In the United States, the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest of the year. This year is forecasted to be busier than ever. Here are some things to avoid this week if you can as frequent flyers travel amongst infrequent flyers.
The airports will be busier than they ever have been before. Many of the travelers checking in for their flights and passing through TSA security may have only done this once last year or even less. If you’re a road warrior like I am, you have your routine down but remember that all of the norms of your travel pattern will be changed.
Arrive earlier to the airport than normal. I know that at Pittsburgh International Airport, I can breeze onto my flight if I arrive 48 minutes prior to arrival. I have a preferred parking lot (spot), I have TSA Precheck, and I know how long it takes to get to my gate.
This week, that all changes. Lots will be full, TSA lines jammed (including PreCheck) and terminals crammed with people who aren’t quite sure where they are going. Add extra time to your routine.
While I rarely travel with a checked bag, I am tempted when traveling with a family. It makes things easier. However, if you do so you risk a few things:
- Checkin lines will be even longer (even at first class checkin)
- More bags in a short time window reduces my confidence it will arrive with me at my destination
- Limits options for switching flights
If you can travel with a carry-on you avoid some of the hurdles above and leave yourself lightfooted to take advantage of re-routings in the case of bad weather or standby flights when schedule changes happen. You can also take a bump if you want to pad your travel wallet.
With a substantial influx of people, this is the week to cash in free lounge access coupons or pay for it. The agents are better inside if you run into trouble, you’ll have access to food, internet, and a comfortable place to sit while you wait. Avoid people laying on the floor waiting for their flight, or if you traverse Charlotte, packed out into the hallways lining up for a flight that won’t board for 15 minutes.
Eat before you get to the airport, skip the shops (the deals are better next week anyway) and if need be, pay for access to the lounge. The Club (which offers lounges in many cities like Pittsburgh) is only $40 for non-members – pittance over the alternative of airport restaurants and crowded gates.
Exercise Patience – It’s The Holidays
It’s not you, it’s me. Some travelers this week travel so infrequently that they forget things like not packing an entire shampoo bottle (it’s been 17 years, folks – come on already). Put on these noise-canceling headphones and slip into a world of your own. If you’re looking for a good travel podcast, try Ed Pizzarello’s Mile to Go.
For some, this may be the only time of the year they see their parents, kids, grandma, and grandpa – be nice. More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving is when people try and be with family and it should be celebrated. You’re the expert traveler to them, hold a door, show them the way, it’s stressful and it’s a good time of year to show a little love to strangers.
Do you have any tips or tricks for those who travel rarely? Do you avoid flying altogether during “amateur week?” Where are you headed for Thanksgiving?