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Thanksgiving Travel Tips

Date: November 22, 2011

Book a direct flight

During a peak travel period like Thanksgiving missing a connection and getting placed on the next flight to your destination may not be 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.

Get your seat assignment before you go

There is no guaranteed way to avoid getting bumped, but there are certainly ways to minimize your chances. First and foremost, reserve a seat when you purchase your flight online, rather than letting one be randomly assigned to you at a later date. Next, check in online on your carrier's website up to 24 hours before your flight. Often, when a flight is oversold and no one is willing to give up their seat, the airline will bump the person or people who checked in last.

Create an emergency contact list

Before you leave home, put together a list of emergency numbers to take with you. While standard numbers like your credit card company, family phone numbers and other emergency contacts should be inluded, be sure to add the customer service numbers of any airlines, train companies, or car related companies - like AAA or your insurance company - as well. If something goes wrong, you'll be able to fix problems that much faster.

Ship what you can

When your voyage home obligates you to bring gifts or food or otherwise pack more than usual, avoid checking baggage with the airline and ship bags and presents ahead of time using a package delivery company. The tactic will not only get you in and out of airports quicker but will likely be cheaper. If you can't ship presents be aware that wrapped gifts may be opened at security. Use gift bags or wait until you arrive at your destination before wrapping presents.

Prepare for the worst

Bringing something scrunchy, like a coat or wrap that you can use to keep you warm or use for a pillow. To combat boredom and frustration stock up on things to keep you entertained during long airport waits. Load your iPad or laptop with as many games or books as possible just in case you’re stuck.

Dress for security

You know the TSA rules by now. No shoes, no belts. And don’t be surprised if they confiscate your Gatorade or extra large bottle of shampoo. Now is not the time to load up on the jewelry that will set off alarm bells, either. And pick shoes that come off easy.

Keep necessities close

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.