10 Things to Know for a Pleasant (and Cheaper) Flight this Thanksgiving Holiday

If you haven’t flown in a while but expect to travel over Thanksgiving, you may not be aware of how much airline ticket prices rise during the holidays or maybe you haven’t kept up with the latest fees. Even frequent flyers may need a quick refresher, so everyone is invited to check out the following tips to save money, time and aggravation.

Listen as travel expert Rick Seaney makes Turkey Day so simple:

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10 Things to Know: Thanksgiving Travel

  • Before You Buy Tickets

1. Know the cheapest days to fly: The Monday before Thanksgiving (Nov. 19), Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22), the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 27).

2. Know the more expensive days to avoid: The Wednesday before Thanksgiving (Nov. 21), the Sunday/Monday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 25, 26).

If you cannot fly the very cheapest days, know that Friday and Saturday after the holiday (Nov. 23, 24) fall in the mid-range category, price-wise.

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3. Know baggage fees: If you don’t fly much, you may not realize that almost every airline now charges a fee per each checked-bag, with the exception of JetBlue and Southwest. Two airlines also charge fees for carry-on bags: Allegiant and Spirit. Bag fees vary but generally cost $50 round-trip. Tip: Know your airline’s bag fees before packing.

4. Watch baggage weight: Overweight bag charges can be steep ($200 one-way on American and Delta for bags over 70 pounds). Weigh your bag before you head to the airport and keep it under 50 pounds. Tip: Consolidate bags to avoid multiple fees, but watch the weight.

5. Try some fees during the holidays: Lines will be long during the holidays and this may be a good time to try fees, especially the cut in line fees (names vary by airline). Thanks to high holiday prices, the low fee-to-airfare ratio you pay may make it worth it, especially if traveling with family. Tip: Southwest’s EarlyBird boarding is a bargain at $10 per person.

6. Purchase airfare as soon as possible: Add an extra $3 per day (approximately) to the total cost of your airfare starting about Oct. 15 for every day you put off your purchase.

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  • At the Airport

7. Security lines will be slow: Not only will planes be packed, but airports will too and security lines will be further slowed by novice travelers who don’t know the TSA rules. Review the ban on liquids over 3.4 ounces and have toiletries packed in a single zip bag to help keep lines moving. Tip: Leave for the airport at least 30 minutes earlier than usual.

8. Know the rules on holiday gifts: Presents must be unwrapped or security will do it for you. Home-made jars of jams and special sauces will be treated as liquids and cannot exceed the 3.4 ounce limitation.

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  • On the Plane

9. No free meals: Only Hawaiian Airlines offers complimentary meals in coach on U.S. flights (and only between the mainland and the islands), so be prepared to pay for food or bring your own.

10. In-flight purchases will require a credit card: Need a blanket and pillow or a special snack box? The airlines have abandoned cash so have a credit card handy. Better yet, dress in layers and pack your own snacks.

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Published: October 10, 2012