Tips for Smoother Thanksgiving Travels

Hours spent chugging bumper to bumper on the highway in a haze of exhaust fumes, long lines at the airports, packed planes, sleeping in your childhood bedroom — these seemingly unavoidable horrors really don’t have to be a part of your Thanksgiving. Here’s how to avoid the angst and enjoy the holiday.

061001_HolidayTravelTips.jpgAir Travel

Most of America may be driving to their holiday destination but plenty of folks are flying too. Chris McGinnis, editor of Expedia.com’s Travel Trendwatch, has some helpful tips on making holiday flying less of a nuisance.

Go against the flow. Fly in early Thanksgiving morning, have your feast in the afternoon, and then fly back on Friday. This way you avoid crowds, high prices, and the stress of too much family time.

Take early morning flights to ensure better on-time performance — early flights are statistically more dependably on time than those later in the day.

There’s a trend now for flyers to use smaller regional airports instead of the major hubs. Doing so will save you time parking, walking, getting through security, and getting off the ground and to your destination.

Book nonstop flights if you can, because you don’t have to land more than once, which means you’re less likely to experience weather-related delays. If you can’t fly nonstop, try and book flights through fair-weather hubs like Atlanta, Houston, or Phoenix.

If you can, avoid checking baggage. The bags will really slow you down. Plus, with security rules being tighter than in years past, airline baggage handlers are overwhelmed by increased volume, resulting in more delays and mishandled baggage.

Don’t bring wrapped gifts in checked or carry-on luggage. Mail or ship items before your trip. Fedex, UPS, and other delivery services offer ground and two-day shipping rates that are very reasonable. Or check companies like Luggage Free or Luggage Forward.

Finally, see 10 Tips for Easier Flying and Smoother Sailing through Airport Security.

By Car

A poll by the Automobile Association of America last year indicated that around 82% of all Thanksgiving travelers drove to their destinations. Michael L. Pina, National Manager of Public Affairs for the AAA, shared these tips for staying safe and sane while on the road.

Getting lost is rarely fun. Before you head out, devise a driving plan by visiting AAA’s map site for point-to-point driving directions (or check out Google Maps). Both sites can also provide info about attractions, lodging, and restaurants along your route.

The busiest on-the-road days during Thanksgiving week are Wednesday and Thursday. If your schedule allows, leave Tuesday and come back on Friday or Saturday. Most people either drive home late on Thursday or stay the weekend.

Don’t leave early in the morning after staying up late to pack your clothes, clean out the refrigerator, and load up the car. Start fresh. Pack earlier, get a full night’s sleep, and set out on the road when you’re all bright-eyed and perky.

Try to do most of your driving during daylight hours when visibility is best. But if you find yourself squinting into the glare of a rising or setting sun, consider taking a break until the lighting conditions improve.

Keep in mind that caffeine’s effects are only temporary. Once the coffee rush wears off, you could be even sleepier than you were before your short-lived burst of java-fueled energy. If you’re struggling to stay focused, abandon the schedule, pull over, and take a rest.

Tired or not, take a break every two hours or 100 miles, especially if you are traveling with children and pets. Driving straight through is a great way to drive yourself (and your passengers) crazy.

Hotels

Many hotels are delightfully uncrowded and inexpensive at Thanksgiving, since most people stay with family. If all that togetherness gets to be too much for you, consider treating yourself to a home away from your old home for a night or two, rather than camping out in your childhood room.

It’s worth checking even the most upscale hotels and resorts for Thanksgiving packages. Many of these establishments offer wonderful deals, like the one at Charleston Place Hotel, in Charleston, South Carolina. The hotel’s Thanksgiving Package includes three nights accommodation and two tickets to the “Thanksgiving Culinary Celebration” at the hotel’s Palmetto Cafe ($843 for a deluxe room).

If you’re really feeling like a change, move the entire holiday event and your loved ones to a hotel or inn. Many properties include Thanksgiving dinner and other special holiday activities. For $1,050 (double occupancy), the Woodstock Inn & Resort, in lovely Woodstock, Vermont, offers three nights accommodations, breakfasts, Thanksgiving dinner, and other goodies.

Book a Hotel

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