Traveling during Thanksgiving, or any holiday, is extra stressful. Here are some tips to help ease some of that stress.
1. Try to plan your travel at a non-peak time. For example, I am flying almost a week before and leaving the day after. My flight is about $350 cheaper than it would have, had I decided to fly just a couple of days before or decided to stay through the weekend. If you are driving, keep in mind that traffic will be heaviest the day before and the day after. Be vigilant.
2. Don’t leave too early the day after. Remember that the Friday after Thanksgiving is “Black Friday,” the day most retailers have amazing sales that lure everyone to the stores very earlier in the morning. People will get up early to try to get to the stores before everyone else, and traffic will be heavy. If you must leave early on Friday, give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport.
3. If you are flying, the day before is by far the worst time, as everyone is trying to get home at the same time. Between the crowds and the overbooked flights, flying the day before is just not a good idea. If you can’t travel at a non-peak time, you should be able to leave early on Thanksgiving and still make it in time for dinner, depending on the distance you have to fly.
4. If you are driving, the best time to leave is actually on Thanksgiving evening, when everyone is sleeping off the meal or engrossed in the football games.
5. Do things backwards. Get dropped off at the arrivals entrance (rather than departures), and get picked up at the departures entrance (rather than arrivals). Think about it this way: if everyone is trying to leave at the same time, the arrivals area will be practically empty. Not many flights arrive early in the morning. Likewise, getting picked up at the departures can be a good idea, as it should be less busy.
6. If you are flying through a large airport, check in at a different concourse. I used this trick at the JFK airport in New York one time. It looked like all the traffic was going to one concourse, so I went to another that looked less busy. I got through security practically in a matter of seconds and walked to my gate about a half hour before anyone else arrived. It made for a stress-free experience and got me on the plane faster, which ensured I had room for my carry-on in the overhead compartment.
Note: This works only if the airport has concourses that are connected within the same building. Phoenix, for example, is not all in one building. You have to go outside, get on a bus, and then go through security again if you leave one concourse to get to another. Know your airport’s layout before you try this one.
7. If you are driving, plan your route to avoid big cities. Most cities have a route that goes around the city, like taking 640 around Knoxville rather than staying on 40 and driving through the city. If you can’t avoid the big city, at least plan your timing to avoid the big cities at peak traffic times (morning and evening commutes and lunch time).
8. Keep your radio tuned to a station that keeps you updated on accidents and road congestion. Download a program to your smart phone that gives live updates of traffic conditions. Make use of programs like Live Traffic to check the conditions before you head out on your Thanksgiving travel. Avoid these areas to avoid delays.
9. When you travel during the Thanksgiving holiday, there will be delays. It is inevitable. Try to make the most of it. Bring that book you have been meaning to read. (If you are driving, get a book on tape.) Bring some travel-friendly games. Keep your cell phone charger in your carry-on so that you can use your phone freely during long layovers and other airport delays without worrying about the battery going dead. Bring plenty of snacks so you don’t have to spend too much on airport food or gas station snacks.
10. Complete routine vehicle maintenance and do extra checks on your brakes, fluids, etc., before heading out. Nothing ruins a road trip like car trouble, no matter what time of the year. However, in many parts of the country, snow can be part of the equation for your Thanksgiving travel. Especially make sure your tires are in excellent condition.