Thanksgiving—also known as one of the busiest travel times of the year—is just a week away. According to AAA, this year 46.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more to visit friends and family. Is that a significant increase from last year? Not really. According to AAA, it’s only a 0.6 percent increase from 2014, when 46.6 million Americans traveled. It is, however, the largest number since 2007.
So for those of you who are traveling to celebrate Thanksgiving, here are some predictions—and some tips to help you along the way.
If you’re hitting the road next week, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that you won’t be alone. AAA estimates that 42 million Americans will be driving between Wednesday, November 26 and Sunday, November 29. The good news? Gas prices are still well below last year’s levels.
That said, there are still some ways you should prepare before you head out next week.
Keep in mind that Wednesday will be the worst day for traffic. One way to combat this is to leave early in the morning and keep some driving apps handy to help you plan an alternate route. Apps such as Waze and Google Maps can help you find routes with the least amount of traffic—but keep in mind that they can only do so much when there are a lot of cars on the road.
Have your car serviced. If you’re driving long distances or through inclement weather, you’ll want to make sure your brakes, fluids, lights, etc. are all in working order.
Fuel up before you leave. To further avoid traffic or delays, fill up your car in advance—at least the day before.
Keep a car charger handy. Apps for gas, traffic, directions, and music can make a road trip a lot easier—but they can also drain your battery. Make sure you bring along a car charger or two, or even a battery pack.
Watch the weather. Bad weather can delay a holiday—or create difficulties in getting home. Keep an eye on weather reports, but make sure you have everything you need in case you have to drive through a storm.
Pack snacks and beverages. If you have a long drive ahead and don’t want to stop frequently, pack some snacks and water. If you get stuck in traffic or have a weather delay, you’ll have some food on hand—and it won’t be whatever you can find at a gas station.
Check in with your hosts and family. This way, if issues arise, they know where you are and how long your drive should take. You can also download Glympse, an app that lets you send your location to someone. That way, they can see where you are and even how fast you’re driving. Hopefully they won’t use it against you if you’re speeding, but they’ll know if you’re stuck in traffic and averaging five miles per hour.
Compared to driving, not as many Americans will be flying, but that doesn’t mean airports will be empty. AAA predicts 3.6 million Americans will fly this year, which represents a 0.1 percent increase from last year.
According to the Orbitz Holiday Insider Index, some major airports will be busier than others. Orbitz analyzed booking data for travel between Wednesday, November 26 and Wednesday, December 2. Based on its data, these are the ten busiest airports for Thanksgiving:
- Los Angeles International (LAX)
- Chicago O’Hare International (ORD)
- San Francisco International (SFO)
- Denver International (DEN)
- Boston Logan International (BOS)
- New York John F. Kennedy International (JFK)
- Orlando International Airport (MCO)
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
- Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
- Atlanta Hartsfield International (ATL)
Alternatively, Orbitz also found the ten least busy airports:
- Eppley Airfield in Omaha, NE (OMA)
- Kahului Airport in Maui, HI (OGG)
- San Jose International Airport in San Jose, CA (SJC)
- Jacksonville Airport (JAX)
- Palm Beach International (PBI)
- Nashville Metropolitan Airport (BNA)
- General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, WI (MKE)
- John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA (SNA)
- Port Columbus International Airport in Columbus, OH (CMH)
- Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
Before you head out to the airport, there are some tips to keep in mind:
Eat before you leave. No one likes being hangry (anger brought on by intense hunger), and no one likes to be around someone who is hangry. If you can, eat before you leave for the airport, where you’re likely to wait in long lines for both check in and security.
Check in online. As early as possible, check in for your flight online to help expedite the process once you’re at the airport. Do as much in advance as you can—including paying for your checked luggage. If you’re traveling with a car seat, wheelchair, or pets, make sure you speak to the airline in advance to avoid any possible issues once you’re at the gate.
Take a screenshot of your digital boarding pass. If you choose to download your boarding pass onto your phone, take a screenshot. This way, you won’t have to fumble through emails or apps while you’re waiting to board.
Charge your devices and bring along a charger. Many of us are very attached to our phones on a regular basis, but these devices become even more important if you experience a flight delay. You’ll need to call your friends and family, and you might want to catch up on your Instagram feed or play a few levels of Candy Crush while you’re waiting. Either way, you’ll probably also need your phone when you land, so it helps to plan ahead.
Prepare for TSA screening. If you haven’t signed up for TSA PreCheck, it helps to plan ahead for security screening. Keep in mind that you’ll need to remove your shoes, belt, jacket, and other outer layers. If you’re bringing liquids, you’ll need to remove your TSA 311 bag, and you’ll also need to put your laptop in a separate bin. If you want to make sure you have all your bases covered, check out the TSA’s guide for security screening. Everyone in line behind you will be grateful.
Want to make sure you’re prepared for your trip? These tips can help:
- Road Trip Apps That Can Make Your Drive Easier
- How to Fit It All In One Bag: Carry-On Packing Tips
- 4 Ways to Get Around the TSA 311 Rule
- 5 Tips for Rescheduling Your Flight During Weather Delays
By Stephanie Ervin for PeterGreenberg.com