Important Thing for Families to Check Before Flying for Thanksgiving

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The day before Thanksgiving is actually not one of the absolute busiest flying days of the year, though it is certainly busy and potentially stressful. The busiest air travel dates in this country are traditionally in the summer, but Thanksgiving travel can be more complicated than summer travel with winter weather in play and more leisure travelers and families hitting the skies than on some other dates.


If you are flying this week with your family, the number one most important thing you can do right now to help ensure a successful flight is to check or even re-check your reservation and seat assignments for each segment of your journey. The majority of family travel ‘horror stories’ that I hear have a seat assignment problem involved in some way.

It is easier than you may think to miss getting seat assignments at the time of booking, and even if you did, that is the sort of thing that can change due to schedule changes, aircraft substitutions, or simply mysteriously disappear over time. Of course, there are also now an increasing number of basic economy fares or even entire airlines that don’t include complimentary advance seat assignments at all.

Waiting until you are checking in online or even at the airport in order to double-check seat assignments is a very dangerous strategy as planes are likely to be full and you will be relying on the goodwill of others to swap seats onboard, which is far from a guaranteed request since many of them will be flying together with their family as well.

Truthfully, even if you identify a seat assignment problem a couple days before your flight  it still may not be something you can fix at this juncture if the flight is fully booked, but at the very least you can start preparing everyone to either sit alone if they are old enough, or at least pack and plan for not all being seated together in a perfect row. If there is a problem and you hope to swap day-of, packing some extra niceness and maybe even a small Starbucks gift card or two isn’t the worst idea.

Is your family hitting the skies this week? Are your seat assignments all squared away, or do you get to contend with a day-of seat lottery swap meet?


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  1. If available seats are awful (read: middle) when I first book a ticket, I intentionally leave blank in the hopes of better seats being assigned at check-in. Usually works, too! Sometimes still have to separate but generally can move away from that dreaded middle seat when somebody no-shows.

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