4 Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving Holiday Travel

By Jesse Sokolow on 24 November 2015
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While the start of the winter season was just about a month ago, that is of little comfort to those in the western United States and Plains this week, where a significant winter storm is developing.

The storm will arrive just in time to disrupt holiday travel and delay or cancel thousands of flights, inconveniencing hundreds of thousands of travelers.

Once a storm is on the radar, both figuratively and literally, listen to news and weather forecasts for your location as well as for the destination. Sign up for flight alerts from your airline and weather alerts for your area. Consider using a flight information service such as Expert Flyer, which gives you the same information airline agents and travel agents have access to, to check seat availability on other flights. Finally, if a storm is affecting travel en route, but not at the departure and arrival points, ask about alternate routing.

Here are some tips for minimizing delays and avoiding risks when weather-related problems arise during travel.

1.) Leave Early

If you have to be somewhere on a specific day (i.e. the turkey won’t be served without you), don’t leave anything to chance. Once you learn of a possible winter storm, plan to arrive one or two days early. If you’ve already booked your flight, you may be able to reschedule, especially once the airlines start to issue travel waivers that allow changes or cancellations without incurring penalties. It has become a common practice for many airlines to encourage early travel or postponing trips with these waivers. If you don’t have to go, simply stay home.

2.) Take a Train

While trains aren’t 100% exempt from winter weather cancelations, they still tend to be a more reliable means of transportation than planes when bad weather hits. While they are much less practical and time-efficient as a means of transcontinental travel, they will almost certainly get the job done if you are traveling to a regional destination.

3.) Don’t Get in Line with Everyone Else

When flights are cancelled, most passengers queue up at the ticket counter to be rebooked. Skip the line and turn on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone instead. While everyone else is standing in line for hours, you might be able to rebook yourself in minutes. You can also try making requests via an airline’s Twitter or Facebook account, although this is less effective when thousands of passengers are stranded and using social media. If you are a member of the airline’s frequent-flyer program with elite status, make sure you enter your frequent flyer number at the start of the call (unless your phone number is already recognized by the airline’s system) to ensure your call gets routed accordingly. Wait times for Diamonds and Platinums can be mere minutes while non-elites may wait for hours for assistance.

4.) Winterize Your Car

If you plan to drive – be it using your own car or a rental – make sure you have the appropriate tires (in many regions, local laws require winter tires at this time) on your vehicle before departing, and bring extra supplies. These should include a fully charged mobile phone (don’t forget that external battery pack for the phone), an ice scraper and brush, small shovel, blankets, at least one flashlight, a battery-operated radio, several bottles of water and a supply of protein bars.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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