A predicted 93 million Americans travel during the holidays, and almost all of them are probably grumpy about it. No one wants to waste part of their precious vacation time sitting idly in a car or at the airport as they struggle to entertain their kids. Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times of the year, but that does not mean it has to be the most miserable. Whether you are driving, flying, and/or bringing the kids along, here are some tips that might ease your journey.
If you’re flying:
Flying during the week of Thanksgiving is a test of mental stamina and patience that most people fail. Unless you are flying midweek and off-hours, the airport will be crowded with tons of other people who, like you, just want to get on their flight and have everything run smoothly. But there are the inevitable flight delays which can ruin the end of your weekend if you’re flying home on a Sunday. If you get stuck at an airport, think of it as a mini vacation. You don’t have to sit at an airport Starbucks or bar wallowing in your negative feelings. Instead, you can join an airport lounge club for the day. American Express has created Centurion Lounges in various airports (San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth, Las Vegas, and more) that claim to be “designed as a destination.” If you have an American Express card, you’re in for a fee that is $50 for one day, and free for Platinum cardholders.
For that you will find yourself amongst Smart TVs, family rooms, shower suites, gourmet food, and tablets you can borrow. You can settle into one of the lounge’s nooks and use their Wifi to catch up on work, or ask the staff to help you request event tickets, dinner reservations, or assistance with your flight. The kids can play video games as you sip on cocktails and learn to enjoy your flight delay. There’s even a spa with complimentary 25-minute treatments to help you de-stress from your airport tension. Your card can also get your spouse and kids into the lounge, or two complimentary guests. If you don’t have an American Express card, don’t worry – more of these independent lounges are spreading amongst American airports, and some of them have even lower fees. Getting stuck in an airport does not have to ruin your Sunday anymore.
If you’re driving:
If you’re traveling to your Thanksgiving destination via car, the folks at Google have amassed some information that you might find useful. After analyzing data from the week of Thanksgiving the past two years in over 21 US cities, Google Maps has found some traffic patterns. Wednesday is generally the most congested day for driving – it looks like everyone procrastinates until the day before Thanksgiving to begin their journey – but you can avoid some of that traffic if you leave before 2pm or after 7pm. Likewise, on your way home from the family festivities you will find the roads more clear on the following Sunday. Saturday’s traffic will be up to 40% more crowded, so while you may want to get home earlier and get that extra day of rest at home, you’ll be fighting a crowd of cars to do it. Evidently most people have the same train of thought as to what days and times would be most convenient to travel, so you’ll have to stick to days and times that go against your usual inclination.
On Thanksgiving itself, you’ll probably want to bunker down inside of the house if you live in Philadelphia, Austin, or Washington DC – on Turkey Day these cities will have the most traffic of the 21 cities Google Maps analyzed. Of course, even with this helpful data things could get crowded on the road. It’s good to have some contingency plans in place, like planning out a Plan B route. Even if the back-up route is technically longer, you might end up making better time if there’s no traffic. Just make sure you have a navigator to keep you on the right path, and a co-pilot to read the map so you can keep your eyes on the road.
If you’re taking the kids:
Whether you are traveling via plane, train, or automobile, your kid is probably going to get bored along the way. What follows is every parent’s worst nightmare: being stuck in a confined space with a whiney child. The key is to keep the young ones distracted as time passes, so bring plenty of paper and markers for infinite games of Hangman and Tic Tac Toe. One surefire way to keep the tots pleased is to have them pack their own entertainment: books, stuffed animals, coloring books, etc. That way they can’t complain about what you chose, although it might help to smooth over any tantrums if you bring a few surprise library books or stickers to boost morale. Just like they’ll be empowered by packing their own entertainment, let your kids take charge of the camera and snap pictures of the journey. It will entertain them, and make for an adorable scrapbook project later. Sometimes simple toys like an Etch-a-Sketch or finger puppets can entertain them for hours, but when that ends they’ll probably want to play I Spy for the tenth time.
Luckily, if you don’t want to spend two hours playing I Spy, technology can save the day. Let your kids play Angry Birds on your phone – it will even mesmerize the toddlers. If you’re in the car, the whole family can listen to an audiobook together, like Harry Potter, Little House on the Prairie, or anything your local librarian can recommend. 90 minute chunks can be taken up by movies – either an in-flight movie, or if you’re driving you can watch movies on the iPad. While the License Plate Scavenger Hunt is perfect for kids who are just learning their letters, it is the iPad will be your savior. It has plenty of educational games that kids as young as a toddler can play by themselves, as well as books and movies – plus a 10-hour battery life.