Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel times of the year; this time around, weather may throw a wrench into your travel plans. As the Scouts say, be prepared. Catherine Hamm of the LA Times has some practical tips for this Thanksgiving.
- Last weekend, weather wreaked havoc in the Southwest. That same storm is continuing towards the East: severe weather and travel delays/cancellations are expected if you're traveling that way. The Weather Channel has updates on the storms as well as a commuter forecast that can show conditions along your route.
- If you have plane tickets and your flight is cancelled, before you leave or along the way (ie, at a layover or connecting flight), remember that you may be responsible for arranging and paying for your own food and shelter.
- Since this is an incredibly heavy travel period, it may be difficult or impossible to get another flight if your original flight is cancelled.
- Keep abreast of the weather and flight statuses: be the first to call your airline if you think there may be a problem. Save your airline's phone number in your cell so calling can be easy and quick.
- You remember how you were always supposed to get to the airport two hours early? And usually that doesn't matter at all? It matters now. Besides lines for security, traffic in the airport will be congested and slow. You do not want to be stuck in your car, inching towards the terminal as you watch your flight time pass.
- If you are going to miss your flight, call the airline and pay a change fee to secure another, later flight immediately. Change fees aren't insignificant, but they're still a lot less than the whole flight.
- If you change the first flight of a round-trip, make sure your agent confirms your return flight. Often, cancelling a first flight automatically cancels the second. If the agent refuses to confirm this information, take their name, your confirmation number, the time of discussion and any other relevant information.
- If you're driving, be sure to allow plenty of time for delays. Carry an emergency kit in your trunk. This should include change (quarters, dimes, nickels), water and nonperishable food items (skip the canned beans and go for the granola).
- Get your car checked before you leave. You may be adding significant mileage to your vehicle; make sure the oil is changed, fluids are full and the gas tank is filled.
- GPS devices (including your phone) are fantastic, but you may not always be able to get a signal. Look up directions to your destination beforehand, and keep a road atlas in your car.
- Do make sure you have a phone charger that can connect to your car (whether through the lighter or via USB). You want to be sure you have a full battery if you need it.
- It bears repeating: texting or talking while driving is dangerous. Keep in mind that the highways and streets are filled with other families trying to get safely to Point B as well: wait for a rest stop to text your travel status.
When we enter the chaotic world of mass travel, whether in the air or on the road, we become subject to conditions beyond our control. Be prepared, and get ready to roll with the punches. Most important? Everyone is worried: an extra smile and some understanding can make the difference between a travel nightmare and an adventure.
Source: Hamm, Catherine M. Thanksgiving travel: Nine things you need to know to avoid trouble, Los Angeles Times. 11/25/13.