United States: Top 10 Thanksgiving Travel Tips to Lessen the Stress

Airlines and Aviation

Thanksgiving is traditionally the most stressful period to travel in the United States, and this year’s extreme weather conditions will make things even worse than usual. Can anything be done to lessen the stress?

More than 24 million people are expected to travel over the long Thanksgiving Day weekend in the United States.

Considering the extreme weather conditions that much of the country has been experiencing, you can expect chaotic conditions. But there are a few things you can do to lessen the stress.

How to Lessen the Stress

1. Ship gifts ahead of time. Considering the high cost of checking bags and possible overweight luggage charges, it might actually be cheaper and it’s definitely more convenient. The cost of shipping a large flat-rate box with the USPS is about US$16.95, and it will arrive within 3 days.

2. Check in on line at least 24 hours in advance and make sure to get an assigned seat. While you can check in with your smartphone, print out your boarding pass anyway  – just in case there is a problem with your mobile phone.

3. Pack any essential items in your carry-on luggage – just in case your checked luggage doesn’t arrive when you. Most US airlines now charge for checked bags so if you can carry everything with you on board do so. However, some airlines also charge for carry-on bags. Check the airline’s website for a full list of potential fees. Southwest is about the only remaining major airline in the United States that does not charge for checked bags.

4. Arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before departure for domestic flights and 3 hours for international flights. If you’re lucky, you’ll have some quality ‘chill out time’ before departure (see below). Also make sure to double check your terminal and gate as they might have been changed after you checked in for your flight.

5. Don’t carry liquid except for medication. If you want to take drinks on board, make sure to purchase them AFTER you’ve cleared security.

6. Bring your own snacks from home to avoid paying for snack packs on board or over-paying at airport grab and go markets.

7. Check traffic reports before heading to the airport. You might need to allow for extra travel time. Also check your airline’s website to make sure your flight is leaving on time. Nothing worse than to arrive at the airport and discover that your flight has been delayed by 5 hours.

8. Pay for parking online in advance as you might be able to get a discount on long-term parking fees.

9. Load-up your smart phone with travel apps that can help you re-book on the fly, track flights and get info on the go.

10. Check to see if you’ve been pre-qualified for “TSA PRE”. If so, you won’t have to take off your shoes and belt and you won’t have to remove your laptop if you’re one in your carry on luggage.

Courtesy of Travelocity (substantially modified and expanded).

My Tips

You can’t eliminate the stress of travelling during peak travel periods altogether, but you lessen the stress if you plan ahead.

One of my favourite strategies is to arrive at the airport early, check my bags, and then chill out in a pay-in lounge (if I have complimentary access). If I don’t have free access to a paid-in lounge, I look for a food and beverage outlet with complimentary Wi-Fi

I wait as long as possible to board (unless I’m flying Business Class), and I NEVER wait in line. I prefer to relax until  everyone else has boarded and then make my grand entrance.

The only downside is that sometimes all of the nearby overhead bins are full if you do this.

At the end of my flight, I also remain seated until almost everyone else has left the plane. Not only is this less stressful (I really don’t understand why everyone jumps to their feet and then waits in the aisle), it also means a shorter wait at baggage claim.

My bags sometimes arrive before I do!

If I am flying Business Class, however, I board as early as possible because most airlines serve complimentary champagne to Business Class passengers while cattle class is being herded on board.

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