Ahhh, Thanksgiving. A time to feast with family and close friends and celebrate what we’re most grateful for, but it’s a holiday that can also be an especially hectic time for those of us who need to fly to spend it with our loved ones. Yet, there’s no law that says your Turkey Day traditions have to include travel-related hassles. A cool head (not to mention a bit of planning ahead) can help you keep the worries and annoyances at bay while allowing you to focus on meaningful moments and the true spirit of the holiday.

No one can guarantee you’ll make it through Thanksgiving without getting a gravy stain on your favorite shirt or that you’ll enjoy your big family meal without sparking a heated political argument (probably with your cranky uncle). But if you follow these few simple tips, you’re sure to have some stress-free travel

Making Your Bookings ASAP

As soon as you’ve got a solid plan for where you’re celebrating, book your flights. Ditto if you’re renting a car, staying in a hotel, going to a particular restaurant or doing anything else that depends on you making a reservation. Driving to the airport? Book your parking spot in advance. You’ll save money and avoid disappointment by booking as much as you can as soon as possible.

Check-in Early for Your Flights Online or with an App

Check-in online as early as your airline allows. You can do it on your (and your parents’) computer at home and then print out your boarding passes. You can also download your airline’s app and use that. Either way, you’ll have your boarding passes on hand before you get to the airport, which means you don’t have to queue up and wait to check-in at the airline desk.

Arrive at the Airport in Plenty of Time

Anyone who’s ever had to make a mad dash to a gate before it closed knows it’s better to be early and bored at the airport than late and fretting that you’ll miss your flight. No need to overdo it with respect to arriving at the airport, but plan for unexpected delays and err on the side of too early rather than too late when heading out to catch a flight.

If You Don’t Have to Check a Bag, Don’t!

If you can pack everything you need in your carry-on then, by all means, save time and potential frustration and bypass having to check a bag. You’ll be out the airport in no time and not hanging out at the luggage carousel wondering when your suitcase will finally pop out of the chute.

Consider a Longer Layover

If you can’t get where you need to go with a direct flight, consider making your layover long enough to stretch your legs, grab a meal, and not have to rush to your connecting flight. You might even want to stay over a day or two and have a mini-vacation to unwind to break things up to maximize your downtime. Plus, going for long layovers is a sure-fire way to snag flight deals.

Sort Out Your Entertainment Ahead of Time

Get your entertainment plans lined up in advance of your trip. Most airlines list online what films, tv shows, and other in-flight entertainment options are available during the current and upcoming months. Of course, you may have your own stuff to watch as well. Is your long haul holiday flight an opportunity to catch up on your favorite TV series or binge on something else you’ve yet to see? If you’re traveling with kids, sorting out entertainment allows for much more peace of mind for all involved. Similarly, bringing enough games, DVDs, books, etc ought to keep everyone occupied and happy during longer journeys.

Do You Absolutely Have to be There All Day Thursday?

If you and yours can manage to have your Thanksgiving dinner on a day other than the fourth Thursday of November, you’ll find that’s a day when flights are cheaper and less crowded. Take the pressure off everybody and enjoy your time on your own time. Of course, if you’re driving any long distances to or from the airport on that day, you’ll probably find the highways jammed.

Don’t Worry About Your Family Picking You Up at the Airport

As nice as it is to have someone you know waiting for you at arrivals, you might be doing them and you a favor to leave the airport pick up to public transportation, car service, or ride-sharing app. Doing so takes the pressure off everybody involved. Your hosts won’t have to rush to the airport and you can decompress on the way to their house — without any awkward conversations in response to the age-old question “How was your flight?”.

Snack Smart

Are you going to be eating copious amounts of heavy foods during your Thanksgiving festivities? Will there be a big meal very soon after you arrive at your destination? Plot out when you’re going to be feasting and arrange to eat more sensibly while traveling. Maybe you can request a vegan meal for your in-flight dining or pack your own lighter option for yourself.

Great Pres-pectations?

Do you feel obliged to bring gifts for your family and friends on the other side? If so, shipping them to the destination ahead of your trip can save you luggage space and time — and perhaps even build up some anticipation for your arrival. Furthermore, if you think you’ll be given all sorts of stuff to take back home with you it might be wise to bring a spare empty bag or leave some space in your suitcase for the flight back home.

Got any more helpful suggestions for minimizing travel stress during Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season? We’d love it if you shared your advice with us in the comments!

About The Author

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, curator, and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, tikichris.com. Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world. He's called London home since 2001.