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5 Thanksgiving travel tips
March 31, 2021

5 Thanksgiving Travel Tips was originally published by The Parking Spot. The Parking Spot is the leading near-airport parking company in the United States with 37 locations at 22 airports.

5 Thanksgiving travel tips

Aside from Christmas and New Year's week, Thanksgiving is the busiest holiday for travel (busier than Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day). In 2019, CNN reported record-setting air travel plans for turkey day, which were expected to increase year-over-year. For those who plan to spend time with loved ones away from home, this isn't great news. When you take time away from the daily grind to relax and feast with the people you care about, the last things you want to deal with are inflated fares, packed airports, and delays. Unfortunately, if you plan to travel during the busiest time of year, this is precisely what you will get. Luckily, Thanksgiving travel is not all doom and gloom. Here's how you can make the most of your holiday travel this year.

thanksgiving food on table
[Photograph: The Parking Spot]

1. Don't make over-ambitious plans

Most of us are accustomed to packing our itineraries with as much as we can fit in. We want to get more out of our vacation time by planning as many activities as possible because we want the opportunity to experience what we can't do inside our typical routines. Well, this is the perfect time to re-evaluate that way of thinking. First of all, since it's a national holiday, many businesses and amenities will be closed on Thanksgiving. Those that are open will likely be overly-packed. So, this week is not the best time to learn how to ski or check other items off your bucket list. Instead, set your expectations low and plan on lounging as much as possible. When you do this, you leave less room for disappointment.

2. Collaborate with family about flexible dates

Of course, if your holiday plans include other people, everyone needs to get on the same page. While it's a well-known fact that you can save hundreds and even thousands of dollars by traveling a week before or after an actual holiday, we're all programmed to celebrate on certain dates. If you want an "un-Thanksgiving" with loved ones, you're going to have to collaborate.

thanksgiving flights price graph
[Photograph: The Parking Spot]

Say that you plan to travel from LAX to JFK this year. A typical, four-day Thanksgiving flight might cost $302. Yet, if you can leave the following Tuesday and come home on Saturday with the same airline, it will only cost $125. You'll save over half the cost. As a single traveler, this seems like a no-brainer. However, for a family of ten traveling from multiple locations, planning outside the norm may require some incentive. Must-read tip: Together, add up the total of what each person would save by traveling a week outside the usual dates and come up with another way you could spend the money. If ten people save $177 each, that's $1,770 your group could spend on a vacation rental, gift, or fun activity that you all could enjoy. Plus, if you travel during different dates, there's a better chance that the amenities you want to enjoy will actually be available.

3. Prepare for bad weather & traffic

If you live in an area with a mild climate, don't forget that certain destinations are experiencing true winter weather in November. For some, this means there could be icy roads and even closures. Furthermore, airport runways aren't the only place where there's higher-than-usual traffic during the holidays. In many cities, the roads will be packed. It's not uncommon to run into multiple traffic jams and sometimes collisions. When you travel during Thanksgiving, this is what you should expect. In a nutshell, while your GPS might say that your final destination is an hour drive from the airport, always give yourself more time to get there. If you're ahead of schedule, you can always stop for sightseeing or a quick cup of coffee.

4. Pack light to avoid luggage problems

If you can manage to travel with a carry-on only, do it. If you can skip the baggage claim, you'll have one less stressor to deal with. If you're not sure how to make that happen, here are some ideas:

  • Wear your heavier clothing rather than packing it in your bag
  • Roll clothing instead of folding to optimize space usage
  • Invest in travel-sized toiletries
  • Store items like stick deodorant, socks, and t-shirts inside your shoes
  • Most of the time, your "personal items" can be a small backpack -- usually, you can bring two small bags without checking either of them

If you're not sure about what sized items you can bring, check with your airline. They can provide more details.

5. Leverage the convenience of technology

You know that your smartphone isn't just for making calls and browsing social media. Surely, you plan to take photos of your vacation to document your memories. But, your phone was an investment -- you should use it as such. When traveling, use apps to make your life easier. The most important app to download when you travel during the holidays is your airline's branded app. Especially when traveling during a busy season, online check-in is a must. Plus, your airline's app will notify you about delays and other important travel information. Next, you should leverage maps to their full advantage. You can track your itinerary, share your ETA with family and friends, discover the nearest fuel and EV charging stations, and see road closures. This way, your trip can run much more smoothly.

If your hotel or car rental company has an app, download it. Are you going to need food delivery? Find out which services are available in your destination city and download the apps. Technology can save you a ton of time and stress when traveling during the holidays.

woman using Avail app

6. Borrow a car, with ease

Once you arrive at your destination, having the freedom to travel locally, especially in suburban locales where public transportation may not be readily available, is a must during holiday time. After all, last minute trips to the grocery store are an inevitability before a big family meal! Relying on a friend or family member for a ride is not always convenient, but spending money on a rental car that you may not use every day of your trip might be a less-than-ideal, costly solution. There is a flexible and affordable alternative: car sharing! Avail car sharing lets you book great cars to get you where you need to go. With Avail, there are no under-25 fees and no second driver fees. You get:

  • 24/7 roadside assistance;
  • The freedom & flexibility to reach destinations outside the city, and;
  • Insurance from Allstate.

Final thoughts

Thanksgiving travel can be hectic because it seems like everyone wants to gather and celebrate. For the least amount of headache and optimal fun this season, follow the advice above. If you can, travel outside peak times without checking any baggage. Get your travel companions on the same page with you as you plan for a relaxing holiday, and use technology to your full advantage. Ready to book your trip?