If you are planning to visit family far and wide this Thanksgiving, you likely already have your plane tickets and may even be starting to pack. Now comes the stressful part: planning how to handle the rush at the airport during the holidays.
You certainly won’t be the only one. According to AAA, 55.4 million Americans are expected to travel for Thanksgiving, a 2.3% increase over last year and the third highest since 2000. These estimates make this Thanksgiving the third-busiest travel period in more than two decades. The Sunday after the holiday will be the busiest air travel day of the year when airlines are expected to fly more than three million seats on 22,000 flights.
With this in mind, make early planning for your vacation a key focus. Yes, you’re looking forward to seeing friends and family for turkey, gravy, and pumpkin pie. But you’re not there yet – so start planning for a stress-free experience now. Experts advise people to book their ticket at least one to three months in advance of domestic flights and two to eight months in advance of international flights.
Once the tickets are booked, it’s time to book your DTW parking and valet service to coincide seamlessly with your flight. It stands to reason that if the planes are going to be filled to capacity Thanksgiving week, so will the parking lots.
When you think ahead and make a plan before leaving for the airport, you will be better able to face the hectic holiday weekend with a clear, calm, focused outlook. To that end, we recommend heeding these tips for handling the airport rush during the Thanksgiving holiday.
1. Know Your Flight
Keep track of your flight reservation over the next week. Waiting till the night before the flight is foolish, and can lead to big surprises. Check it every few days before you leave. This is made easy by logging into your airline website account and making sure your flight arrivals and departures are all set. At the same time, take a look at your seat assignments, too so you know when to board.
Airlines adjust their schedules all the time, especially during busy holidays, so always leave plenty of wiggle room to make necessary changes if need be. There’s not much you can do when you learn about a last-minute aircraft or flight change. Be prepared so you can make adjustments on the fly without stressing.
When checking in for your flight the day before (airlines usually let you do this 24 hours in advance), take notice of where your plane is coming from. This could alert you to a potential delay before even the airline knows about it. Let’s say the weather in your departure city is looking mild, but the plane is coming from New England where a blizzard is descending…this will likely cause problems on your end.
For added help, you may want to use apps like FlightAware.com to check on the status of your scheduled flight and the plane’s current location.
2. Book the Airport Lounge
In light of the constant possibility of layovers and delays, especially at Thanksgiving, it can be helpful to know in advance that there’s a comfortable place you can rest in between. This can be a Godsend, especially if you’re traveling with little kids. Many airports feature private lounges that will charge you a fee to access and use. Sometimes credit card companies offer complimentary airport lounge access, so it can’t hurt to check.
If they don’t, ask at the airport concierge deck about the cost for a day pass. This may range between $30 and $50, and kids under 12 are usually free. If you have extra padding in the budget, this could be a lifesaver. Why spend all those extra hours sitting in the food court or browsing the overpriced shops in the airport when you can chill out in a quiet place with perks?
3. Understand the Difference Between Checked Bags and Carry-Ons
As you anticipate the chaos of the DTW airport next week, take some time to think about whether you want to hassle with the baggage claim area or not. Often the most hectic area of the entire airport at flight arrival and unloading times, it’s best to avoid these carousels if you can. Not everyone can. But you may want to consider the possibility of bringing just carry-ons rather than big checked bags. Not only will you save money and time, you’ll save your sanity – and the sanity of every member of your party.
Whether you can get away with this or not really depends on the people you’re traveling with, their ages, and the length of time you plan to travel. A carry-on is much more feasible for a three-day trip than a week-long one, and it’s certainly more doable if you’re just traveling with you and your spouse. Add a large family and lots of kids going to Disney for the week, and you’re just asking for trouble.
That’s not to say that older kids and teens can’t take control of their own luggage and roll it through the airport, Just be sure everyone promises to pack in the most efficient manner, and you’re well on your way to avoiding baggage claim. If you simply can’t avoid checking your bags, ask at the desk or find out beforehand if you get one bag free and what the second bag charge is.
While Thanksgiving is a beloved time of year to visit friends and family that you don’t see often, traveling there can be stressful. Be sure to plan out your parking strategy before even thinking of arriving at the airport. In fact, you should schedule valet parking to lower your stress level as you face the holiday airport rush.