It’s easy to assume that most students will visit family over Thanksgiving break. It’s a great time to enjoy the company of friends and family that you probably haven’t seen since the beginning of the semester; all the while eating to the point of exhaustion. It’s a holiday where you don’t have to pass on the gravy and can get as many plates as you want. I can’t think of anything that would put a damper on this holiday; except maybe the driving part. No matter which way you spin it, traveling across the U.S. in a cramped car with siblings and the family dog is a pain. It’s even worse while sitting in stand-still traffic, not even 100 miles from home. For those flying, I don’t even want to think about the security checkpoint lines. Lucky for you, I’ve dug up some pointers for those who aren’t veterans of Thanksgiving traveling. I’m hoping these can make your trip a little less miserable, and a little more comfortable.
For Drivers: 1. Leave Early, Stay Late. Obviously for some this may not be possible, but the roads are going to be packed. I recommend scheduling a Tuesday-Tuesday trip. You can also consider leaving home Tuesday and coming home Saturday. Regardless of travel dates, you’re going to be competing with obnoxious amounts of traffic. According to Consumer Travel, November 24th is the single busiest travel day for Americans (That is Wednesday before Thanksgiving). On some interstates, the traffic becomes horrendous in the early evening, so this is something I would highly advise for those traveling long distances.
2. Don’t Just Rely on Your Mirrors. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one of the months with the highest car crash severity is November. Also, consider that the Thanksgiving holiday is one of the most deadly periods of the year for Americans. So think twice when you’re trying to cut your ETA a few hours by speeding (not trying to be all fatherly, but just saying).
3. Lighten the Load. Remember, you’ll only be gone for a a long weekend, so plan accordingly. There’s no reason to bring extra bags to fill the car to the brim, only creating more stress for your ride. More Space in the Car = Comfort = Better Trip.
4. Cruise on Through. You might as well click on that cruise control once you’re well on your way. This feature has more benefits than keeping pace at a constant speed. Cruise control will save you gas, prevent you from speeding (unless you set the car speed above the speed limit), and give the driver’s legs some much needed rest.
5. Lose the Gas Guzzler. Unless it’s needed, consider driving your smaller car to your destination. It will save you a lot more in gas expenses than driving an SUV. For those traveling with family, an SUV or Van may be your only option. Also, consider whether comfort or price are more important. If someone is squished in the back with the suitcases on their lap, you may want to consider a bigger vehicle.
6. Forecast the Best Route. There’s going to be traffic almost no matter which way you head, but by looking at traffic flow and other factors ahead of time, you can plan the trip more efficiently, saving money and a headache.
7. Bring Snacks. Grab some peanut butter crackers, some drinks, etc. to save a few extra dollars, and a few extra stops. Four stops at a gas station can take up an hour that could be better spent on the highway.
For Flights: 1. Pack Light. This is reiterating what was said for those driving. Make sure you’ve packed the lightest amount possible, because those extra checked bags can be awfully pricy (unless you’re flying Southwest!).
2. Arrive Early. With Thanksgiving being one of the most traveled holidays of the year, the security checkpoints will be extremely busy. Try to arrive at the airport at minimum 2 hours before the flight departs. This time of year, most airlines won’t wait for the stragglers.
3. Fly Smart. If you haven’t booked your flight yet, you better get on that ASAP. The tickets only get more expensive closer to your departure date. Surf around on some travel websites like Expedia or Kayak to find the best deal for you.
4. Avoid Busy Days. If you want to have a less crowded flight, consider flying on days besides November 24th, 25th, 28th, and 29th. This is Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday, and Monday, respectively. It shouldn’t be too awful if you can’t avoid them, but it would be ideal to schedule around these dates.
5. Be Sociable. Being on a flight is a great opportunity to meet new people and have friendly conversations. Just be careful talking to strangers, try to avoid conversations about politics, religion, or the one percent.