Thanksgiving Travel Tips and Advice

Happy Thanksgiving and Travel Safe

Happy Thanksgiving and Travel Safe

Be prepared for packed airports and skies

The number of individual traveling by air is up this year which means you’ll need to pack your patience as we begin the busy Thanksgiving travel period in the United States. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is set to be the busiest day for air travel in the United States.

First, some good news. The potential east coast storm we previously talked about will go out to sea and weather conditions will be warm and dry along the eastern seaboard. The Pacific Northwest will be wet as the holiday treks begin. Long term forecast models can be good at providing a general picture but aren’t always accurate. Additionally, temperatures look to be mild for this time of year in large portions of the United States over the Turkey Day travel period.

Busy Chicago O'Hare Airport

Bustling Chicago O’Hare Airport

With weather looking good in much of the United States, airlines and airports are preparing, and so can you.

Use Airline Internet Services

Twenty Four hours prior to departure, most airlines will allow you to check-in online. Take advantage of this and print your boarding passes at home. Even if you’re traveling international, many airlines will allow you to enter your passport information online.

As you check-in online, most airlines, from Delta to the ultra low cost carrier Spirit, will allow you pre-pay your checked luggage at a discount to the cost at the airport. Some carriers such as United will also allow you to purchase add-on services during check-in from seats with extra legroom to priority security (where available) as well as priority boarding.

Take advantage of this! When you arrive at the airport, all you’ll have to do is drop your luggage with the airline. In many airports you’ll only need to use a kiosk in a luggage drop-off area – have identification ready for airline staff as they accept your luggage.

If you’re unable to check-in via the internet, the next quickest way to check in is via an airline kiosk. In most cases, there is no need to queue and wait for an agent.

You can also check-in outside with a SkyCap – if you use a SkyCap, be sure to tip them in addition to the service fee charged.

Depart for the Airport Early

Leaving for the airport early will provide you with extra time should any surprises crop up from heavy traffic to problems finding a parking space.

At some airports, it may be cheaper to use an offsite parking service. Several airport hotels offer packages which include parking with a one-night stay prior to your trip. If you live far from the airport or have an early morning flight, this could be an excellent deal.

Be prepared for TSA Security Screening

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires a valid government issued picture ID for all travelers over the age of 18. If you’re traveling internationally, a valid passport is required — this includes travel to Canada and Mexico.

Know the rules regarding liquids in your carry-on at the checkpoint – all liquid, gels, and aerosols must be less than 100 ml, which is 3.4 ounces, and they must be placed in a one quart-sized clear plastic “zip-top” bag. Exceptions exist for medically necessary items, such as prescription medications in the form of a liquid, gel, or aerosol, but its been our experience rules are not uniform across the system and some items come down to a judgement call. Visit www.tsa.gov for additional information.

Keep an eye on valuables at security checkpoints to avoid theft. If you pulled for additional screening after the metal detector or whole body imaging device, watch your items – you have the right to view your possessions via a direct line of sight.

If you do not feel comfortable with whole body imaging, you do have the right to opt-out. However, an opt-out will result in a hands-on, full body pat-down.

Should you encounter problems at a TSA checkpoint, politely ask for a supervisor or a screening manager.

Aside from liquid restrictions, shoes must be removed along with items such as laptops.

Frequent travelers who are part of the pre-check program may be exempt from some of these requirements.

Liquids may be purchased after security, such as bottled water or coffee, and can be brought onto the aircraft.

Don’t loose your seat

Most flights board 30 minutes prior to the departure time on your ticket. Arrive at your gate at least 30 minutes prior to departure for US domestic flights and 45 minutes for international. Rules vary by airline, but if you’re not at the gate in a timely manner, your airline may give your seat to another customer.

If you’re making a connection, familiarize yourself with the layout of your connecting airport. Airport maps are typically in the back of your airline in-flight magazines and they can usually be found online. If you’ve been provided your connection gate in-advance, be sure to double-check upon arrival at your connecting airport as gate assignments do change.

Should you have a flight cancelled or miss a connection, hub airports have re-booking and service centers, but sometimes a call to the airline or getting online with your smartphone while you wait may produce faster results. The good news is you should be protected on the next flight with space available but flights will be full and seats difficult to find on some routes.

Full flights = bumping – know your rights!

Finally, pack your patience.


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