Last-Minute Thanksgiving Travel Tips for Everyone

There will be crowds at the airport this Thanksgiving. Massive, stressful crowds. But we can help ease the pain – and cut costs! – with these last-minute travel tips for guests and hosts.

LISTEN: Rick has a few more tips.

Last-Minute Thanksgiving Travel Tips

Try one, try them all.

1. Pack the smallest bag possible Most airlines don’t charge for carry-on bags (typical fee: $50 round-trip). Other benefits:

  • Carry-ons travel with you so airlines can’t lose them.
  • Quicker airport exits (no long wait at the baggage carousel)

Tip: Some airlines do charge for carry-ons including ultra-low cost carriers like Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit (the U.K.’s Ryanair used to charge but according to its website now allows carry-ons up to 10 kg or 22 lbs for free). However, even the discounters allow a very small bag at no charge, as long as it fits under seat. Come on, Thanksgiving is a short holiday! You won’t need much.

How to pack everything? Easy – just sit & zip.

2. Get connected Simply put, make sure your airline can reach you in the event of delays or flight cancellations, and make sure they can reach whoever will pick you up.

  • Did you add your email and phone number in the reservation contacts box? Do so now.
  • Also add contact info for your host/hostess so they’ll be notified of delays.
  • Do you follow your airline on Twitter? Do it now (and here’s a bunch of airline Twitter names). If there’s a problem, Twitter is often the fastest way to reach a carrier and the fastest way to get a response.

3. Get to the airport early I generally slide into an airport at the last-minute but even I won’t do that during a holiday. The airport will be crowded, security lines long, highways and parking lots jammed. If you have to drive someone to the airport and groan at the thought of rising at 4 a.m., which would you prefer: Rising at dawn or spending an extra day with your guest because he or she missed the flight?

4. Know the security rules Airport security regulations vary from country to country but in the U.S., no liquids are allowed in containers  3.4 ounces or larger. However, the term ‘liquids’ is pretty elastic, including anything from homemade jams and jellies, salsas, peanut butter and the list goes on. Security rules are plainly stated on the TSA website (there’s also an app there) and if you haven’t flown in a while, it’s time for a refresher.

Tip: Souvenir snow globes for the kids? No problem as long as they’re no bigger than a baseball. Bottle of wine for host/hostess? If it’s not packed in a checked-bag, you will have to dump it.

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Updated: November 11, 2015