Seven Tips for Smooth Thanksgiving Air Travel

If your Thanksgiving plans include traveling, whether by plane or car, you need to know how to cope with the imminent nightmare and chaos. After all, millions of people are going to be doing the same as you. If your travel plans in the past have gone terribly wrong—or worse, if you have a history of not planning at all, then it’s time to make a major change.

High demand means high prices.

The earlier you book your flight, the bigger the chances you’ll save more money. The best time to book a flight is on Tuesday night or Wednesday early morning, travel agents say. The heaviest travel days are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and Sunday and Monday after. High demand means high prices.

Choose alternative airports

Low-cost carriers usually fly into smaller airports, which can offer tremendous savings on your travel. You’re going to deal with fewer crowds. That has tons of advantages – little chance of delays, major problems or lost luggage – because the staff won’t be so busy. If you’re going to Chicago, fly into Midway instead of O’Hare; pick Maryland instead of Washington International, and Oakland instead of San Francisco.

Travel on Thanksgiving Day, never the day before

The lightest day is Thanksgiving Day itself because everybody wants to be at their endpoint by then. Right now, for example, a round-trip ticket with from Newark, New Jersey (an alternative airport to JFK or LaGuardia) to Fort Lauderdale on November 23 at night and coming back on Tuesday, November 28, is $160. The same one-way ticket, but the day before, is $260.

Check in online

Spend as little time at the airport as possible. Head straight to the security check line and save about half an hour, or more depending on the line, to print out your boarding pass. Make sure you print your boarding pass if you have to. Not all airlines give you the option to board the plane by scanning your ticket. Sign up for flight alerts to be notified if there are any changes to your flight.

Plan your pick-up

Don’t spend extra time at the crowded airport figuring out how to leave it. Book a pick-up in advance, if no one will be there to drive you. This is especially convenient during the holidays. Don’t fall into the trap of greedy cab drivers who may charge you a lot more than the regular fare.

Pack light

This may be a struggle for some but if you are trying to avoid unnecessary stress, travel with only a carry-on bag. You’re only going away for a few days? Do you really need five pairs of shoes, two coats, three jackets and six sweaters? If you already checked in online, you will be able to bypass check in at the airport and make your way to security in no time if you have just a carry-on.

Bring snacks

Flights and long travel days open you up to getting sick—especially during cold and flu season, so it pays to prepare. Have a healthy snack before you leave so you don’t need to buy food at the airport, which is often expensive and too processed. Bring cut fruits, carrots or granola bars to keep you full and energetic during your travel adventures.

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