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Surviving Holiday Travel: Getting Home for Thanksgiving

Surviving Holiday Travel: Getting Home for Thanksgiving

Heading out of town for your family’s annual turkey fest? Don’t stress! Find out how you can deal with (or avoid) super-crowded airports, gridlocked highways, and other Thanksgiving travel annoyances.

Millions of Americans take advantage of the extra days off during Thanksgiving week to visit their families, which makes the holiday one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. But the pursuit of the turkey with family doesn’t have to mean crowded airports, busy freeways, and high stress situations. There are ways to beat the crowds and make Thanksgiving travel a little more pleasant.

Make sure your vehicle is in good condition.

The American Red Cross notes that most Thanksgiving travelers reach their destination by car. If you’re among them, tune up your vehicle before leaving (the last thing you need is to be fixing a flat tire while the rest of the family awaits your arrival!).

Double-check the tire pressure, fill up the oil and gas tanks, and stop for rest breaks or take turns behind the wheel. If you’re in a busy urban center, a good way to get into the vacation mind set is to take the scenic route and avoid the traffic jams. 

Book flights early and avoid heavy travel days.

Since airline prices can soar as the holiday approaches, those who fly can save big bucks by buying tickets early. If you’re going to be stuck on a crowded plane, you can take comfort in the knowledge that you’re getting a good deal! If you didn’t book your flights early this year, make a note for next year.

The busiest travel days during Thanksgiving weekend are the Wednesday before and the Sunday after the holiday, so consider flying early on Thanksgiving morning and returning home on either Saturday or Monday. And of course, always check-in online if possible.

If flying, go easy on the baggage.

Avoiding the baggage claim area by taking only carry-on luggage is one way to shorten the amount of time you spend at the airport – and to save on fees. Thanksgiving vacations are typically only a few days long anyway, so a carry-on suitcase should be sufficient. If the whole family is joining you on the trip, maximize your allowable amount of baggage by stuffing your extra personal items into the kids’ suitcases or using packing cubes to help organize and compress all of your stuff.

Not sure what bag to bring? Eagle Creek has some TSA-friendly carry-on options, such as the EC Adventure 4-Wheeled Upright 22, the Load Warrior Wheeled Duffel 22Tarmac 22.

Prepare for delays.

Depart a little earlier than you normally would, wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and be sure to take something that can relieve stress and kill time, like an iPad or your favorite book.

Even with all your preparation, it’s likely you will still encounter delays of some sort during the holiday weekend. Remember, everyone else is just trying to get to their loved ones too, so adopting a “we’re all in this together” mindset can help ensure you don’t blow your top if and when delays happen. 

Scott Shetler is a freelance journalist and frequent traveler who enjoys national parks, urban nightlife, and everything in between. He blogs about his adventures at

Featured Products 

Tarmac 22

EC Adventure 4-Wheeled Upright 22

Load Warrior Wheeled Duffel 22

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