Sitting at the table or skipping town? We’ve answered all of your burning questions about Thanksgiving travel.
Travel + Leisure recently participated in a Facebook Live Thanksgiving Prep marathon with a few of our sister brands—Food & Wine shared a no-baste turkey trick, Real Simple did a three-part pie demo, Southern Living had centerpiece ideas, Cooking Light showed off a biscuit recipe, and Extra Crispy had leftover tips. For our session, we went deep on holiday travel: whether certain Thanksgiving foods travel well, how to avoid airport stress and prepare for delays, and long weekend getaways. Our answers, as well as the full video, are below.
Which Thanksgiving foods are TSA-approved?
Whether you want to bring a dish to impress your Thanksgiving host or you’re trying to bring home some of Grandma’s leftovers, keep in mind that airport security rules still apply. Even though it’s a holiday, the Transportation Security Administration doesn’t look kindly on rule-breakers, so that means no liquids (or gelatin, or jams, or salad dressings) in containers greater than 3.4 ounces can go in your carry-on.
Some of TSA’s no-fly holiday foods include soups (let’s be honest, do you really want to risk a butternut squash bisque sloshing around in your bag?), cranberry sauce, and your signature Thanksgiving gravy. You can bring the boat, but we recommend waiting until you arrive at your final destination before whipping up a batch.
Perhaps surprisingly, you can bring alcohol with you on your flight—no, you cannot drink said alcohol on your flight. But if you want to gift your host a bottle of wine, you’re welcome to pack it in your checked luggage. Otherwise, you can carry-on those miniature bottles, which are a travel-friendly 1.7 ounce, though you can’t drink them until after deboarding the plane.
TSA does give cakes, pies, and even the whole Thanksgiving turkey a thumbs up, though keep in mind that anything brought through security is subject to additional screening. So consider whether or not you want to watch your pecan pie be sliced and examined on a conveyer belt.
How can I avoid holiday travel stress?
Always arrive at least two hours before your flight. Or your train—do you really want to be the person standing for a two-hour train ride on the Metro North? Or hop in the car two hours earlier than you think you need to. Because this is one of the busiest times of the year to travel (you’ll be flying with at some 27.3 million people this year, up 2.5 percent from last year and a record high), don’t take any chances.
The best way to avoid holiday stress is to arrive early and kill some time at the airport. We’re hopeful you’ve already set yourself for breezing past grumpy travelers at the airport by enrolling in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.
Where are the best places to travel during Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is actually a fantastic time to travel—particularly if you’re going somewhere that doesn’t celebrate the holiday at the same time we do. Thanksgiving, at its heart, is a holiday about eating, so I like to make sure food plays a big part the decision about where to go.
Last year, a group of us traveled to Mexico City for a weekend of marathon eating. Fights cost less than $400 round-trip, and the exchange rate works favorably for Americans right now. Once you get there, you can eat everything from incredible $1 tacos to dinner at Pujol—which has three Michelin stars—for about $80.
Some of our favorite places to go include Montreal, which is an easy drive or cheap flight from most East Coast cities. The city, which will celebrate its 375th anniversary next year, is absolutely gorgeous and full of fun things to do in the winter. You can eat incredibly well there, too. Some of our favorite restaurants include the famous Joe Beef and Le Club Chasse et Peche, which is great for meat and seafood.
If your goal is to have a fuss-free vacation where you don’t have to do any planning, look for last-minute deals at all-inclusives, particularly in the Caribbean. The new Melia Braco Village in Jamaica has it all, from great food to beautiful beaches. Rooms there over Thanksgiving weekend start at about $180 per person per night. Airfare studies have shown that the best time to book is at least two weeks before Thanksgiving, so you still have time to score some amazing finds.