While fewer folks are choosing to fly to their destination this Thanksgiving, there will still be chaos at the airports. Many airlines have cut back their flight schedules and are scaling down planes so that even if there are less actual travelers this year, planes will still seem to be crowded. "I wouldn't expect to have that middle seat empty next to you so you can stretch out," says Shaw Brown. Plus, less people on planes means more people on the roads and trains. Transportation in general will be crowded this holiday season.
To avoid one hassle, consider checking in for your flight online 24 hours before your departure time. You'll save time at the airport because you won't have to wait in line to check in. In fact, if you're packing a carry-on sized bag and print your boarding pass from home, you can go straight to security and skip the line altogether. Just be sure your travel toiletries meet the Transportation Security Administration's 3-1-1 rule and are sealed inside a quart-sized zip-top bag. For a list of guidelines, click here.
Or, if you are checking a bag, most airlines will offer a discount on their baggage check fees for checking in online rather than in person. Another plus? You can also select your seat online. "If you're traveling with a family, you want to make sure you select all your seats together so you don't get seperated," says Shaw Brown.
Keep in mind, too, that baggage fees have skyrocketed recently. You'll now pay $20-$25 dollars to check your first bag and $30-35 dollars to check a second bag. "When you start going to third and fourth bags, we're looking at $100 and up," says Shaw Brown. This can make even the cheapest flight look pretty pricey. Instead of packing "just in case" items like extra changes of clothes, all your make-up and several pairs of shoes, pack only what you need. Remember that if you forgot an important item or decide you need something once you arrive at your destination, you can always buy it. The same goes for travel by train or by car. You'll spend less time packing and unpacking, and instead spend more time actually enjoying your trip.
If you live near an especially busy airport, you might want to look into reserving a parking spot in advance. This tip especially applies if you're flying out the day before Thanksgiving, which is traditionally known as the busiest travel day of the year. Shaw Brown suggests visiting ParkRideFlyUSA.com if you need help.
Finally, before you leave home, put together a list of emergency numbers to take with you. While standard numbers like your credit card company, family phone numbers and other emergency contacts should be included, be sure to add the customer service numbers of any airlines, train companies, or car related companies - like AAA or your insurance company - as well. If something goes wrong, you'll be able to fix problems that much faster.
For example, if you get to the airport and your flight is cancelled or delayed for an unusually long period of time, it will be easier to find another flight if you have the airline's number handy. With packed planes and fewer flights this holiday season, there will be a scramble for the ticket counter when something goes wrong. Empty seats will fill up fast. Find your place in line, but while you're waiting, call the customer service number. "Often times, you can get through faster on the phone and get rebooked in front of all the people on the line in front of you," says Shaw Brown. If you really feel like doing your homework, you can also check for similar flights on other airlines ahead of time and bring that list with you as well.
If you'd like tips from the pros while you're on the road, you can visit Travelocity on Twitter. "Travelocity is having it's ninth annual Thanksgiving Task Force this year," says Shaw Brown. "We have spotters positioned at twelve of the nation's busiest airports all around the country... We're going to be doing live Twitter updates for the two days before Thanksgiving." Shaw Brown will be hitting the road this Thanksgiving, so she'll be tweeting about driving conditions in New England.
For more information on holiday travel, you can visit www.Travelocity.com by clicking here.
By Erin Petrun