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4 smart tips for Thanksgiving travel

While Thanksgiving travel outlook hasn’t eclipsed pre-pandemic levels, tens of millions of Americans will travel to see family and friends.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) anticipates 4.2 million people will travel by air, 48.3 million will travel by car and 1 million will travel by bus, train or cruise, according to its updated travel forecast. If these estimates are correct, that would put roughly 6.3 million more Americans on planes, roads and seas – which could mean higher traffic and longer. 

Add in labor and supply shortages across industries, and your Thanksgiving travel plans could prove to be a little stressful this year. It doesn’t have to be a painful process, though. At least that’s what travel and tech experts are saying. 

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Here are four tips professional jetsetters think you should use if you’re traveling before or after Thanksgiving.

1. Leave earlier and pack snacks

Thanksgiving travelers who are traveling by plane will need to arrive at airports earlier than they usually do.
(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

Dr. Terika L. Haynes, the CEO and founder at Dynamite Travel told Fox News that holiday travelers will need to leave earlier than they usually would if they’re trying to catch a Thanksgiving flight.

“Travelers should expect long waits at the airports for Thanksgiving travel. Travelers should arrive at the airport three to four hours in advance,” Haynes said. “They should also pack snacks in case there is a long wait at restaurants due to reduced staffing and high volumes of travelers.”

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Even if you’re traveling by car, packing snacks for the road can help you save money and time, according to Tim Hentschel, the founder and CEO at HotelPlanner.

“If you’re taking your family on a road trip, pack up a large cooler with sandwiches and snacks and drinks for the whole family, so you don’t have to waste money on more expensive restaurants,” Hentschel said.

2. Embrace travel apps and digital tech

Travel apps and digital tech features on smartphones and tablets might be able to help you if you're traveling around Thanksgiving.

Travel apps and digital tech features on smartphones and tablets might be able to help you if you’re traveling around Thanksgiving.
(iStock)

With all the hustle and bustle that’s sure to happen around Thanksgiving, staying up-to-date with your travel method is of utmost importance.

“Travelers should download their airline app for timely updates for schedule changes and/or cancellations,” Haynes said. “SHERPA is a great tool as well to use for up-to-date COVID-19 protocols and requirements for vacation destinations.”

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Aside from travel apps, digital tech features on your smartphone or tablet can become your best friend. Rank Secure CEO Baruch Labunski told Fox he recommends all travelers to use digital wallet features as a way to save important documents like boarding passes.

“Even if there’s a Wi-Fi or internet outage or slowdown, having important documents in your digital wallet means you can retrieve them no matter what,” Labunski said.

3. Don’t forget your PPE

With COVID-19 still around, you'll want to travel with face masks, hand sanitizer and other PPE supplies.

With COVID-19 still around, you’ll want to travel with face masks, hand sanitizer and other PPE supplies.
(iStock)

According to Haynes, travelers shouldn’t leave their PPE behind. For flights, face masks are federally mandated inside airports and planes. This mandate applies to other forms of public transportation, including trains and buses. Even rideshare companies are requiring face masks in light of the ongoing pandemic. Masks aren’t required in personal cars, but the CDC still recommends them to people who may cross paths with large groups.

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If you’re unsure of what kind of PPE you should travel with, Haynes suggests packing extra face masks and hand sanitizer – this way you won’t have to pay for new ones at the airport or roadside store. And if you’re concerned that your sanitizer bottle might be too big, the TSA is allowing one 12-ounce hand sanitizer bottle per passenger.

4. Bring entertainment and chargers

Thanksgiving travelers can benefit from bringing their own entertainment in case holiday traffic gets bad.

Thanksgiving travelers can benefit from bringing their own entertainment in case holiday traffic gets bad.
(iStock)

Traffic and flight delays happen, and when they do, it could mean a long boring wait. You won’t have to suffer that if you plan ahead.

Solo travel blogger Jen Ruiz, who publishes travel tips on Jen on a Jet Plane, told Fox that, “Travelers should absolutely bring their own entertainment.” 

“I like to download a series on my Netflix app or Apple TV, which can be watched without the internet,” she continued. “I swear by OverDrive Media Console, an app that lets you download eBooks and audiobooks from your local library to your phone.”

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If your chosen entertainment option is an electronic, you’re going to want to make sure it doesn’t run out of juice.

“Carry a power bank [for] your phone, the kids’ devices, or noise-canceling earbuds for noisy flights,” said Labunski. “Having a backup battery charger is an absolute must.”