Tips for (nearly) painless travel this Thanksgiving

A scene from last year at the Regan National Airport in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 24, 2010.

With Nov. 23 being the busiest travel day of the year, Thanksgiving travel is always a stressful experience. But you need to see your family sometime,  so we asked Gabe Saglie, senior editor of Travelzoo — an online publisher of travel, entertainment and local deals — how to avoid the top headaches. Wondering how to handle the  stress of your family when you finally get to your destination? Well, you’ll have to figure that out on your own.

1. Don’t check bags, but if you must …

Think like a business traveler and avoid checking bags altogether. But be sure to adhere to carry-on limits, as they’re especially enforced during holiday travel periods.  If you must check bags, don’t over-pack; some overweight bags cost $100 if they’re more than 50 pounds — or $400 if they’re more than 70 pounds on international flights.

2. Be transparent

The plastic baggie is your friend, so know the TSA’s 3-1-1 Rule: limit liquids and gels to 3-ounce containers in 1 quart-sized zip-top baggie, and 1 bag per flyer. Also, do not wrap Christmas gifts, as anything that looks suspicious could be unwrapped at security.

3. Use technology to your advantage

Download apps to help keep track of things like schedule and gate changes, weather and alternate flights; Travelzoo’s iPhone app (and others on the market) allow travelers to browse, book and redeem geo-targeted travel and entertainment deals from their phone, without having to print from a computer.  Also, check in from your computer as close to 24 hours before your flight as possible — and program as many details of your itinerary as possible into your smartphone.

4. Package as much as you can up front

Bundling as many aspects of your vacation as possible will save you money. Include things like hotels, show tickets, tours, transportation, etc. to make your overall travel simpler and easier.

5. Consider alternate modes of transportation

Want to avoid airport lines, fees and delays?  Map out a highway route and make it a family road trip; just be sure to keep tabs on the weather. And look at travel by train or even bus to both cut travel costs and to create a unique, memorable travel experience. 


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