have some loyalty points accrued.

For more information check out, Avoiding Delays from Severe Weather Travel.