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Major Thanksgiving Travel Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

couple walking in an airport
Written by Lauren Saccone

This blog post was updated on November 17, 2021.

Thanksgiving is coming, and it’s closer than you think. In a few short weeks, family and friends will be sitting down to good times, great memories, and tons of food. Yes, Thanksgiving definitely reigns as one of the most beloved of holidays…and also one of the travel-craziest days of the year! If you’re planning on traveling to your celebrations this season, be prepared. We’ve got everything you need to avoid making some classic Thanksgiving travel mistakes, so you can focus on having an unforgettable holiday!

Waiting on Reservations

Air Ticket Flight Booking Concept

Time is ticking down, and all those hotels and airplanes you’re browsing are rapidly filling up. If you haven’t already made moves to book your reservations, get started — stat! Waiting too long means you run the risk of missing out on your ideal travel dates. If that’s not incentive enough to get going, keep in mind that a lot of airlines start hiking fares around Halloween. That’s one scary trick you definitely want to miss out on!

Cutting It Close

Whether you’re flying to your Thanksgiving destination or hitting the road, give yourself plenty of travel time. Delays are part of the Thanksgiving’s journey charm, especially if you’re traveling that exact day. Airports will be crowded, and odds are you’re going to hit some traffic along the way. Factor that into your travel time to cut down on excess holiday stress.


Woman trying to fit all clothing to suitacase before vacation

With more and more airlines charging increasingly large fees for luggage, be careful to avoid overpacking. You don’t want to blow a significant wad of your holiday travel budget lugging bags around. Be realistic and only pack what you really need for the trip. Not only will it help save you a sizable chunk of change, but also you won’t be saddled with several heavy bags. Best of all, if you do carry-on only you can book it straight out of the airport instead of killing time waiting for your luggage to arrive!

Being Inflexible

If you have some flexibility with your travel dates, you’re in for a much smoother ride this Thanksgiving! While everyone wants to travel as close to the day of as possible, keeping your schedule a little looser could end up saving you big bucks. If you can, travel on the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving; you’ll have more time to spend with your loved ones, wile missing out on a ton of delays and complications. Consider turning your Thanksgiving holiday into a vacation in its own right!

You may also like: 7 Thanksgiving Travel Tips to Make Your Holiday Stress-Free

Aiming for Thanksgiving Day

Hilarious smiling couple playing at terminal

Turkey day can surprise you when it comes to travel; there are often last-minute deep discounts from airlines that make the hassle all worth it. If you’re on a budget and have a flexible schedule, look into cheap domestic flights that leave or arrive on Thanksgiving itself. You could end up saving a ton of money, which is a great way to start off the holiday season.

Being Unprepared

Like we said, delays happen. It goes hand in hand with holiday travel. But you can cut down on a lot of stress and aggravation by getting ready beforehand. Bring snacks, drinks, and plenty of activities to keep you busy. If you’re loading up on electronic devices, don’t forget to pack your chargers. By planning ahead and preparing for the travel troubles, you’ll be all set to enjoy a stress-free, turkey-filled Thanksgiving holiday.

Do you have any other tips on how to make Thanksgiving travel go smoothly? Share them with us in the comments!

About the author

Lauren Saccone