Don't Bump Up the Bag Fees
If you must check a bag, just check one (JetBlue gives you one for free, while Southwest is the only carrier with two free bags). Remember, on many airlines, checking one bag costs $50 roundtrip, and checking a second, adds $120 to a roundtrip flight. And keep bags under 50 pounds, please - those overweight bag charges are killers.
Or get one of those branded airline credit cards that'll give you bags for free.
My philosophy: never check a bag if you can possibly help it. Thanksgiving is such a short holiday; surely you can pack what you need in a carry-on. And it's free - with the sole exception of Spirit Airlines which will charge you for that privilege.
Check in Early
And by check in early, I mean do it at 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds before departure. Why? You'll have a field of empty bins to yourself when you board, which will be handy if you brush up against the bag rule with a large carry-on; you'll find a spot for it.
Avoid the High Cost of Taxis and Parking
Your airfare is going to be expensive enough without paying $70 for a taxi; try public transportation, like Los Angeles International's FlyAway Bus service or the many transportation options from New York City area airports. Hint: this is easier if you use a carry-on bag.
Or enlist a friend or neighbor to swap airport shuttle duties with; they give you a ride at Thanksgiving and you play chauffeur when they need to go out of town. Or promise to make that fabulous Buche de Noel with Marzipan Mushrooms for their Christmas dessert in exchange for a lift to the airport at Thanksgiving.
Pack a Lunch
Yes, some airlines will still give you a free pack of peanuts or pretzels, and that's about it. Avoid the inflated food prices at the airport and on the plane by packing your own sandwich.
By the way, that text chat you read about at the beginning of the column? All ended well, according to my editor: tickets were purchased in a semi-timely manner, so the bank wasn't broken, and the college kid sent Mom a message that went something like this:
College Kid: "Thx, Mom! Cant wait 2 see u!"
A happy ending. And isn't that what Thanksgiving's all about? I guess the main thing to take away from all this is, bite the bullet, pay the inflated cost of the airfare but save where you can. And don't sweat the small stuff.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.
Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations that include ABC News, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg. His website, FareCompare.com, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.