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PCU Blog

3 Turkey Day Travel Tips You'll Be Thankful For

As Turkey Day approaches, people all over the United States are preparing for one of the most dreaded holiday activities: travel. We’ve all been there: traffic at a standstill, airport packed so tight you can barely breathe, and every store crowded with grumpy shoppers picking up that one last item. How can you avoid all that this Thanksgiving? Well, the truth is, unless you’re ready to alienate your extended family and break your poor grandma’s heart, you can’t …not completely, anyway. But here’s the good news: you CAN be smart about your holiday travel, and in the process save yourself some time, money, and stress.

In 2018, 54.3 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more from home during the week of Thanksgiving. That’s almost 17% of the entire U.S. population, all traveling at the same time. About 48.5 million of those people traveled by car, 4.27 million by plane, and 1.48 million by train, boat, or some other from of transportation. So you’re definitely not going to be the only one out there, but you CAN be the smartest one. Here are three ways to get a (turkey) leg up on the competition:

breck_t20_PQwo7B1. Flex Time

If you can afford to be flexible with your departure and return dates, then you’re in luck. Choosing a less-busy travel day can save you a lot of time. Traveling the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after is basically a death wish; that’s when most people are traveling. The absolute worst time to travel is Wednesday between 3 and 7pm. The best day to travel is actually Thanksgiving Day. If you have a shorter drive and you’re willing to hit the road early, or if you’re OK with an early morning flight, this might be your best bet. Traveling on Black Friday can also help you avoid the crowds. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to travel when everyone else is eating, shopping, or sleeping.

2. The Road Less Traveledairport-security-check-young-man-traveler-waiting-for-x-ray-control-his-luggage_t20_wQGE9e

Something to consider if you’re traveling by air: certain airports get much busier than others during the holidays. The busiest airport in the U.S. during Thanksgiving week is Atlanta (ATL), followed by Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), and Denver (DEN). If you can, avoid flying into or out of these airports during the week of Thanksgiving. If you have no other choice than to use one of these airports, there are a few things you can do to make the whole process as painless as possible:

  • Make sure you get to the airport at least 2 hours before your flight; security lines are going to take longer than usual.
  • Have your electronic devices at the top of your carry-on so you can quickly remove them when it’s time to go through security, and wear shoes that you can easily slip on and off.
  • If you can, enroll in TSA PreCheck to save even more time.


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3. The Dreaded Gravy Bomb

And now on to everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving topic: the food! If you’re traveling by car, all you have to worry about is making sure that casserole doesn’t spill onto the car seats. However, if you’re flying, you have a lot more to consider. Gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, soup, sauces, and butter are all considered liquids by the TSA and must be packaged accordingly in your checked bag. Favorites like turkey, pies, stuffing, bread, casserole, and raw fruits and veggies are good to go in your carry-on. For more information on what Thanksgiving foods can and can’t fly, check out this article from the TSA themselves.

Look: holiday travel can cause a lot of anxiety, but it’s important to remember: if you’re stressed or frustrated, everyone else probably is, too. The most important thing you can do on your Thanksgiving travels is be patient, be kind, and be thankful (it is Thanksgiving, after all).

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