This blog post was updated on May 6, 2020.

When it comes to flying for Thanksgiving, travelers know they will face crowds, long lines, and even delays. Generally, the week of Thanksgiving brings out record numbers of flyers, especially on the Wednesday before the holiday. However, flying for Thanksgiving, or any busy travel day for that matter, doesn’t have to be a complete headache. With a bit of careful planning and execution, flying for one of the busiest travel days of the year can actually be relatively painless. We’ve rounded up some survival tips to help you breeze through the airport this Thanksgiving week.

Allow Extra Time

traveler looking at his watch

From your ride to the airport to the lines for security, you’ll need extra time for Thanksgiving air travel than any other travel day. For starters, check in immediately when it hits 24 hours before your flight. You’ll save time at the airport by having your boarding pass all set to go, and you’ll stand less of a chance of getting bumped for checking in late. Next, make your travel arrangements to get to the airport. Whether it’s a friend, family member or a cab, you want to be sure everyone is on the same page in terms of when to pick you up. You’ll want to factor in extra traffic and the time of day. And lastly, everything takes longer on busy travel days once you get to the airport. Be sure you have allotted plenty of time for dropping off bags, making it through airport security, and getting to your gate.

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Charge Up Your Devices in Advance

A young woman sit on floor and recharges the phone from the wall socket in the hall.

For busy travel days like Thanksgiving, you’ll most likely find yourself in the airport a bit longer than you would normally. More time in the airport often means more time on your devices. Consequently, you can get a low battery quite fast. There might be nothing more maddening than trying to find a lone available outlet at the airport on one of the busiest travel days of the year. And when you do find that lucky outlet, it’s usually in the most uncomfortable of spots in the airport. Instead, charge up your devices the night before your travel day. Also, a portable charging device can also come in handy on these busy travel days.

Stay Ahead of Delays and Disruptions

Young woman in international airport looking at the flight information board, checking her flight

No one likes to be delayed, especially for Thanksgiving travel. Before you even head to the airport, you can get ahead of any delays and disruptions. Check to see where your flight is coming from first and foremost to see if the inbound aircraft will arrive on time for your flight. Check the weather in areas you are flying to for any possible disruptions, especially if you are making connections. If you spot a problem, you can make changes accordingly before the masses on your flight realize there is going to be a delay.

Know Your Airport

woman on laptop

If you haven’t flown in a while or you are flying through some airports you don’t really know, the day before your flight marks a fine point to do a bit of studying on your airport. Research the best security checkpoints that tend to be less crowded. Figure out how far your gate is from baggage claim and how you’ll get there. See what food options are nearby. By conducting a bit of research on the layout and features of your airport, or any airports that you have to pass through, you’ll meet fewer surprises on your travel day.

Check Your Bags at the Curb

checking bags at the airport

Thanksgiving air travel often means long lines, especially to check in baggage. While you could head inside with the masses right when you get to the airport, there is another way that might alleviate a bit of stress and save you time. Generally, curbside drop off for baggage can be a bit faster than heading inside to check in your baggage. And not only can checking your bags outside save you time in line, it can also eliminate the pain of having to lug your baggage around the airport.

Buy an Airline Lounge Pass

airport lounge

You’ve made it through check-in and airport security. You arrive at your gate and it’s a zoo. There’s nowhere to sit or even stand for that matter. Rather than finding an empty stretch of carpet on the floor, head for the nearest airline lounge. For a fee, you can often purchase an airline lounge pass for the day. While these lounges are still busy during the holidays, they are generally a bit calmer and more comfortable than if you just waited at your gate. Also, they include snacks and drinks in most cases so you just might save some money by not having to buy that $50 airport sandwich.


How do you survive flying for Thanksgiving? Share your tips with us in the comments below!

About The Author

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at