How to Best Prepare for Thanksgiving Travel

If you’re traveling for Thanksgiving, you’re among the record number of Americans who will hit the road or fly the friendly skies to celebrate the holiday this year. According to AAA, 48.7 million people will travel next week, a nearly two-percent increase from last year and the most since 2007.

Meanwhile, meteorologists are projecting delays for travelers across the country, with rain and snow conditions expected during Thanksgiving week. Between crowds, traffic and potential scheduling issues, these holiday trips could end up costing consumers more than they bargained for. To save your money and your sanity, following these eight Thanksgiving travel tips.

Call your credit card company.
Before you take off, whether it’s by plane, train or automobile, contact your bank and credit card companies to let them know you’ll be traveling. When your financial institutions start seeing charges popping up in unexpected locations across the country, they may put a hold on your account, limiting access to your funds when you need them most. These simple and easy phone calls will save you and your traveling companions a lot of headache during an already hectic holiday week.

Tune up your transportation.
If you’re road-tripping it this Thanksgiving, make sure your car is properly prepped by getting is serviced prior to departure. In addition to an oil and filter change, get your tires rotated and properly pumped to ensure optimal gas mileage. Top off wiper fluid and make sure wipers are in working order should you encounter rain or snow. Finally, pack extra blankets, water and flashlights, plus a spare tire and jack just in case.

Pack your own snacks.
Avoid roadside and airport markups on so-so food by packing your own snacks for Thanksgiving travel, especially if you have kids in tow. Goldfish crackers, granola bars, apple slices, pretzels, popcorn and nuts all travel well in the air and on the road. Road trippers can pack a cooler to include sandwiches, drinks, and other snacks that require refrigeration, and flyers should pack an empty water bottle to avoid pay $4 to $6 for bottled water at the airport.

Get an early start.
The key to avoiding the crowds on Thanksgiving is to get an early start. Airports will be busy with harried travelers, so plan to arrive two to three hours prior to departure to ensure parking and security lines don’t delay your trip. Road trippers should plan to head to bed early the night before departure so they can get up as early as possible to avoid holiday congestion.

Monitor your data usage.
Mobile data overages are an unexpected but increasingly common expense associated with holiday travel. Since Wifi connections aren’t as accessible while on the road, your data usage will likely increase, especially if children are streaming videos while adults use their smartphones for navigation and other tasks. Make sure your phone is set to seek out Wifi connections and alert you when access is available, and keep a close eye on your data use throughout your trip so there are no surprises when your bill arrives.

Seek out savings on food, fuel and more.
While en route to your destination, use apps to help you cut costs on food, fuel and other services. GasBuddy helps roadtrippers navigate to the cheapest fuel prices in their area, while LoungeBuddy helps the airport bound find free or one-time fee lounges in which to kill time between flights. All travelers can benefit from Coupon Sherpa, which offers access to national and local retail and restaurant coupons for savings on everything from Black Friday shopping to sampling the local fare.

Find lodging for less at the last minute.
It’s possible to find high-quality lodging for less at the last minute using an app like HotelTonight. The app aggregates unbooked hotel rooms from top hotels in each city at up to 70-percent off advertised rates. Travelers can also try RoomerTravel.com, a website that facilitates the sale of booked hotel rooms at reduced rates from people who can no longer need their reservations but can’t get their money back from the booking. When researching hotels, look for those that offer free perks like complimentary Wi-fi, breakfast and parking. These extras add up fast otherwise!

Bring entertainment.
If you’re traveling with kids, it’s important to find ways to keep them entertained to save your own sanity. Download movies and games in advance on an iPad or bring a portable DVD player with your kids’ favorite flicks. Otherwise, travel-friendly board games, coloring books with crayons or puzzle books can all help keep your kiddos distracted. Don’t forget headphones for everyone and avoid any toys that make loud noises as a courtesy to other travelers, including you!

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