- Holiday travel can be stressful, but a little bit of preparation can make trips easier.
- A lot of people focus on the outbound part of the trip, but flying home can be even more hectic, with bigger crowds and longer lines.
- In fact, more Americans are expected to fly the Sunday after Thanksgiving this year (December 1) than on the Wednesday before the holiday (November 27).
- Here are 6 tips to help you make any flight home after the holidays an easy experience.
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1. When leaving for your trip, choose a suitcase with some extra room.
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Somehow, you always end up returning home from your trip with more stuff than you brought, whether it’s the sweater you forgot at your parents’ house last time, Black Friday purchases, gifts, or just the mysterious extra bulk that seems to appear out of nowhere.
Instead of tightly packing everything you need for your trip into the smallest bag you can, bring a slightly bigger bag with some extra space for that return flight (the exception is if you’re flying an airline that strictly enforces bag size).
2. Don’t worry about folding dirty clothes.
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If your clothes are headed into the wash when you get home, you don’t have to worry about folding them for the flight back. But to save room in your suitcase, you don’t just want to throw them in haphazardly, either.
Try rolling clothes, instead. Or, if your suitcase has a laundry bag like the above pictured suitcase, put dirty clothes in there, and then just squeeze the laundry bag into your luggage.
3. Use packing cubes.
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I almost always use packing cubes when I pack. It helps me fit more in bags and stay organized.
Plus, when I’m coming home, I can use the cubes to keep anything I didn’t end up wearing separate from my dirty laundry.
4. Get to the airport early.
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Airports and highways in the days after the holidays can be even busier than in the days leading up to them.
For Thanksgiving 2019, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is expected to see more travelers than the Wednesday before the holiday, which is usually thought of as the busiest day.
Make sure to get to the airport early so you have enough time to deal with traffic, and get checked in and through security.
If it doesn’t end up taking too long, find somewhere in the airport to get a cup of coffee or a drink. You may even be able to use an airline lounge, depending on what type of ticket you have or what perks you get from your credit card.
5. Think ahead when taking leftovers on a flight.
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Bringing leftovers home is always a nice post-holiday treat, but keep in mind that some foods are considered a liquid, and therefore can’t be taken through security in a carry-on bag.
If you’re bringing things like gravy, cranberry sauce, wine, jam, or preserves home from the holidays, pack them securely in a leak-proof container, and put them in your checked bag. “Foods that can be spilled, spread, sprayed, pumped or poured should be packed in a checked bag,” the TSA says.
Most solid foods like pies, cakes, stuffing mix, casseroles, turkey, and potatoes, are good to go in your carry-on.
6. Plan ahead with pets.
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If you’re flying to Thanksgiving and planning to bring your pet, make sure to plan ahead.
Each airline has different policies about pets, but in all cases, you’ll need to call ahead to make sure that either an in-cabin pet is added to your reservation, or that you can arrange for your bigger furry friend to travel in a safe crate in the cargo hold.
Even if your pet is considered an emotional-support animal, or ESA, many airlines require you to call ahead to register the animal.
Even if you made it to your holiday destination without calling ahead or encountering any problems, that may not be the case coming back. Airlines also tend to limit the number of pets and ESAs brought on board because of safety considerations, so it’s definitely worth calling ahead.
The exception is trained and certified service or therapy animals, including seeing-eye dogs, PTSD-support animals, and service animals that are trained to help with a variety of other situations or conditions.