Fat Carter Briefcase and Passport Wallet from La Portegna
I have a plan that would save the people of the United States of America billions of dollars and a few lives. Here it is: instead of clogging up the highways, airways, and train tracks by having everyone in the country travel around Thanksgiving and Christmas, we have separate holiday dates - one for people with last names A-H, another for I-P, another for Q-Z. Or one for Classic Menswear, one for Streetwear and Denim, and another one for Current Events, Power, and Money (please, PLEASE, separate holidays for people in that subforum).
Of course, this will never happen, for many good reasons. So we are stuck with everyone simultaneously descending on the nation’s transportation system like a Visigoth horde. It’s going to suck. But here's how you can make it suck a little less.
Stay at Home: Ta-Nehisi Coates tweeted that his family had a tradition of fasting every Thanksgiving to remind themselves how this country was taken. If you need to come up with some veneer of principle for holiday abstinence, that’s a pretty good candidate. Protesting the NFL’s ruling against Cowboys throwback jerseys is another. Or you could be honest and tell everyone it’s just not worth the hassle. You can visit family the following weekend instead, when travel will be half as expensive and stressful.
Travel Earlier: If you have a flexible schedule, then you can solve pretty much all your travel problems by simply avoiding travel on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and the Sunday following it. If you like your family and want to spend more time with them, fly out on Tuesday - that day has about the same commercial travel volume as the year-round daily average. If you don’t like your family and would like to see them as little as possible, fly on Thanksgiving morning - one of the lowest volume travel days of the year. In either case, come back on Saturday, also a lower-than-average-volume day.
Consider the Train: The train leaves from downtown, has no security, plenty of overhead room for luggage, decent food and beer, more leg room, no turbulence, and a quiet car (or business class if there’s no quiet car, and it doesn’t cost much extra). If you’re feeling whimsical, put on your tweed suit and read Anna Karenina and ask the conductor to be a good chap and bring you hot toddy. Book your ticket far in advance though - since Amtrak doesn’t always add trains for popular dates around holidays, they sell out quickly.
Get TSA Pre-Check: This is maybe the best $100 I’ve ever spent (unless I can count each of the hundreds required to finance my rabbit fur lined parka, in which case it’s a 15-way tie). Since neither you nor any of the (usually very few) people in the security line ahead of you need to take out their laptop or take off their shoes, you get to your gate much faster. The halcyon days of the Pre-Check when almost no one had it may be nearing an end, but it will always be the faster line. I usually get from curb to gate in less than five minutes, since I also:
Don’t Check a Bag: You’ll be gone for three days. You can live without your entire shoe wardrobe. You probably don’t want your family wondering how much you’ve spent on footwear anyway. Nor do you need to pack your black tie rig “just in case.” Leave it at home. I pack only a small duffle, with no rollerboard. Anything with rollers is at risk of getting kicked to a gate check when the overhead space inevitably runs out.
Get Gifts Sent to Your Final Destination: You’re doing all your holiday shopping online, of course. Instead of having every present shipped to your house and then packing them for the trip home, send everything straight to wherever you’ll be giving them. If your family tells you they don’t want to store your packages until you arrive, well that’s a few people you can cross off your gift list right there.
Don’t Be An Asshole: Stress brings out the worst in people. And the worst in one person brings out the worst in everyone around them. If you’re on the verge of yelling at a flight attendant, try to take a deep breath and realize that as frustrated as you might be, other passengers are dealing with the same problems, and the airline workers are struggling through their worst day of the year. In my experience, you’re more likely to get their best effort to help you if you calmly and respectfully tell them what your problem is and how it might be solved. If they take care of it, thank them.
While holidays involve travel for many of us, that’s not what holidays are about. The less your travel experience sucks, the more you will be able to focus on the true meaning of the holiday season: televised sporting events, insipid holiday music, and, of course, sales.