Is your family planning to head out of town for one of the (many) upcoming holidays?
You’re not alone.
“We don’t have any official numbers that are out yet, but we do know based on what we have seen throughout the year with every holiday, more and more people are traveling, and the numbers are definitely on the rise,” said Elizabeth Carey, director of public relations and corporate communications for AAA Western and Central New York. “We’re expecting that Thanksgiving and Christmas numbers could even exceed 2019 travel numbers.”
She shared some tips that will help make your trip go a little more smoothly.
If You Are Planning to Drive
For starters, families should consider traveling at alternative times.
“If we’re talking about Thanksgiving, a lot of people are going to start heading out on Tuesday evening, Wednesday evening to get to their destination, so they’re ready for Thanksgiving morning,” said Carey. “So, if you can travel at off times, when it’s going to be less busy, like early early in the morning, you’ll avoid some of the congestion. Just make sure people get plenty of sleep and they’re not drowsy.”
Parents should also make sure the car is packed with games to keep children occupied – and their emergency roadside kit.
“We remind people to always have something in their vehicle, no matter the season, but especially in winter,” said Carey. “You’re going to want to have jumper cables and an extra phone charger. So many people call AAA and say, ‘I’m broken down on the side of the road and my phone is dying.’ You want to put some basic tools in there, some blankets, some warm clothes. And then also pack some water and snacks, and, if you’re traveling with a pet, pet treats as well. That way, if you do break down on the side of the road and you’re waiting for assistance, you are going to be more comfortable.”
If You Are Planning to Fly
Families should try to purchase their tickets as early as possible.
“We’ve seen a lot of people booking Thanksgiving travel, for example, a month or two before Thanksgiving. And they’re getting average ticket prices, depending on where they’re going,” said Carey. “Prices might come down a little bit about two weeks out from Thanksgiving, but then you run the risk of inventory being limited, and those direct flights are sold out. You’re going to want to make sure you’re thinking about that. If you’re traveling with a family of four, and you want to make sure all four of you are getting on the same flight and you’re sitting together, you shouldn’t be waiting until the last minute.”
If possible, Carey also recommends booking a flight in the morning. That will help minimize disruptions.
“Sometimes, with airlines, there’s a ripple effect throughout the day,” she said. “So, if you have the first flight out in the morning, and your plane is in place, there shouldn’t be any delays or cancellations unless something comes up with the crew. But there’s going to be less of a chance. If you wait, and you’re traveling in the evening, one flight delay could lead to another. And that could give you a better chance of being stuck in the airport.”
A good way to keep track of any delays and cancellations is by downloading your airline’s app (“that’s going to give you the most up-to-date information on the status of your flight,” said Carey). And, of course, make sure to leave plenty of time to go through security and get to your gate.
“If it’s a domestic destination, within the United States, you want to be at the airport at least two hours before your flight departs,” said Carey. “A lot of people may think that a 5:30 or 6 a.m. flight is a quiet time at the airport. Those are actually some of the busiest times at local airports.”
Saving Money on Travel
These days, the big thing on the mind of many parents is money.
If you’re driving, Carey recommends downloading the AAA app. It shows you where to find the cheapest gas prices in your area. “Sometimes, it’s the difference between making a right turn instead of a left turn because the gas stations can set their prices based on supply and demand,” she said.