Holiday travel was limited last year due to the pandemic and while many are still choosing not to fly just yet, airport traffic has increased steadily over the course of 2021 and it appears as if traffic will continue to increase for Thanksgiving. Hopper’s 2021 Holiday Travel Guide reports that Thanksgiving travel demand isn’t quite as high as it was pre-pandemic in 2019, but that numbers are already much higher than they were last year in 2020. If you’re planning to travel over the holiday, we’ve got some great Thanksgiving travel tips to help get you through one of the busiest travel weekends of the year!

Choose Your Travel Days Wisely

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel times of the year- which can mean a lot of headaches with traffic, long lines at the airport and travel delays.

Prior to the pandemic, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving were the busiest days for flying.

With so many people still working from home, it looks like that is changing this year. Preliminary data is actually showing Monday November 15th as the busiest travel day, with the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (November 24th) as the second busiest day.⁠

If you do have some flexibility in your travel days, it would be best to avoid ALL of these dates as they are all likely to be very busy. Adjusting your travel dates can help reduce a lot of the headaches that come with traveling on the very busiest days.

If you’re driving

  • Be Prepared for Emergencies: Make sure your car is tuned up before your road trip- change your oil, check your tire pressure, and refill your windshield wiper fluid. Be sure to have emergency supplies packed and ready just in case. If you’ll be traveling in winter destinations, make sure you have warm clothing for everyone in the car in case of a flat tire or other emergency that could leave you stranded.
  • Plan for Traffic: Especially if you’re driving on some of the busiest travel days, expect a lot of traffic. While it may normally take you 5 hours to get to Grandma’s house, plan on your Thanksgiving trip taking a little more time. Give yourself some extra time so that you don’t panic if you do get stuck in traffic.
  • Take Alternative Routes: If it’s possible to take an alternative route and avoid the traffic on major highways, might save you some time and stress. While the mileage or time on your GPS may look like more, if you can avoid traffic back ups, you might actually save time on a less direct route.
  • Avoid Toll Roads When Possible: More traffic on the roads means longer lines at toll roads. If it’s possible to avoid toll roads, it could save you some time.
  • Pack Lots of Snacks: While every road trip needs snacks, everyone is going to be extra hungry on a Thanksgiving road trip! Be sure to have plenty of snacks to hold everyone over so you don’t end up with a car full of hangry kids.

If you’re flying

  • Skip the Parking: Airport parking lots will be jam packed for the holidays. If you can have someone drop you off or if you can take an Uber or Lyft to the airport, you’ll save yourself a lot of time by skipping the parking.
  • Leave Extra Time: When airports are busy, everything is going take longer. Lines for checking bags and getting through airport security are going to be extra long- so leave plenty of time. There’s nothing more stressful than rushing to your gate. Plan for long lines so that you don’t panic about making your flight on time.
  • Travel Light: If possible, stick to carry-on bags. Most Thanksgiving travel is just for a few days, and lost or delayed luggage can ruin your entire trip. Plus, a carry-on only means you can skip the line for checking bags and save yourself more time at the airport!
  • Carry Food in a Clear Plastic Bag: If you’re flying with food, TSA recommends putting all food in a clear plastic bag and placing that bag in it’s own bin when you go through security. Being prepared to remove your food can help you move through security faster and without incident.

Health and Safety

  • Minimize Exposure Before Your Trip: This year, medical experts are still recommending minimal indoor gatherings to prevent the spread of Covid. If you are going to be spending time indoors with family or friends outside of your household, its a good idea to minimize your exposure for the 5-7 days leading up to your holiday celebrations where you’ll be inside with others. Do your best to reduce exposure and possible infection before visiting grandma!
  • Pack Extra Masks: Make sure you have enough masks for the duration of your trip- especially if you are flying! Airlines and all forms of public transport are still requiring masks, so make sure you have them with you.
  • You Can Fly with 12oz of Hand Sanitizer: TSA is now allowing passengers to carry one 12 ounce bottle of hand sanitizer through airport security. All other liquids and gels are still limited to 3.4 ounces- but be sure to take advantage of this new allowance so you can keep your hands clean and stay healthy over the holidays!
  • Wipe Down Seats and Tray Tables: If you’re flying, it’s a good idea to bring a package of antibacterial wipes so you can wipe down your seat and tray table to minimize your exposure to germs. Wipe down all high-touch surfaces, including seat belts and window shades to be extra safe so you don’t end up bringing any illnesses with you to your holiday destination.
  • Wash Your Hands Frequently: After the last year and a half, this should go without saying- but remember to wash your hands frequently. Whether you’re washing with soap and water or hand sanitizer- don’t forget the 30 second rule. Hands need to be wet and soapy for a full 30 seconds! IF you’re washing with soap and water, that means a full 30 seconds of soap suds before rinsing. If you’re using sanitizer, make sure hands stay wet for the full 30 seconds.

RELAX and ENJOY!

This may be the most important tip on our whole list! Thanksgiving is a time to rest and relax, to spend with family and to give thanks for the many wonderful things we have in our lives. While travel can be a bit stressful this time of year, don’t lose sight of the meaning of this holiday. Go into the holiday weekend knowing there might be some travel related stressors, but do you best to relax and enjoy this time with friends and family once you arrive at your destination!

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