Holiday Travel: Tips For a Stress-Free Getaway

An estimated 43.6 million Americans will hit the road and 24 million will take to the skies this Thanksgiving Day holiday. That means potentially big traffic jams on the ground, long, frustrating waits at the airports and ultimately a lot more stress for the individual traveler. But don't get discouraged. There are ways to reduce that stress.

Check In Early

Wendy Perrin, director of consumer news at Conde Nast Traveler, advises air travelers to always get their seat assignment before they arrive at the airport and check in as early as possible. Early check-in "gives you extra clout should anything go wrong," says Perrin. She advises arriving two hours early for domestic flights and three hours for international flights.

Related: Expert Travel Tips for the Holidays

Avoid the Long Check-In Line

Checking-in early and not checking luggage are the best ways to avoid long lines at airports. You can check in online usually 24 hours before your flight and print out your boarding pass at home or when you check in at the airport kiosk. If you pack only as much as you can carry on, you won't have to check your luggage.

Perrin says you're allowed two carry-ons but "pack your valuables in your smaller carry-on," including your medicines, jewelry, house keys, electronics and travel documents. Otherwise you run the risk of the airline gate-checking your larger carry-on if the overhead bins are full, which can be the case on 100 percent booked flights.

Change Your Seat Assignment

"If you don't like your seat assignment or you don't have one at all...go to the airlines' Web site and see if a seat opens up," says Perrin. She says airlines often upgrade their elite frequent flyer passengers as early as five days before a flight, which can open up that ideal seat in coach.

Drive During Off Hours

If you're driving to your holiday destination instead of flying, "try driving at an off-peak time," Perrin recommends. You don't want to be driving when everyone else is, which is probably a good guide for whatever you do before, during and after big holidays.

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