Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Fri November 13 2015

5 Tips For Better Thanksgiving Travels

Features & Advice | Rich Thomaselli | November 13, 2015

5 Tips For Better Thanksgiving Travels

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Traveling in two weeks for Thanksgiving? Yeah, you and 25 million of your best friends, according to travel experts.

It’s never easy to travel during that period from the Tuesday before Thanksgiving until the day after New Year’s. But here are five tips that might not necessarily make it easy, but certainly easier.


Do not leave everything until the day of travel because, inevitably, Murphy’s Law will kick in – anything that can go wrong will go wrong. We’re talking the most minute of things here, too, like punching in your airline/rail/hotel confirmation numbers in your phone, not to mention the actual phone numbers to each of those. Gas up the night before so you don’t have to stop on the way. Pack and load the car the night before as well. This is less about cutting down on time as it is lessening your anxiety on day of travel.


Want to make your life easier? Pack only a carry-on. If you’re going to visit family or friends, and will be staying with them, three days of clothes, the shoes on your feet plus one more pair, and your toiletries should be enough. If you’re staying longer, mix and match outfits and ask if you can do a load of laundry while you’re there. If you’re staying at a hotel, call ahead.

Some hotels do have laundry facilities. Now, if you’re bringing gifts … don’t. OK, we know that’s easier said than done, but shipping them ahead of time is a wonderful option. If that can’t be done, don’t wrap them. Even if they stay in your possession, there’s a good likelihood the wrapping will be torn from being packed in the overhead bin or crammed underneath the seat in front of you.


It bears repeating. Leave. Early. Whether you are driving, flying, taking the train or hopping on a bus, it behooves you to add a little time and space to your travels. While it normally might take you three hours total to drive to the airport, check your bags and get through security, it could take four hours – or longer – during the holidays, especially Thanksgiving.

With the amount of people traveling during turkey week, you’re also looking at other added delays that will most assuredly crop up. Like parking decks at the airport or train stations that will fill up and close. Like longer-than-usual waits for shuttle buses from off-airport parking. Like the Smith family in the security line who rarely travel and have no idea about TSA rules on water bottles and only three ounces of liquid in a carry-on. It pays to build all this in to your schedule. The worst thing that could happen is you get to your gate extraordinarily early. But think of the alternative.


The Wednesday before Thanksgiving? Wishing you the best of luck with that. Thanksgiving Day itself? Airfares are less expensive, airports and train stations are less crowded, and highways aren’t as jammed. In fact, according to Airlines For America, half as many people fly on Thanksgiving Day as do the day before. As for returning home, just remember that each subsequent day after Thanksgiving grows bigger with travel – Friday isn’t so bad, Saturday gets worse, Sunday is the apocalypse.


Yep, some of the best international airfares to be had are during the week of Thanksgiving. Everybody and their brother is traveling domestically, and international airfares usually drop, meaning a last-minute European or Caribbean getaway isn’t as expensive as you might think.

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