When you plan your holiday trip, assume that Murphy's Law applies to your travels. Not everything that could go wrong will actually go wrong, but your chances are higher than usual that at least something will go wrong. So the idea is to plan defensively: to anticipate what might happen and work to avoid the worst consequences.

Planning Your Flight

You know the "usual suspects" of holiday-season air trip planning:

  • Avoid connections, even if that means driving to/from airports more distant or less convenient than the one you usually use. Under the best of circumstances, flight connections at a major hub can be a hassle, and a nonstop flight is worth extra effort—and, occasionally, extra fare.
  • If you have to connect, avoid the worst-delay hubs. According to recent data, the worst airports for Thanksgiving in terms of missed connections and delays are Atlanta, Chicago/O'Hare, Dallas-Ft Worth, Miami, New York/LaGuardia, Newark, and San Francisco. Surprisingly, snowy Minneapolis-St. Paul and Salt Lake City and rainy Seattle do pretty well.
  • If you can, pad your schedule to allow more than the minimum connecting time at a big hub. Take the second connecting flight, not the first.
  • Travel on one airline, if you can, or at least on one ticket.


Again, the "old reliables" remain in force:

  • If you check a bag, make sure that your carry-on bag packing list accounts for a full day after arrival at your destination.
  • Make sure your checked bag has plenty of accurate and current identification, including the address at the destination, including phone numbers, where you will be the day of arrival and the day after. And don't pack anything you shouldn't in your checked bag.
  • Be prepared if your airline decides it has to "gate check" your carry-on because the plane has run out of overhead bin space before you get on board.


Download all of the most essential travel apps for your trip: your airline's current flight information, airport gate guides, airport facility guides, and such. And make sure that your gear is fully charged when you go to the airport: You can't count on a power supply at your seat.


If someone is meeting you on arrival, have a clearly identified meeting place at the airport. These days, most airports don't let folks greet you at the gate, so you have to have someplace else to meet.

None of these recommendations is original or unique; they've been around a long time. And the reason they're perennials is that they've survived the test of time.

More from SmarterTravel:

Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.


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