Seven Tips for Smooth Thanksgiving Travel


Typically when you miss a connection, the airline just puts you on the next flight to your destination. During a peak travel period like Thanksgiving, however, that might not be so simple because planes are flying very full and you'll have to wait for a flight with an available seat. The easiest way to not miss a connection is to book a direct flight in the first place. If that's not possible, leave a minimum of two hours to make your connecting flight to protect against any delays on the first leg of your trip.

If you've already purchased your flight and you're worried the connecting time is too tight, visit your airport's website to see a map of the airport to get a lay of the land. Then ask your flight attendant on your first flight to tell you what gate your next flight is using. This can save you several minutes of searching for your gate. Finally, if you do miss your connection and it looks as if it is going to be a while before the airline finds you an empty seat to your destination, it's time to be flexible. Be willing to travel to airports near your destination -- for example, Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami, or Charleston instead of Savannah -- if there are empty seats.

#5: What Should I Keep With Me in Case We Get Stranded on the Tarmac?

It is very unlikely that you'll get stranded on the tarmac. However, make sure you're prepared for the worst-case scenario over Thanksgiving weekend and every other time you fly. Keep on your person at all times a fully charged cell phone, all medications, water (purchased post-security) and a snack. If you're traveling with children, make sure they have formula (this is an exception to the TSA liquid rule), diapers and activities to keep them amused. Bottom line -- if you can't live without it, don't put it in your checked luggage, because once it's checked you're not going to see it again until you get to your destination.

#6: Can I Bring Gifts Along?

Yes, but be aware that wrapped gifts may be opened at security. Use gift bags or wait until you arrive at your destination before wrapping presents. And of course, anything you carry on the plane counts towards your allotted one carry-on bag and one personal item.

#7: How Much Will It Cost My Family to Check Our Bags?

That, of course, depends on how many bags you check. Most airlines charge $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second on domestic flights. Exceptions are JetBlue, which allows one free checked bag, and Southwest, which allows two. Generally speaking, a family of four, each checking one bag, will pay a total of $200 round-trip in bag charges. Some airlines offer small discounts -- usually $3 per bag -- if you pay online before your flight.

Your bag must not weigh more than 50 pounds or measure more than 62 inches. Otherwise, it will be subject to overweight and/or oversized bag fees. On international flights, you're often allowed to check one bag free of charge, but check your carrier's website for specifics.

Keep in mind that every ticketed passenger (including a small child) is entitled to one regulation-size carry-on bag and one personal item for free, except on Spirit. Regulation size is generally 45 linear inches or less; you can figure this number out by adding the width plus the length plus the height.

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