What to Expect at the Airport at Thanksgiving

What can Turkey Day travelers expect at U.S. airports? Crowds, of course.

25 Million Will Jam Airports

According the airline lobbying group Airlines for America, there will be 25 million people jammed into the nation’s airports in late November 2013. The good news is you might not notice because this figure represents only a 1.5% increase over last year. On the other hand, that’s still the extra 31,000 passengers a day, so here are some things to keep in mind.

Listen: Rick Seaney with even more tips for Turkey Day travelers.

All the latest news and tips for Thanksgiving travelers

How to Get Through the Airport Quickly

Go to the airport early: More people equals longer lines at security. Better to be early and have to sit around than to miss your flight

Get to your gate early: In recent years, airlines allow planes to take off a few or even several minutes early. Be at the gate 15 to 20 minutes before the scheduled departure.

Consider paying some fees: Early boarding fees aren’t always expensive (Southwest’s EarlyBird fee is just $12.50) and this will get you out of the airport madness earlier. Especially useful for those traveling with little ones or senior citizens.

Avoid these fees: Checked-bag fees are expensive and it is this luggage that occasionally goes missing. Even if your bag doesn’t get mishandled, you’ll still have to wait for it at the carousel when you land, and you may be there for quite a while thanks to all the extra travelers. Use a carry-on instead.

See all the fees for U.S. airlines

Dos and Don’ts at Security Checkpoints

Do remember the liquids rule: The TSA only allows containers that hold 3.4 ounces of liquids through security and these must be in a single quart-sized zip bag. Wait until you get past the checkpoint to get a bottle of water.

Don’t forget to take your shoes off: Shoes and jackets must come off and laptops must be removed from cases unless you’re involved in PreCheck or a member of a government trusted traveler program. Learn how to participate.

Don’t bring home-made gooey stuff: Forget that jar of cranberry sauce of other goopy goodies. To the TSA, that is a liquid and that will not be allowed to pass.

Don’t bring wrapped gifts: The TSA may have to unwrap these at the checkpoint. Avoid the time and hassle by shipping gifts ahead.

Tips for Your Comfort

Entertainment news: Yes, you can now keep your portable electronic device in the on position (in airplane mode only) throughout the entire flight, if your airline gives you the go-ahead and more will be doing so shortly. However, these rules do not apply to laptops and no phone calls are allowed.

Dress in layers: Planes rarely offer free pillows and blankets anymore (if they have any at all) so bring your own or a sweater or jacket so you don’t shiver all through the flight.

Bring your own food: Airlines don’t serve meals on domestic coach flights anymore and what free snacks still exist are no substitute for lunch. Grab something at the airport or even better, brown bag it from home.


Published: November 7, 2013