Turkey trotting. Turkey stuffing. Turkey carving. Thanksgiving traditions bring us together—and this year, many people will be reuniting with loved ones they didn’t get to celebrate with in 2020. 

But a return to holiday travel can also mean a return to the stress that comes along with it. To help, I’ve rounded up six tips that can mitigate the potential stressors associated with traveling during the busy holiday season. 

1. Fly on off-peak days 

According to recent TripIt data, the busiest days for Thanksgiving flight departures will be the Friday (14% of departures), Saturday (15%), Tuesday (16%), and Wednesday (17%) before Thanksgiving—making the Sunday, Monday, and Thanksgiving Day itself the most desirable days to fly if you’re looking to avoid crowds. 

Read more: TripIt Data: Thanksgiving 2021 Travel Volume Nearly Triple 2020

2. Plan ahead for long lines at airport security 

Recent data from TripIt also shows that some airports will be busier than others for Thanksgiving travel. If you’re planning to fly to, through, or from one of these airports, you’ll want to plan ahead for long lines and crowds: 

  1. San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  2. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  3. Denver International Airport (DEN)
  4. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
  5. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
  6. Boston Logan Airport (BOS)
  7. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  8. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
  9. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
  10. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

How do you plan ahead, exactly? By signing up for an expedited screening program, for starters. While some travelers opt for TSA PreCheck and others for CLEAR, both programs help you more quickly navigate your travel journey. As you gear up for the busy holiday travel season, you may find one program is a better fit than the other, or that their complementary benefits make your life on the road easier. 

Read more: TSA PreCheck, CLEAR, or Both? A Guide to Help You Decide

Also, once you’re on your way to the airport, check current security wait times via TripIt Security Wait Times (for select airports) or the My TSA app so you know which checkpoint line is shortest.

3. Know how to easily navigate to your gate (and more)

Flying to, through, or from an unfamiliar airport? You can use interactive airport maps to easily navigate from the security checkpoint to your gate, get gate-to-gate directions for a connection, or look up how to get to myriad other points of interest. 

For example, take the guesswork out of whether you can get a meal (or a book, or a beverage) before your flight or during your layover by searching for restaurants or shops right in the airport map.

You can also search interactive airport maps to find information about on-site amenities related to health and safety, as well. For available airports, TripIt Pro users can search interactive maps for the locations of COVID-19 testing sites, stores that sell face coverings, hand sanitizer stations, and personal protective equipment (PPE) vending machines—all right in the app.  

Interactive airport maps are available to TripIt Pro users for more than 105 global airports. 

Supplemental reading: Remember Navigating the Airport? These Tips and Tools Can Help

4. Reconfirm your rental car booking

If you rented a car at all during 2021, you’re likely already familiar with the rental car shortages and price hikes that took the U.S. by storm this year. And Thanksgiving may be no different. 

According to TripIt data, rental car bookings for Thanksgiving increased 400% compared to last year. 

So, that’s your cue to give your rental car provider a friendly check-in call about your booking—just. in. case. Especially if you’re renting a car in any of the top 10 destinations for rental cars this Thanksgiving: Phoenix, Orlando, Kahului, Las Vegas, Honolulu, Denver, Los Angeles, Tampa, Chicago, and San Francisco—respectively. 

5. Understand your risk level before your trip

If you’re heading to an unfamiliar destination for the holidays, you can better understand potential risk factors for travelers, including those related to your health, as well as those related to political unrest, environmental conditions, and more, with TripIt’s Neighborhood Safety Scores.

TripIt shows safety scores for a variety of categories in neighborhoods spanning the world. This information is available in the Neighborhood Safety Scores section within each location on your TripIt itinerary with an address.

To help you make the best decisions for you as you travel, and to better understand the areas in which you’re traveling, you can also set a personal risk level within the Neighborhood Safety Scores feature. Then, TripIt will warn you if you’re planning on visiting an area that exceeds your threshold. 

6. Have a game plan in case you get stuck at the airport 

Getting stuck at the airport is always annoying, but it’s especially so when traveling during the holidays. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to mitigate the amount of time you spend stranded—and act on what’s within your control.

  1. Communicate with the airline. If you’re stuck at the airport on a busy holiday, the first thing you should do is communicate with your airline. Once you hear your flight is canceled or significantly delayed, immediately get in line at the ticket counter to see if they can book you on a different flight. Then, call the airline’s customer service number while you’re standing in line. You can also consult TripIt Pro’s Alternate Flights feature to figure out what your options are for getting on a different flight. Pro members can search for alternate flights right in the Pro hub.
  2. Know your travel credit card benefits. ​​If you booked your flight with a travel credit card, you might be eligible for travel protection benefits. (Hint: Now’s the time to double-check what your card provider offers.) These benefits can help recoup some of the costs you might incur while stuck at the airport.
  3. Look up a nearby lounge. For elite status members, you likely already know where to go. For those travel credit card-toting flyers, this is the time to pull up the Priority Pass app on your phone (or head to their mobile site) to find a lounge you may already have access to. For those travelers without elite status or a Priority Pass membership, fear not. You can usually buy a day pass (or even a membership) at a lounge’s entrance. 

With these tips, you can be better prepared for some of the busiest travel days of the year—and with a bit of luck, arrive on time to the turkey trot start line, the kitchen to carve the turkey, or both.

About the Author

Amanda Wowk is a freelance writer, founder of Amanda Wowk Creative — a content writing services company — and avid traveler. Her experience spans the travel industry, supporting clientele in travel tech, luxury travel, and consumer brands. When she’s not helping clients tell their stories, Amanda writes about her own experiences to inspire others to travel as far, wide and frequently as possible.

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