Thanksgiving travel packing tips

Don't do it to your family; check-in misery (courtesy hoyasmeg at Flickr CC)Are you braving the busiest travel days in the US in the next few weeks?

That’s right, it’s the Thanksgiving holiday, so have some Tums (or your antacid of choice.)

If you insist on flying, remember that the airline experience these days is often similar to the worst bus trip you’ve ever taken. I’m sorry to be such a cynic, but it’s me against them when it comes to incredibly unpleasant US air travel.

Consider these survival tips:

***  Drive rather than fly if you can, and take some back roads while you’re at it.  Arm yourself with detailed maps before you go. GPS is nice, but map backups always boot up!

***  Shift the crazy travel days….work right up till Thanksgiving or even till noon Thanksgiving Day, but then take the following Monday and/or Tuesday off.

***  Heck, grab some last-minute fares and leave the country! I’d be all over Thanksgiving somewhere in South America or Europe.  Asia’s great but the flights take too long from where I live. If your family’s in Hawaii, however, go for it.

General flying tips:

—->  Do not check your luggage. You will pay extra fees to check on most airlines (one reason so many love Southwest Airlines, which still doesn’t charge to check.)  For the privilege of paying a fee, they may lose your stuff. No, thanks, they aren’t getting their paws on mine. I pack lightly (see video tips below.)

—->  Everyone in your family rates one carryon suitcase and one personal item. That means each kid can pull a wheeled carryon and carry a little backpack, if he/she is old enough and physically able.  Their clothes and shoes probably won’t fill their suitcase, so use that space for “spillover items” from Mom and Dad.

—->  The last time I flew, the airlines were suddenly very strict about not allowing women to carry a purse and a laptop bag.   If you bring a laptop, empty your purse, pack it in your carryon suitcase for use at your destination, and carry aboard one laptop bag that can handle everything.

—->  Always check in online and print your own boarding passes.  The late check-ins get bumped on those overbooked flights (this is you versus whatever the airlines will try to do to you, remember?) and with boarding passes in hand and no luggage to check, you can go straight to the security lines at the airport and start having all that fun pulling off your kid’s shoes and demonstrating your little quart-sized bags of 3 oz. liquids.

—->  Everyone in the family should carry empty water bottles through security and fill them up at the water fountain on the other side. Everyone should have energy/snack bars in hand.  NEVER assume there’s any food aboard the plane other than crap that you have to buy, even if the flight is long or during a mealtime.  Tote your own food.

—->  Hey, you can probably buy diapers and wipes wherever you’re going, right? Take only enough to get you through the flight and first day on the other end.

—->  Stop lugging so much junk that you and the kids don’t wear and don’t need. Mail things ahead and mail things back to your house. If you forgot something; well, they have Gap, Old Navy and Target everywhere. Remember – fewer shoes is usually the answer.

Here’s my video (originally posted on the Perceptive Travel Blog) about how I packed for two conferences in two cities over six full days….hopefully you find it helpful!

Here’s the URL of the how to pack video if you’re an RSS reader or can’t see the box below.