Bereavement Travel: How to Travel in an Emergency


The very worst kind of travel is bereavement travel. The hustle to pack for a lusted vacation is a hustle worth the stress that goes into it. But getting a call in the middle of the night about a family emergency, death, or funeral, however, just sucks.

First things first, if you’re reading this, you likely are going through something difficult and need to get somewhere — fast. We’re sending you a big ole’ virtual hug.

When you’re traveling unexpectedly for a family emergency, it’s hard to see straight, let alone pack correctly. We’re here to help you move through the logistics of planning and coordinating travel, so you can get to your loved ones in the quickest amount of time, and with as little stress as possible.

Here are some tips on how to get through bereavement travel.

Traveling for emergency and bereavement travel.

Airlines That Offer Bereavement Fares

Every airline has different rules when it comes to bereavement travel, but the standard is 10% off of the full fare. Unfortunately, as of 2020, most airlines do not offer free bereavement flights.

Of all the major US airlines: United, Delta, and American Airlines, your best bet will be to get in touch with Delta — and you’ll need to get them on the phone to try to negotiate a bereavement fare.

Understand the best they may offer you is to waive fees, and you’ll still have to pay for your seat on the plane. According to our community, these other airlines still may offer bereavement fares:

Delta: 1 (800) 221-1212
Alaska: 1 (800) 654-5669
Air Canada: 1 (888) 247-2262
WestJet: 1 (888) 937-8538
Lufthansa: 1 (800) 645-3880
Jetblue: 1 (800) 538-2583

Bereavement travel and how to survive.

Packing for Bereavement Travel

I have been called home several times this year for both a family emergency and a funeral. I evidently was wearing a blindfold when I packed because I arrived to my destination with nothing suitable for either occasion. When you pack for an emotionally charged trip try to take a few breaths beforehand. Try writing a list.

What is the climate you are traveling to? Do you need a coat? Sandals? Shorts? A dress? These are important details we may overlook when packing under emotional stress. Pack underwear. Pack two types of shoes. Pack some jewelry in case you are going to a funeral. Give yourself some grace and know that you can pick up anything last minute if you need to.

If you can’t get your mind in order, try calling a friend. They may be able to give you a rational guideline for packing because believe me, there is nothing like arriving in 36 degree weather with nothing but a pair of ripped jeans and flip flops.

Schedule a Therapy Session For a Few Days After You Return Home

There is nothing wrong with decompressing to an impartial set of ears after an emotional trip. Funerals, family sickness, high school and family reunions can all stir up a complex web of emotions.

Dealing with death and reconciliation can be equally as draining. Plus, you will likely be on-the-go during your trip without a whole lot of time to digest how you are feeling.

Avoid a mental break down and schedule a therapy appointment for a few days after you return home. Your mind and nervous system will thank you.

Be kind to yourself

Emotionally charged trips can be mentally exhausting. They can also cause you to forget about your own needs. I find that buying a new book or article of clothing, is a good way to  take care of yourself. It’s also okay to be selfish from time to time and zone out while listening to your favorite playlist.

You will be using so much of your energy to either reconnect or take care of others that you will appreciate some distraction. If buying a new pair of shoes or indulging in some savory foods helps you cope, then so be it.

Sentimental, tear-jerking and emotional trips are not easy. Just watch Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion and you will understand the emotional fiasco’s that can occur during these types of trips when you go back home.

If you can invest in a few of these tips you will not only survive bereavement travel, you will look back on it and be thankful you made some key decisions.

Have you ever had to jump on a plane for bereavement travel or a family emergency? How did you get through it?


About Author

Since a young age Jenna has always had an undeviating desire to explore the world and all its hidden niches. This desire has catapulted her willingly into some of the most memorable experiences of her life! Starting with delivering shoes to underserved villages in the Dominican Republic to bussing it down through Mexico and Central America, she currently lives and works in Cochabamba, Bolivia and believes experiencing first hand what foreign culture is really like, serves as her ultimate passion.


  1. great article Jenna. I can totally relate as there were unfortunately 3 deaths in and around my family during my backpacking trip now. It was so hard to receive the news and even harder to try and grieve when you do not tangibly see the burial process. I like the piece of doing some therapy or treating yourself. My journal and skype with my parents really helped out alot. thanks for the article!

  2. – poor girl. at least you helped her coqnuer her fear-haha! and i think she’ll agree that it was worth it when she sees these pics. June 18, 2010 8:56 PM

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