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Trip Doctor: Thanksgiving Travel Advice

holiday travel

The busiest travel days of the year are upon us. Aviation trade group Airlines 4 America, forecasts some 24 million people will fly during the Thanksgiving holidays, with planes reaching 90 percent capacity on the busiest days: today, Sunday, and Monday. Here, eight strategies for getting through the terminal without losing your patience—or your mind.

Load up Your Phone: Check your flight status and get instant updates on any delays with the FlightTrack and the FlightAware Flight Tracker apps; stay on top of weather patterns (and potential problems) with the Weather Channel app; and use iFly, Kayak, and PointInside to navigate the airport like a pro.

Anticipate Weather Delays: Look up your flight on Knowdelay.com, which forecasts weather delays for departures up to three days in advance in hubs across the country. It'll give you likelihood of a late departure or a delayed connection; allow you to track your flight; and offer up suggestions of alternate itineraries—especially useful if it looks like your connecting airport will be snarled up.

Check in Online: Unless you have exceptional circumstances that require you to check in at the terminal, there's simply no excuse for not doing it at home.

Give Yourself Time: The best way to stay cool, calm, and collected? Not feeling rushed as you wend your way through security and to your gate, especially if you're not part of TSA's Precheck program and won't be expedited through the line.

Find a Comfortable Seat: On more and more carriers, you have to pay a premium to get a decent seat. On crowded travel days, it's worth it to avoid being crammed in the middle or separated from your family. But if that's not an option, you can still try for something better. As your departure date and time approaches, the airline may start releasing seats that were being held for premier loyalty-program members or occupied by passengers who received upgrades. Set up an alert with ExpertFlyer.com, which will let you know when a window or aisle seat becomes available.

Bribe Your Fellow Passengers: Still didn't get the seat you wanted on your flight? George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog suggests bringing Starbucks gift cards or other little enticements to encourage passengers to switch seats.

Keep the Entertainment Fresh: If you're flying with kids, carry on a couple of never been-opened games and books. If you miss a connection or get stuck on the runway, you'll be grateful.

Have a Flight Delay Game Plan: Keep your airline's toll-free number on hand. Should your flight plans be severely disrupted, be prepared to get both on the phone and in line at the airport. Your airline will re-route you, but if you want to get to your destination in time, you have to be your own advocate. Be ready to suggest alternative routes, carriers, and even destination airports.

Treat Yourself: If you find yourself stuck in the airport for a long time, ask your airline if it will give you a lounge pass or sell you one at discount. If you find yourself spending a night in a connecting city, use the HotelTonight app to locate a good room at a nice discount. You deserve it.

Amy Have a travel conundrum? The trip doctor is in. Send questions to tripdoctor@aexp.com, and reach Amy on Twitter @afarles.

 

Photo by iStockphoto

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