Holiday travel, even without delays, can be stressful. Airports and roadways are busier than usual and, unless you booked your flight at the right time, your airfare likely cost more than it would have during off-peak travel. We'll guide you through how to stay calm during delays and a potentially hectic holiday travel experience.
Whether delays are weather-related or due to overbooked flights, they can make for a frustrating situation. While it’s easy to lose your cool when things don’t go as planned, take a second to try to remain levelheaded and maybe even turn the experience into a positive one. These five tips will help you dodge some potentially stressful Thanksgiving travel situations, and also get you through the unavoidable.
Head Out Early, But Late
The American Automobile Association (AAA) is predicting record traffic jams and delays for Wednesday, November 22, through Sunday, November 26, as an estimated 45.5 million people hit the roads for Thanksgiving. If you want to be on time for eating hot-out-of-the-oven turkey, and not just leftovers, Tuesday might just be your best day to travel. But start your drive after rush hour passes. You’ll experience much less highway traffic during the late-night hours of 9 p.m. – 5 a.m.
Consider Alternate Airports
Airports like Los Angeles International (LAX), Miami International (MIA) and Newark Liberty International (EWR) are already among the nation’s busiest airports most days of the year. You can bet that they’ll be even more packed for Thanksgiving travel. If you have the opportunity to fly out of and into a smaller or regional airport, do it. For example, John Wayne International is an alternative to LAX; Palm Beach International instead of MIA; and Stewart International instead of EWR. Otherwise, you can expect parking lots to fill up, check-in and security lines to be long and an overall atmosphere of stress instead of merriment.
Avoid checking luggage if you can when you’re traveling for Thanksgiving.
Be Prepared When Delays Happen
Between rain and winter weather, delays are bound to happen. You don’t want to be pessimistic going into your Thanksgiving travel, but you do want to be realistic. The best thing you can do is be prepared for a worst-case scenario. Here are a few tips:
- Avoid checking luggage. If your flight is majorly delayed or cancelled and you want to try your luck with alternative transportation, you don’t want to have to worry about checked luggage.
- Charge up your electronic devices and carry a portable battery charger so you can recharge your smartphone if all the wall outlets are in use.
- Download apps that can help take your mind off the situation, like meditation apps or games. You can even entertain yourself by creating a new social media account and documenting your travel experience.
Know Airline Policies
Delays are awful, but cancellations are even worse. Look up your airline’s cancellation policy in advance to know what to expect and do in the event of a cancellation.
Or if you anticipate a major delay or cancellation due to weather or other circumstances, try giving the airline a call and explain your situation. A friendly tone and the ability to be flexible (like using alternative airport options) can go a long way.
Delta has a same-day travel change service for flights within the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The airline’s policy states: “You may request a same-day flight change within 24 hours prior to the departure time of your original flight; however changes are limited to flights departing on the same day of ticketed departure.”
If you’re booking your flight at the last minute, American Airlines and Delta both offer a 24-hour cancellation option. This means that if you decide within 24 hours of booking your ticket that you would like to cancel the trip, you can do so and receive a refund. According to American Airlines’ website, “You have up to 24 hours from the time of ticket purchase for a full refund if you booked at least 2 days prior to departure. You must cancel your trip for a refund.”
Keep an eye on your flight’s status and have alternative options in mind.
Make the Most of a Bad Situation
If your flight changes from delayed to cancelled and your alternative options are slim, consider having a back-up plan for getting to your final destination. Call your airline’s main customer support number to see if they are able to assist in finding another flight, potentially into a different destination airport. You can go to another airline’s ticketing desk and buy a one-way flight. Or call the rental car counter to see what options they have available so you can try driving to your destination instead of flying.
Missing your outbound flight may cause your return flight to be cancelled, so be sure to talk to your original airline to see if they can make an exception.
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