If you plan on flying for Thanksgiving, you should already have your tickets. If not, see this Guide to Finding the Cheapest Last-Minute Holiday Airfare. Time to start buying for Christmas flights, too.
Now, for the other tips you need to know.
Listen to Rick Seaney’s holiday dos and don’ts:
1. Be an Early Bird
Airports will be packed with about 24 million people during the Thanksgiving travel period, so you can pretty much count on long lines at all but the smallest of airports (and maybe there, too). If you normally get to the airport an hour early, better double that. Yes, arrive at least two hours ahead of time which means you may be sitting around for a while (pack food and entertainment and be sure all devices are charged up), but it sure beats missing your flight.
2. Don’t Be a Security Snail
If you don’t fly often, review the TSA security rules – that bottle of water will be taken from you and tossed out. Remember, all liquid toiletries are limited to 3.4 ounces per bottle in carry-on luggage and they must fit in a single quart-sized plastic bag which is not a lot of space. Consider buying or borrowing what you need at your destination.
3. Pack Like a Nudist
How long will you be away for the holidays – three or four days? Use a carry-on bag to save on fees and pack one nice outfit, a pair of jeans (that you can travel in, too) and a couple of shirts. Wear one pair of shoes, pack another and use coat pockets for anything else you need. Do not confuse the holidays with Fashion Week.
4. Be a Boy Scout
Or be a Girl Scout, meaning – whichever you are, be prepared. Make sure your phone has your airline’s number in it and you’re signed up for all alerts. Follow your airline on Twitter, too, since most respond to complaining tweets quickly. Be sure whoever is picking you up at the airport gets your airlines alerts as well, so they don’t make a trip for nothing in case of delays.
5. When in Doubt, Ask
Looking to score an upgrade, or hoping for a meal voucher in case of delays? You may not technically be due either, but you can always ask. And ask nicely – gate agents and other airline reps are crazy-busy during peak holiday travel periods, and which would you prefer – a pleasant request that includes a “please” or an arrogant demand that ends with, “do you know who I am?”