As I prepared to travel from coast to coast tomorrow, the day before Thanksgiving, I was curious — is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving really the busiest travel day of the year?
Well no, according to at least one source: the Research and Innovative Technology Administration’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. “When personal vehicle trips are added to the mix the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) reveals that Thanksgiving Day is actually a heavier long-distance travel day than Wednesday.” Well, either way, it’s probably not going to be fun.
Thus, as a relatively frequent traveler and a very frequent high volume travel day traveler, I have a few tips to make air travel at least somewhat bearable:
- Check in online ahead of time, as early as possible (usually 24 hours). Once I got to the airport about 1.5 hours in advance and they still bumped me from my flight because my frequent flier status wasn’t very high on that airline. It was odd to watch a bunch of strangers getting on the plane, feeling that my status was somehow beneath theirs.
- If at all possible, don’t check a bag. If things go awry, sometimes your checked bag can stop you from easily hopping flights. You want as much flexibility as possible. One good approach to light packing is to make a list on paper of what to bring on your trip first. Then stick to it! (Thus avoiding the ominous, ‘impulse packing,’ as in “What if I suddenly we get invited to a rodeo? I must have my cowboy hat just in case.”)
- It’s probably too late by the time you are reading this, but for busy travel days, book early morning flights. It’s worth it to get up at 4 am if that means getting where you’re going on time. Chances of delays are much lower early in the morning.
- Again probably too late (but you can congratulate yourself if you already did this) Book direct flights. Yes, direct flights are usually more expensive and holiday travel is already ridiculously expensive. However, if you’ve been running around the airport for 3 hours sweating, and angry at ‘them’ after missing a connection, my guess is that if someone offered to make all your problems go away for $100, you might just take them up on it. So save yourself the hassle.
- Expect you’ll be a couple of hours late and try to avoid planning things as if you’d arrive on time. It’s much less stressful to be late with nothing planned than to make someone wait at the airport or to miss something you’re excited about.
- Mentally prepare to spend some time at the airport. Try not to think of it as waiting, but as a nice relaxing time to get some stuff done: write that blog post, call up a friend (Yes, we’ve all got the phone call from the ‘waiting friend or relative’, but hey, you’re still calling, and if it’s a busy travel day, they may be bored at the airport too), read that book on your nightstand, watch that movie you’ve been dying to see. Bring one of your Netflix DVD’s with you and rent one of those portable inMotion DVD players at the airport – it would cost you $10 to see it in the theater, so why not escape for 2 hours at the airport for an extra 5 bucks.
In fact, if you really think of this time as your time, you may find yourself disappointed when all goes as planned!