This Thanksgiving, we’re giving you something to be thankful for: expert tips and tricks for making one of the busiest travel days of the year easier than ever. From the getting there to the heading home, and every minute in between, this survival guide will help you tackle every (turkey) leg of the trip.
After all, if you’re going to try lugging a green bean casserole across the country—or maybe ditching dinner and taking advantage of a long weekend—you might as well be equipped with all the apps and insider info necessary to make your Turkey Day travels as seamless as possible.
We’ll help you unlock lounge access to kill time on a layover, and avoid the most congested roads so you arrive at your Thanksgiving feast faster, easier, and without having to ruffle too many feathers in the process.
Flying There (and Back)
If your bringing Thanksgiving dinner with you, take note of the 10 foods the TSA will take away from you. That means no in-flight Turkey Day shots, gravy boats, or cranberry sauce. Check it, or, quite frankly, just wait until you get there.
Fly direct. Holidays are notorious for late departures and busy airports, and you could miss your connecting flight. Book direct and avoid the headache of finding an alternative flight, or seek the earliest flight possible: you’re less likely to have a delay the earlier you’re scheduled to leave.
According to a TSA Spokesperson, you’ll want to get to the airport at least 90 minutes before your flight on Thanksgiving. Hopefully, you won’t be in line for much more than the average (20-25 minutes), especially if you leave your pork tamales at home.
Got a delay? A flight cancellation? Cool off in one of the more than 500 airport lounge listed on LoungeBuddy: an app that helps you locate pay-as-you-go and free lounges in airports worldwide. You can even sort by the amenity of you dreams (complimentary cocktails or a hot shower, anyone?).
Build in a little R&R while waiting for your boarding call at airports across the globe. There’s the JetBlue lounge at JFK in New York, where guests can drop in for a quick Swedish massage or manicure, and Xpress Spa’s mobile app spa treatments at more than 50 locations. Just order a treatment on your phone, and an aesthetician will roll up to pamper you at the gate.
Hopefully, you already have Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. If you don’t, tuck this away in your things-to-know-for-Thanksgiving-2016 file. If you do have one of these cards, make sure you enter your Known Traveler number (you’ll find it on the upper left-hand corner of your card) into your booking info if you’re flying with a participating airline. You’ll save plenty of time and hassle getting through security.
Strategically pack your bag, and security will seem like a breeze—even without PreCheck. Try TSA-approved containers, like these GoToob’s spill-proof, drip-free bottles, and keep your laptop at the top of your bag.
Don’t fly back the day after Thanksgiving. It’s the second busiest travel day of the year, with more than 2.9 million scheduled seats. Surprisingly, Thanksgiving doesn’t even hit the Top 50 list: it falls in at a cool 121. Busier than average, sure, but nothing to get upset about.
Earn some extra cash on your drive home by joining the Roadie Community: an app that connects drivers with packages that need delivery. Also good for over-eager Christmas shoppers ready to deliver their gifts.
Not everything about a pre-Thanksgiving drive has to be a drag. With the GasBuddy app, you can locate stations en route with the lowest prices.
Depending on which city you’re flying into, you can skip the mile-long taxi line and request an Uber or Lyft. Be warned, though: some cities ban ride-share companies from picking up travelers at the airport or tack on extra fees. Here’s a rundown of how easy it is to get an Uber in eleven major U.S. cities.
Let someone else drive you. Trains aren’t subject to holiday traffic and accidents like cars are, and Amtrak services more than 500 destinations across the country. Train travel can even offer some unexpected perks, like Amtrak’s Red Cap service. Free of charge, and available in 12 major city stations, attendants donning red uniforms will help you stash your bags for you—and board early. Master Amtrak, and traveling during holidays may not be half the headache you expected.
Avoid being on the road between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. if you’re driving the day before Thanksgiving. According to Google, that’s the busiest traffic time for this holiday. Prepare yourself with our most interesting stats, facts, and figures about Thanksgiving travel.
If you need a last-minute rental car (or, heck, a not-last-minute rental car) download Silvercar. No junky clunkers, no hassle. Simply download the Silvercar app and reserve your car at airports (LAX, MIA) in many U.S. cities (including Manhattan, NYC). You’ll unlock the vehicle with a QR-code, pair your phone with the vehicle for hands-free calls and music, and drive in style. All Silvercars are Audi A4s.
Make sure your Pup has a happy Thanksgiving, too. Find a sitter on Rover.com—they’re located in 10,000 cities around the country. Leave your dog at home while you travel, or have someone watch him or her while the family is over for dinner: ideal for keeping yappy guests from the feast.
Family gatherings can be stressful. Unwind with an on-demand massage from Zeel. They’ll deliver a masseuse to your home, or help you book an appointment at a nearby massage. Uncle Bob will be much easier to stomach after 60 minutes of Zen.
ClassPass members may not know about the program’s biggest perk: access to classes in all ClassPass cities. Work up an appetite—or, rather, work off that pumpkin pie—in 34 cities around the world, from Melbourne to Raleigh, North Carolina.
This article was previously published on Travel + Leisure.
More from T+L:
• Thanksgiving Travel By the Numbers
• These 10 Airports Will Be the Busiest on Thanksgiving
• How to Master Your Next Trip to Atlanta