Tips for Making Thanksgiving Travel Less Stressful

Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.

Jim Davis

Around Thanksgiving all you want to do is put on your sweatpants, lounge around, cook, and eat good food with good people. The last thing anyone wants to do is panic about booking travel and wallowing in self pity when they realize everything is over-priced and over-booked. Sitting in traffic jams for hours doesn’t sound like a good time either. Need a pet sitter? Oh boy, you’re really having a rough day aren’t you?

Planning your Thanksgiving travels doesn’t have to be stressful. By using the tips below you can book your trip, plan out the details, and pack knowing that you’ve done everything you can to make the experience smoother. You just might have an even better time on your trip since worrying won’t be an issue. Unfortunately, these tips do nothing to help with problematic family members. You’re on your own for that!

Plan Everything in Advance

It might seem obvious, but planning in advance is one of the best ways to prepare for any holiday travel. Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year, so getting your flights, hotel, transportation nailed down before everyone else takes a ton of stress out of it. You can pick the best (and cheapest) days to travel, book before the prices increase so you get the best rates, and there will be tons of availability. Think of it as a race where the start time is undecided. Do you want to begin early and pace yourself or do you want to start when everyone else does and fight to run past the start line?

I love planning travel, so I do a little bit at a time. It’s fun to search for the best deals and research which days will be best to travel. I even plan my packing early so I can make sure if I need to order something it will get to me in time. Plus, I have 5 pets and getting a pet sitter booked early is a MUST.

Avoid Over Packing

Raise your hand if you love arriving at the airport with 4 bags per person and paying checked bag fees. Raise your other hand if you love being packed like a sardine into a car that has too many people who each brought too many bags. My guess is that you didn’t raise either of your hands. Good job! It’s tempting to pack a bunch of items, but chances are you’re traveling for a long weekend and don’t need to put everything but the kitchen sink in your bags.

If you forget something, borrow from family or friends you’re visiting or grab a travel-sized version once you get to your destination. Cars have limited space, so if you’re driving you will definitely want to limit the number of bags you can bring, especially if you have several people in the car. If you’re flying ask yourself if you want to carry the number of bags you want to bring and if you want to spend the money on an extra bag. Keep in mind that since it’s one of the busiest times of year to travel, there’s a greater chance of baggage getting lost. The more bags you bring, the greater that chance.

Arrive Early and Leave Early to Avoid High-Travel Days

If possible, get to your destination a day or two early. The costs will be cheaper for travel and accommodations (with the exception of gas if you’re driving) and the airports will be less crowded than if you traveled the day before Thanksgiving. Airlines and hotels are notorious for hiking up costs and fees during heavy travel periods, so it’s best to avoid those if possible. Plus, you will have the added comfort of a normal travel day if you avoid the crazy rush both coming and going.

If you drive, the roads will be much less crowded and safer if you plan an extra day or two into your plan. Leaving early also helps you beat the rush of traffic of everyone trying to return home. Another thing to keep in mind is getting to the airport early if you plan to fly. If you can’t avoid traveling during the busiest times of the year, make a plan to get there early so you aren’t panicking about your flight while you’re stuck in security with hundreds of other people.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Gone are the days when you have to wait to you arrive at the airport to check in and gone are the days when you had to plan a route and hope it wasn’t backed up for miles with a traffic jam. There are SO many ways to use technology to your advantage to make traveling less stressful. A few of them include

  • Checking in online the day before your flight to save time and avoid lines
  • Apps like Gate Guru help you find food/lounges/etc so you know all of your options and don’t have to wander around
  • Check flight status online at any time
  • Gas price apps help you choose the best gas stations to save money
  • Navigation apps help you choose the best routes and help avoid traffic jams

Pack Snacks, Drinks, and Entertainment

This might seem obvious, but it gets overlooked A LOT. Most airlines will let you bring liquids under 3.4 ounces and tons of snacks or meal prepped food. In cars, you can bring however much you’d like, but be careful not to overpack. Snacks, meals and drinks aren’t often thought of until it’s too late. There’s a serious case of hanger raging around and you’re stuck with unappealing options, or worse, none at all. Now you’re packed in with people who are also feeling this internal (about to the external) rage and it’s awful. Do everyone a favor, and pack some emergency snacks.

Entertainment is another thing. There’s nothing more boring than sitting in a car for hours or wandering around an airport. Luckily, there are so many solutions. Bring a book, card games, headphones for music or tv/movies. Make sure you aren’t bored by bringing the things you genuinely like to do. This will not only make you a more pleasant travel companion, but the time will go by much faster if you’re occupied.

Do You Have More Suggestions?

By now, you should know I LOVE hearing everyone’s suggestions no matter what post I’m doing each week. This community is so fun to be a part of and it’s great being able to learn about creative ways everyone else approaches travel with!

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