To say that traveling on Thanksgiving Day is hectic would be an understatement. Thanksgiving Day is one of the busiest travel times of the year. With over 50 million people traveling long distances to reunite with family and friends, flight delays and traffic jams are inevitable.
It’s a small price to pay for a hearty family feast of turkey, cranberry sauce, and all the trimmings. But when travel stress hits, envisioning that succulent spread might not be enough to keep the anxiety at bay.
Careful preparation is essential for staying calm and collected on a long flight or drive. To help make your travel experience safe, efficient, and enjoyable, I’m sharing some of my favorite Thanksgiving travel tips!
Tips for Traveling on Thanksgiving Day
Whether you’re driving or flying, these Turkey Day travel tips will keep you safe, sane, and entertained on a long journey.
General Travel Tips
1. Make A Packing List and Check It Twice
If you’re heading back home for the holiday weekend, you probably don’t need to pack tons of stuff. But you also don’t want to risk forgetting your phone charger or stretchy PJs for the post-feast nap. So make a packing list and check it twice, even if you’re not the list-making type.
Insider packing tip: When you have some extra time on your hands, make a packing list template with all the items you need for every trip. Then, you can just duplicate it and add items as needed for each new trip.
2. Prepare Your Smartphone
This travel tip isn’t so obvious, but your smartphone can literally save your life in a travel-related incident. Not to mention it’ll keep you entertained during layovers and traffic jams!
Use this checklist to make sure your phone is travel-ready:
- Charge your phone and power bank fully before departing.
- Make your favorite playlists, shows, and movies available offline.
- Download or screenshot a list of directions from Google Maps (or whichever GPS you use) in case you lose signal.
- Print out a list of directions just in case you lose service and your phone dies and you can’t charge it. (You can never be too cautious!)
- Save a copy of your boarding pass.
- Install your chosen airline’s smartphone app to stay updated on delays.
- Set a list of emergency contacts in case of an accident or emergency.
3. Make Arrangements for Four-Legged Family Members
No holiday is truly complete without your beloved pets. Bringing your favorite four-legged travel companion along for your trip? Don’t forget to do your homework!
If you’re flying, read the fine print of the airline’s pet policy carefully. If you’re driving long-distance, plan to stop every two hours for playtime and potty breaks. No matter how you’re traveling, it’s a good idea to tire out your dog before departing to keep them calm.
Dogs feel healthiest and happiest with a regular schedule of meals, playtime, and potty breaks. Try to stick to your dog’s routine during your trip. Feeling too sluggish after the Thanksgiving feast to take your pooch for a walk? Book a dog walker near you to keep your pup occupied while you snooze.
Remember, long-distance flights and road trips can be stressful for dogs. Can’t bring Fido along this year? To save money and keep your pup comfy over the holiday weekend, skip the kennel and book a dog sitter or dog boarder near you.
Tips for Driving Long-Distance on Thanksgiving Day
4. Pack First-Aid Kits for Yourself and Your Car
Winter storms cause accidents and delays for both plane and car passengers. In 2019, a severe storm on Thanksgiving Day canceled flights and caused traffic jams all across America. Prepare for inclement weather with two first-aid kits: one for you and one for your car.
In addition to your regular driving safety kit, pack some winter safety essentials like an ice scraper, a Swiss army knife, and an extra set of warm clothes.
Planning to rent a car instead? Let the car rental company know if you’re traveling to an area prone to winter storms. Many rental companies offer winter safety kits for an extra fee.
5. Practice Good Self-Care Before and During a Long Drive
Get a good night’s sleep before your trip, especially if you’re driving long-distance. Driver fatigue causes thousands of car crashes each year. Adequate sleep goes a long way toward preventing accidents and injuries.
Pick out a comfortable travel outfit and set it out the night before. If you’re flying, choose shoes that are easy to take off for security. If you’re driving, opt for comfortable, sensible footwear like tennis shoes or mocassins. Heavy boots, sandals, and flip flops can cause difficulties while driving.
Speaking of driving, you might also want to pack up the car the night before to save yourself time on Thanksgiving morning. Or, set your bags by the door so you can grab ‘em and go.
Finally, eat a nutritious, filling breakfast before you hit the road. Pack plenty of water and healthy snacks to munch on. Staying hydrated and eating clean will keep you alert and focused.
6. Map Out Your Route in Advance
Since Thanksgiving Day is the busiest travel time of the year, you should expect to arrive later than the ETA that Google Maps gives you. Account for heavy traffic on major highways and interstates. Don’t forget to add extra time for eating lunch and filling up the tank.
Insider Thanksgiving travel tip: On Google Maps (or whatever navigation software you use), mark restaurants, gas stations, and rest areas where you plan to stop. This gives you a better idea of how long each leg of your journey will take. Plan to stop every two hours to prevent fatigue.
Tips for Flying on Thanksgiving Day
7. Compare Flights and Book Early
Flights are expensive around Thanksgiving. To save money, shop around and book early. The last week of August through the first two weeks of September are typically the best times to book.
If you can’t book early for some reason, you might be able to score a last-minute deal. Airlines will slash prices last-minute to fill empty seats. But don’t bank on this — the week before Thanksgiving is also the most expensive time to book your flight.
8. Arrive Early at the Airport
This one’s a given, but it’s worth repeating. Arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your domestic flight. This gives you plenty of time to stow checked bags, get through security, and find your gate. If you’re lucky, you might have a little time left over to grab a snack or do some shopping.
9. Prepare for the Security Line
We’ve all been there — stuck behind folks who waited until they were at the security checkpoint to dig through their carry-on and pack their toiletries in a clear bag. Not only should you not be this person, but you should also prepare for these kinds of holdups. Not everyone is as thoughtful and prepared as you are!
To save time and hassle for everyone, pack your toiletries in a clear zip bag before you even leave the house. Place the bag in a separate pocket of your carry-on for easy access. Do the same with large electronic devices like laptops and tablets.
Before you go through the security line, remove metal objects like coins and keys from your pockets. Have your ID and boarding card to hand to make the process faster.
These simple preparations will get you through security in a flash!
10. Expect Flight Delays at Busy Airports
Last year, 80% of the population of Los Angeles flew through LAX during the Thanksgiving holiday season. No matter how meticulous you are with your holiday travel planning, you’ll probably experience delays if you’re flying through busy airports. Bring along some boredom-busters to pass the time.
Thanksgiving Travel Tips: Wrapping Up
I know just how stressful traveling on Thanksgiving Day can be. Preparation is key — but no matter how well you prepare, flight delays and traffic jams are beyond your control. When the stress hits, take a deep breath and picture the family, friends, and feast awaiting you at the end of your journey!
Finally, I hope you’ll join me in remembering what the holiday season is all about: practicing gratitude. So take a moment to give thanks for the cars, airplanes, flight crews, and road workers that make long-distance travel possible.
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