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Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday season in the U.S., and more people travel on Thanksgiving than any other holiday. While seeing family and friends is one of life’s great joys (most of the time), actually getting to your destination is often stressful and full of complications.

Travel during Thanksgiving weekend is notorious for flight delays and huge traffic jams. With some advance planning and these travel tips, you might have the happiest Thanksgiving ever.

Use Technology

  • SeatGuru Not all coach seats are the same, and a lousy seat often means a bad flight. No one wants to sit next to the bathroom or buy a seat with the least amount of legroom. With seat configurations for 800 types of aircraft, SeatGuru uses a color-coded system to show good, bad, and average seats. You’ll learn valuable information like seat width, pitch (the distance between your body and the seat in front of you), entertainment availability, WiFi, and if the seat has a power source.
  • Airline Apps: Keep up with flight information by downloading the airline app and signing up for text messages with flight updates. Use a flight tracker to see the flight’s status and the plane’s current location. That way, you’ll know if your flight is delayed or DELAYED!

Plan Ahead

Book flights and train tickets early for the best departure times and seat availability. You might even find a lower price if you book early.

Pack Light

  • Avoid checking bags if possible, but keep in mind your fellow passengers have the same idea. Invest in a carryon that fits under the airplane seat. The bags are small, but if you roll your clothes or use packing cubes, you should have enough to get you through the weekend.
  • If you need big, bulky items, or are bringing early Christmas gifts, consider shipping things ahead.

Take A Deep Breath

Download a mindfulness app like Calm and listen to a guided meditation to relieve stress and anxiety. If you’re not into meditation, each app offers soothing music or ambient sounds like the ocean or a babbling brook to take you away from the racket of angry passengers and crying kids at the gate.

At the Airport

  • If possible, avoid flying on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or the Sunday following the holiday. If your family doesn’t mind eating late, consider flying on Thanksgiving day and wait until Monday or Tuesday to fly home.
  • Fly direct, if possible. More flights mean a greater chance for delays or cancellations. Search flights by the length of the flight to explore different route options.
  • Fly early. Yes, waking up at 3:00 am to catch a flight stinks, but early fights are less likely to be delayed. Flights are often delayed because of conditions at the airport of origin. Catch the first fight, and you’re at the airport of origin.
  • TSA suggests arriving at least 2 hours before domestic flights and 3 hours for international flights. Wrong! Add extra time for full parking lots, crazy long lines, and grouchy people. (I can’t prove things take longer when grouchy people are involved, but why chance it?)
  • When going through security, keep your laptop at the top of your bag and toiletries close at hand. Make sure your empty water bottle is visible in an easily accessible side pocket. Put it in your bag, and you will be stopped and delayed at security.
  • If you don’t have TSA prescreen and/or Global Entry sign up before next year’s holiday season. The prescreen lines are more crowded than ever as more people sign up for the service, but the lines are still far shorter than the regular security lines.
  • If you have a known passenger number (from TSA prescreen or Global Entry) don’t forget to enter it when you book your ticket, so the prescreen clearance shows up on your boarding pass.

Food on a Plane

Are you bringing a favorite dish with you? Check whether or not TSA will allow the item through security. Is jello mold a liquid or a solid? Only the TSA knows for sure.

Flight Delays

My wish for you this holiday season is no delays, storms, or oversold flights. If you are delayed, here are some ideas to keep busy and zen in the airport.

  • You don’t need to shell out thousands of dollars for business or first-class plane tickets to access premium lounges. Many airlines sell day passes for domestic flights, and companies like Lounge Pass provide the same service at some international airports. Many airports, like Bradley International Airport in Hartford, CT, have a public lounge available to anyone willing to pay for access, while others lounges only welcome American Express Platinum Card holders.
  • Wondering if paying for a lounge experience is worth the cost? It depends. Ask yourself, how long is the delay, and how crowded is the airport? The price to enter the lounge might seem steep, but remember, food and drinks are included, so it might be worth it.
  • Bring a portable charger for your devices, because ALL of the plugs will be taken.
  • Download entertainment in advance. WiFi is usually spotty in airports, plus you don’t want to use up all of your device’s juice to download a movie (see the last tip).
  • Some airports now have spas, nail salons, gyms, arcades, sleep pods, shopping, and gourmet dining to you keep entertained. Let’s hope you’re at one of those airports.
  • Buy travel insurance for compensation for delays, cancellations, and lost bags.

Consider the Train

After factoring in travel and wait times at the airport, maybe Amtrak is the best option for your trip? Plus, Amtrak allows two free bags and room to walk around during your journey. Popular routes sell out, so buy tickets in advance.

Driving

  • If you must drive, avoid travel on Wednesday or Sunday, and stay off the road between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm on Thanksgiving. Leave early in the morning or at night.
  • After sitting in all that traffic, you’re sure to need a rest area. Not surprisingly, there’s an app for that. Flush and Charmin’s SitorSquat will point you in the right direction

Pets

Taking Fido with you for the celebration? Each airline has its own rules for flying with a pet, but keep in mind that only a certain number of pets are allowed on each flight, and the airline has the right to refuse your furry friend.

Do you need help with your holiday travel plans? Contact me here to schedule a free 30-minute trip consultation.

Wishing you safe travels and a Happy Thanksgiving!