No-stress travel: How to get where you're going without the headache this Thanksgiving

ByRachel Schwartz via KABC logo
Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year as families make their way to see aunts, cousins and grandparents for the holiday weekend.

According to AAA, 46.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday,the most since 2007. While most people will be traveling by car to their Thanksgiving destination, 3.6 million Americans will be taking to the skies to get where they're going. While there's not much to be done about the number of people on roadways and in airports, there are some tips to keep in mind to help you get to your destination with as little stress as possible.

Plan ahead

Flying to your destination may not be optional, but often when you fly or what airport you fly out of are. There may be fewer people traveling on the actual day of the holiday since most people have already arrived at their destination and KAYAK spokesperson Dave Solomito told ABC in 2014 that flying on days like Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a money saver too.

It's also worth seeing if there's a less busy airport you can fly through that will still get you to your destination. Los Angeles, Chicago O'Hare, and San Francisco international airports top Orbitz's 2015 list of the busiest airports for Thanksgiving travel. Planning a trip to Omaha? You're in luck; Eppley Airfield tops the list for the least busy airports.

Get to the airport early

With millions travelers expected in airports on Wednesday alone, making sure you have enough time is no joke.

"Between the traffic on the roads and the traffic in the parking lots, and the ticket line, the suggestion to get to the airport two hours before your flight is no laughing matter," TSA spokesperson Nico Melendez said.

Travel journalist Tim Jue agrees. He takes 5-6 flights each month and has traveled to more than three dozen countries on almost every continent and says whether you're flying international or domestic, it's easier to just arrive early than stress about getting through security and to your gate on time.

Pack smart

Now that most carriers are charging passengers for checked bags, more people are opting to carry on their luggage. Jue says that he avoids checking bags whenever possible, both to save money and to save time at the airport.

"Checking bags is expensive and there's never a guarantee that your bag will get there, especially when making tight connections at a busy airport," Jue told ABC.

To make the most of the limited space in his bag, Jue focuses on packing pieces he can wear more than once on a trip.

"Pack diligently," Jue told ABC. "Look for items, shirts, pants, shoes, that you can wear more than once. If it gets dirty, there's always laundry facilities at your destination."

Check out the video below to see how to maximize the space in your bag when packing.

Be ready for your security screening

The holidays present some unique situations as people are more likely to be traveling with food and gifts. Pies are usually OK to carry on (be prepared to have inspectors swab the pie tin for additional testing), but items like cranberry sauces and gravies are subject to the liquid restrictions. Additionally, the TSA recommends leaving gifts unwrapped until you get to your destination.

Children under the age of 12 and adults over the age of 70 do not need to take off their shoes to go through security.

Most travelers are aware of the TSA rules about liquids, but it's also important to keep that bag handy so you're not holding up the security line as you dig through your suitcase to find your bag of shampoo and face wash.

Melendez recommends stopping before getting into the security line and taking a few moments to go through your pockets and check for loose change and place items like your wallet, cellphone and keys into your purse or briefcase. Similarly, Jue recommends carrying an extra plastic bag to hold those items while moving through the screening.

You can find more specific information about what items can be taken through security checkpoints at or by downloading the MyTSA smartphone app and using the "What Can I Bring" feature.

"Be prepared before you head to the airport so you're not learning the rules as you go," Jue said.

Carry snacks

Jue likes to carry an empty water bottle with him when he travels so he can fill it up once he gets through security.

Being hungry can make anyone grumpy, whether you're a kid or and adult. Bringing snacks will both save you money since you won't have to shell out for that slice of airport pizza and hold you over when those complimentary peanuts just don't quite cut it.

Don't forget to pack your patience

There are going to be a lot of people traveling in the coming weeks so lines and traffic are going to be unavoidable. Stay calm and try to remember that everyone is just trying to get where they're going.