Everything you need to know about Thanksgiving travel

Discover the 10 tips for making smooth business trips during Thanksgiving holidays.

Discover the 10 tips for making smooth business trips during Thanksgiving holidays.

By Jessica Freedman

Thanksgiving dinner

It’s that time of year again. No, it’s not Christmas. It’s almost Thanksgiving, the busiest time of year for traveling in the United States. In a country with only 11 public holidays, and many with as little as one week of vacation a year, many Americans will choose to travel home for the holidays on Thanksgiving over Christmas. That’s because most companies take Black Friday off, and many will take a half day on Thanksgiving eve.

It’s the only paid four-day holiday a year, and Americans take advantage of it. They will fly to visit their families, fly to Hawaii, Mexico, and the Bahamas to escape cold temperatures, recharging their batteries and connecting with families and friends. If you’re unlucky enough to have to travel for business during this busy period when a record-setting 3.2 million passengers are expected to travel by air, then keep reading this helpful guide that will help you navigate the road and the air.

When is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November. When the National Holiday was first established in 1941, it was declared as the last Thursday in November. The resolution was then amended by the senate to be the fourth Thursday of the month to compensate for those years when there are five Thursdays.

When’s the best travel day during Thanksgiving?

The best travel day during Thanksgiving is the Monday before, as flights are reportedly 12% cheaper that day according to ABC Chicago. The busiest and most expensive days to fly before Thanksgiving are reportedly the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. If you have to travel to the US or within the US for a business trip during this holiday period, book well in advance and be sure to favor rental cars.

With an estimated 29.9 million passengers estimated to travel between November 17-27, which tend to be the busiest travel days for thanksgiving, it’s important to keep in mind that it may not be the best time to make a business trip. If you have to travel, try to avoid Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of Thanksgiving week. The Friday after Thanksgiving is also not the best day to plan a meeting as most businesses that aren’t commercial are likely closed . 

Woman in the airport with trolley traveling for business during thanksgiving travel

Where to travel for Thanksgiving?

If you have to travel for business for Thanksgiving or travel for Thanksgiving in general, choose a location that isn’t effected by bad weather. Try to choose big cities that have several connections during a day so that if you miss your flight due to delays or bad weather, there is still a chance to get on a later flight. Finally, if you are traveling within the US, try to avoid the East Coast where weather tends to be the harshest during the winter months. If you have several offices, and one of them is outside the States, it would be preferable to travel there during Thanksgiving.

If you must travel, check out these tips to get ahead with your business trip without being stuck in long lines and crowded airports.

1. Arrive with ample time ahead for your flight

With so many people traveling at once, and due to Winter storms there is a likelihood that flights can get delayed. Plan to arrive at the airport with plenty of time ahead. If you have bad luck and your flight is delayed, check out our tips of what to do in case of flight delays.

2. Avoid making business meetings during Thanksgiving week if you can

The best idea is not to make business trips during Thanksgiving week at all as prices are sky high and airports are crowded and hectic. If you must have a meeting during that week, the best day is Monday when flights will be at their cheapest and many people haven’t yet left for the travel odyssey.

The Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving should also be considered as days to avoid, as well as the Friday before the holiday, which is also a peak day.

3. Don’t check a bag

If you can get away with it, avoid checking your luggage during the holiday time. With so many people traveling at once, the likelihood of it getting lost is big. If you must check a bag, be sure to bring an extra pair of undergarments, socks, a toothbrush and a shirt in case your bag does get lost. Make sure you don’t miss any of the essentials. Consult our ultimate packing list below.

4. Plan objectives ahead of time

Before taking off for a business trip, be sure that it’s really necessary. You can check out this helpful infographic to help decide whether the business trip is really necessary. Map out the objectives of the meeting ahead of time and be sure that the agenda is clearly laid out to avoid having to spend more than one day on site. The faster you can reach your business objectives, the better so that you can be sure to get home before the travel rush. 

5. If you need to get home for the holiday, go directly from the meeting

If you are traveling to visit family or friends for Thanksgiving, don’t waste time passing through home, plan to go directly from your work meetings. The less back and forth you have to do, the better. If your holiday plans are within driving’s distance of your work meeting, plan on renting a car or taking public transportation rather than hopping on another flight.

6. Have a backup plan

Things can always go wrong when you travel, but more so when it’s a busy travel time. Be sure you have a backup plan in case you can’t make it to your destination (whether for meetings or holiday plans). Whether it’s work-related or personal plans, be sure that you have an emergency contact in place that can help if push comes to shove. Plus, winter storms could disrupt Thanksgiving travel across the U.S. Keep in mind that winter storms expect to impact Thanksgiving travel almost every year, so be sure to have a backup plan if you can’t get to where you need to.

7. Be more organized than ever

Be sure to set up out-of-office email notifications, clearly stating when you will be unreachable due to meetings, personal time or the holidays. Designate a back-up contact person who can handle any work emergencies that might come up. Be sure to inform key contacts about your trip and give them all the relevant information. 

Man packing trolley for business trip

8. Travel with all your travel necessities in your backpack

Bags often get lost when airports are especially busy so if you must travel during Thanksgiving, and as a general precaution, it’s always a good idea to carry your essential tools with you, including laptops, chargers and any other special software devices you might need. Make sure important presentations are backed up to the cloud as well. 

9. Prioritize your other tasks

Before departing for your business trip, ensure that you properly assess your workload and prioritize your tasks accordingly. Those that you won’t be able to manage while traveling, be sure you delegate to colleagues in your absence to ensure a proper work-life balance and no added stress of tight deadlines prior to traveling.

10. Work with a business travel management platform

When complicated business travel arrangements come up or when traveling during the busy season, it’s always a good idea to have a reliable travel provider. Instead of working with a bunch of third party aggregate sites or online tour operators, you can manage your business travel with a travel management platform like GetGoing. The best part is you have real travel experts available should things not go as planned. This way you can expect the best but prepare for the worst. 

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