Prepare for lines at airports across the country this Thanksgiving as stormy winter weather hits.
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Image
Prepare for lines at airports across the country this Thanksgiving as stormy winter weather hits.

Story highlights

Stormy weather is snarling the progress of many travelers

Even a flight to a sunny place can be delayed because of bad weather

Pack snacks for your people and chargers for your devices

CNN —  

The annual Thanksgiving debate over your mother’s turkey-roasting method and your uncle’s political sideswiping is over. Even that storm that snarled up travel on the East Coast during the busiest travel time of the year has passed.

More than 46 million people were estimated to be traveling this Thanksgiving, according to AAA projections, and 90% of them are traveling by car. With a little luck, some patience and planning, they made it home last weekend.

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It can be especially stressful and arduous to travel during the winter holidays: Airports and flights are crowded. Roadways are jammed with vehicles. Snow and ice storms can delay your journey.

Check your flight, no matter where you’re going. Think you don’t have to worry about bad weather because you’re returning home to a sunny spot like Florida or California? Not so fast. That airplane you’re picking up in San Diego may have been coming from Minneapolis or Chicago. If your aircraft is coming from a city hit by foul weather, it can hold up your warm weather travel. Check your aircraft’s journey on your airline website, or pick an app to track your aircraft’s path.

Don’t drive into a storm. Monitor your local and regional forecasts. If you’re driving home to Buffalo and that city is expecting another seven feet of snow (hypothetically speaking), stay put. If there’s a possibility that bad weather could hit while you’re on the road, make sure to have cold-weather clothing and shoes, extra water and snacks, charged-up devices, diapers for the little ones, a full tank of gas and flares in case you get stopped by weather.

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Charge your devices. Expect crowds surrounding the electrical outlets at your departure airport to increase if your flight is delayed. And don’t expect rest stops to share their outlets with you. Have a car charger and stash a power pack or a few battery chargers for your portable electronic devices (useful for driving or flying).

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Follow your airline and airport on social media. Follow your airlines and airports via Twitter and Facebook. Many airlines and airports post the speediest updates to their Twitter feeds, so start following them now. Sign up for your airline alerts to get flight updates e-mailed to your smartphone.

Charge your devices. Expect crowds surrounding the electrical outlets at your departure airport to increase if your flight is delayed. And don’t expect rest stops to share their outlets with you. Have a car charger and stash a power pack or a few battery chargers for your portable electronic devices (useful for driving or flying).

Don’t debate flight attendants about smartphones vs. computers. Your aircraft will probably be packed, and flight attendants will be busy helping infrequent travelers get settled into their seats. Yes, you now have the right to use your iPad and other portable electronic devices in airplane mode below 10,000 feet on some flights. But maybe your tablet looks big enough to look like a laptop? You may be on vacation, but your flight crew is working the holiday. Do you want to argue with people who can throw you off your flight? Be one of the nice ones.

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Stock up on snacks. Stock up on nonperishable snacks and drinks for the car (if you’re flying, avoid the drinks, but carry an empty water bottle to refill after you clear airport security). Granola bars, beef jerky, nuts and dried fruit, and other protein-rich snacks can keep you and the children going without spending a fortune at rest stops or the airport.

If you get stuck at the airport. If you get stranded, multitask. Don’t only go to the ticket counter. Use the NextFlight app and type in your city pair to get the next flights for the major airlines, travel blogger Benet Wilson suggested. Then, call the airline on your cell phone and give them your preferred options. You might get booked on another flight before you reach the front of the line. (Also consider nearby cities where you can rent a car and drive to your final destination.)

Stay home next year. Travel experts Wilson and Johnny “Jet” DiScala are staying home for Thanksgiving this year, and every year they can. “I try to not travel on Thanksgiving,” said DiScala, who flies more than 100 times per year but stays home in Los Angeles on Turkey Day. “There are so many rookies out, a lot of first-timers at the airports. The planes are completely packed, and it’s expensive.”

Wilson prefers not to risk it. “With Mother Nature, you never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “The airlines can only do so much.”