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Plan Ahead for Travel This Holiday Season

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October 31, 2012

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is the busiest of the year so it’s a good idea to get organized before taking any trips.  Here are some helpful suggestions for making things run more smoothly.

Research Flights

Start checking out flights and prices as early as possible.  Some websites allow you to set up email alerts so that you’re the first to know when your flight goes on sale.  Additionally, follow your preferred airline(s) on Twitter and Facebook to find deals as they happen.

Based on previous trends, the day before – and the Sunday after Thanksgiving are the busiest travel days of the year.  If possible, avoid flying on those days since they will probably be more expensive and more difficult to book.

Find a Parking Spot

Parking at the airport can be crazy which, if you’re cutting it close the day of your flight, could cost you crucial minutes.  Find out ahead of time if you’re able to reserve parking spots for the day(s) you are traveling.  One website that can be useful is

Check-In the Day Before

If you’ve travelled at all, especially during holidays, you will know the lines at the check-in counter can be absolutely crazy.  Avoid the masses by checking in as soon as possible (usually, 24 hours before the flight).  At the same time, you may be given the option to choose your seats and get up-to-the-minute flight information.  You can print your boarding passes before you leave home, or some airlines even allow you to download it onto your phone with an app.

Have an Emergency List

Before you leave the house, make sure that everyone in your party has a copy of an emergency list that can include family phone numbers, credit card and insurance company information, airline customer service numbers, car rental agencies and more.  While it is great to be able to access these lists on cell phones, anything could happen (low battery, no Wi-Fi, lost phone), so having a hard copy is probably a good idea.

Get Familiar with the Airport

Unless you are very familiar with all of the airports you’re navigating on your trip, it might be a good idea to have a map of the airport.  Smartphone users can take advantage of tools such as the GateGuru app which shows the gates and restaurants in an airport. But printing a copy can be just as useful.  This is especially important for airports where you’re catching a connecting flight.

Be Prepared for Security Checkpoints

Going through airport security is rarely a fun experience so the best thing you can do is to be as prepared as possible.  Make sure you don’t have any banned items or substances in your bag, wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off and remove any items that will set off the metal detector.  Your efficiency and preparedness not only affects your flight plans but also affects every other traveler behind you.

Travel Light

This goes without saying but bears repeating.  Having checked bags is becoming more and more expensive and losing luggage can be devastating.  Why not just focus on what is absolutely essential and take a carry-on bag instead?  Verify the dimensions required by your airline and then get the biggest bag that meets those standards.  Often, people are surprised by how much they can fit into the bags, especially since most of us tend to overpack anyway.  If you were planning on bringing gifts, consider shipping them separately ahead of time.

Tips for Road Trips

  • Expect and plan for delays, especially on busy highways such as the I-95 on the East Coast.
  • Avoid traveling the day before Thanksgiving and the Sunday following to minimize traffic.
  • Check for road closures/construction and update your GPS maps.
  • Have change ready for toll booths.
  • Pack snacks, drinks and emergency supplies including a flashlight, blankets, motor oil and a phone charger.
  • Find the least expensive place to gas up using a website or app like Gas Buddy.

Tips for Travel by Train

  • As is the case with driving and flying, avoid the busiest travel days which are the day before Thanksgiving and the Sunday following.
  • Book ahead so that you can bypass the lines and print out your tickets at the automated Quik-Trak kiosk.
  • Familiarize yourself with Amtrak’s baggage policy as they are particularly strict during the holiday season.

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