We turned to frequent travelers and travel industry experts to get the scoop on making Thanksgiving travel a little less stressful. Whether you’re planning on flying or driving, there are a few things you can do to make the trip that much easier.
“Flexibility is key when booking last-minute flights. For example, the day before Thanksgiving and the Sunday following Thanksgiving are typical travel days for people,” Spagnola said. That means those days are going to be in high demand. “If there are ways that the passengers could leave earlier the week of Thanksgiving or book return flights the following week, that would yield a tremendous cost savings.”
“Several major cities typically have two airports in them [and] a lot of the low-cost carriers will fly into the smaller airports, which can offer tremendous savings on your travel,” he said. “An example would be LAX as the major airport and Burbank Airport being smaller, but a much cheaper option. These airports are only 30 miles from each other.” On top of saving money, flying out of a smaller airport typically means dealing with fewer crowds.
“To keep holiday stress to a minimum, be sure to avoid peak travel dates, especially the Wednesday before Thanksgiving,” said Mile Kelly, CEO of On Call International. “[It’s one of the] the busiest travel days of the year. If you're looking for the cheapest day to travel, try flying on the day of the holiday itself.” Similarly, there’s bound to be traffic on day before Thanksgiving.
There are a handful of benefits to flying at night—typically lower rates, less crowded airports and the potential to sleep through the flight—but what many people don’t realize is that there are also fewer delays during the morning and night. After analyzing 6 million flights, experts recommend avoiding flights between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. to dodge delays that get worse as the day goes on.
“Be wary of 45 minute connections between flights in large airports, especially if going abroad,” said Elizabeth Avery, an avid traveler and founder of SoloTrekker4U.com. “I have raced through the Beijing and Miami airports and watched friends miss connections in an airport in Spain as I raced ahead. The problem is that the same air carrier may be in different terminals. It is also baffling to me but that generally without leaving a secure transit area, it is necessary to go through passport control and security a second time.” It’s better to deal with a layover than to risk missing your connecting flight.
“I always recommend booking a pick-up at a foreign airport, especially during holidays,” said Avery. “I have heard some incredible stories of very savvy tourists having problems in unfamiliar areas.” Even if your family is coming to get you from the airport, it’s best to confirm the time and location before you board.
Flying (and traveling in general) tends to dehydrate you—even when it’s cold out, so it’s important to keep water on-hand. Staying hydrated will help you feel better when you land, keeping energy levels up. Carry on an empty refillable water bottle and fill it once you’re through security (and whenever it’s empty) so you’ll always have water handy.