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12 Ways To Survive Thanksgiving Travel

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It’s that time of year again — the holiday travel season is about to begin. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday afterwards are known to be some of the most hectic travel days of the year. TPG International Contributor Lori Zaino offers some tips and advice for those traveling over Thanksgiving hoping to have a minimally traumatic travel experience.

Have a successful and easy travel experience this Thanksgiving
Have a successful and easy travel experience this Thanksgiving. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Thanksgiving travel: the bane of my existence. The holiday “cheer” combined with the short amount of vacation time usually allotted for this holiday, plus the possibility (usually, the certainty) of that first winter storm occurring. Add to that lines, crowds and delays, and everyone is on their last nerves.

But Thanksgiving travel doesn’t have to be awful. If you follow some of the below tips, perhaps you can improve the quality of your Thanksgiving travel experience–at least a little bit.

1. If possible, travel off-peak

You may even make it in time for turkey if you fly early morning on Thanksgiving Day
You may even make it in time for turkey if you fly early morning on Thanksgiving Day

Take an extra day or two off work so you can travel on the Tuesday before or the Monday after. If it just isn’t possible, you can also avoid a lot of holiday crowds if you fly on Thanksgiving Day — and flights are usually much cheaper, too. If you get an early morning flight on Thanksgiving, you may still make it in time for turkey!

2. Pick flights with layovers in warmer climates, like Los Angeles, Dallas or Atlanta 

Try to plan your layovers and warmer cities, as the mean snowman seems to strike every Wednesday before Thanksgiving
Try to plan your layovers and warmer cities, as the mean snowman seems to strike every Wednesday before Thanksgiving

If at all possible, avoid layovers in places like Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit if you’re heading across the country. Growing up in Chicago, I can attest to the fact that somehow there always  seems to be a blizzard on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at O’Hare.

3. KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

Thanksgiving travel can be stressful, but try to keep calm and carry on.
Thanksgiving travel can be stressful, but try to keep calm and carry on.

Deep breaths and positivity can go a long way. (So will a stiff drink at the airport bar–look for me there at the Delta Terminal in Atlanta this Thanksgiving.) It’s likely you will encounter delays, lines, crowds, rude passengers and airline employees, and even cancellations, but if you’re happy and friendly, time will pass quickly and airport workers may be nicer to you. I constantly see people screaming at airport workers. I know it seems obvious that this is a bad idea, but do you really think they’re going to help an angry, hysterical, rude passenger? Stay calm, be kind, and hopefully karma will bring it back to you. And don’t worry–you’ll be home eating mom’s pumpkin pie soon.

Whatever it takes for you to be relaxed in the airport or plane, bring it
Whatever it takes for you to be relaxed in the airport or plane, do it

If you realize big delays or cancellations are coming, have a Plan B. Pack everything you can to make sure you will be as comfortable as possible at the airport or on a full flight. For me, this means my iPad, Kindle, neck pillow, headphones, protein-filled snacks like nuts, and of course, my phone. To each his own, of course.

5. Three words: Noise. Cancelling. Headphones. 

With a pair of nose cancelling headphones, you can be in your element, despite any extenuating circumstances
With a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you can zone out in your element, despite extenuating circumstances.

Delays and airports around the holidays mean you will be around lots of kids, families, dogs, screaming babies (or adults). Cancel it out!

6. Don’t leave home without your electronics fully charged and an extra battery pack

Amount of phone battery and sanity during holiday closely connected.
The amount of phone battery and sanity levels during holiday season are closely related.

Airport charging ports will be in demand, especially during delays or bad weather. On any typical travel day, I wander around most airports aimlessly, searching for a plug in a sea of empty walls empty walls. The few charging areas will most likely be full, so make sure you charge everything before you leave, and if possible, bring along extra battery packs or external chargers.

7. If you have kids, make sure you are prepared with games, toys and snacks for them in case you are stuck in the airport for a long period of time.

Avoid having to go to extremes with your kids and be prepared with games and toys to keep them entertained
Avoid having to go to extremes with your kids and be prepared with games and toys to keep them entertained

Kids will be kids and they will, of course, get restless (as do adults). However, if you have snacks and games prepared for them, it might make things just a bit easier for you, them… and everyone else around you.

8. Make sure to have airline phone numbers on speed dial

Chances are you´ll have better luck talking to someone at the call center than waiting in line for an in-person rep
Chances are you´ll have better luck talking to someone at the call center than waiting in line for an in-person rep. (FYI, this what I imagine goes on at most call centers, just exchange cats for people)

Obviously, if you have elite status, these are the moments where calling beats standing in a super-long line when your flight gets canceled. Non-elite flyers may also end up getting re-booked via phone before it’s their turn in a long line.

9. Make a vacation out of it

If you can, take a few more days off, fly off-peak and have a vacation.
If you can, take a few more days off, fly off-peak and have an actual vacation.

Although it’s becoming more popular to head to Europe around Thanksgiving, it’s still usually less hectic than heading to the U.S., as this isn’t a typical European holiday. So, take the full week off and make a trip out of it–go somewhere you want to visit. You can always head to your sister-in-law’s next year for Thanksgiving.

10. If possible, try alternate methods of travel

Driving, buses or trains may be a better option than flying
Driving, buses or trains may be a better option than flying

Take the train, hop in your car or even take a bus. In the end, it may take less time than flying if there are delays. Do a little research and see what works best for you.

11. Get to the airport early

Rushing is going to stress you out. Get to the airport early if possible.
Rushing is going to stress you out. Get to the airport early if possible.

I can’t stress how important is to simply get to the airport early if only for your sanity and stress levels. A relaxed flyer is a happy flyer, after all. Lines are typically much longer during Thanksgiving, so give yourself plenty of time to check in and get through security.

12. Use Shortcuts to Avoid Long Lines

GIF security
Security lines can be ridiculous. #getprechecknow

TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry and even packing all your items in a carry-on to avoid waiting in line to check a bag are all ways you can make your travel experience a little easier.

Happy Thanksgiving from the TPG Team to all our readers out there! We’re wishing you stress-free travel and accumulation of miles and points  this holiday season!

TPG Tip: When booking airfare, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is an all around good choice offering 2x the points on travel. It’s also smart to use a card related to your airline, such as the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express card to maximize your miles earning and cover the cost of checked bag fees.

How do you cope with stressful holiday travel?

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