Survive Holiday Travel, With Tips From the Experts

These Are the Best Hacks for Holiday Travel

Nov 15, 2018
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SMITH BRAIN TRUST –  Getting ready to hit the road or fly off somewhere for Thanksgiving? Maryland Smith faculty share their best travel hacks, from traveling early to the best ways to tolerate traffic, to make your holidays easier.

1. Leave early and minimize stops. Sean Barnes, assistant professor of operations management, and his family – including two young children – make the drive to Chicago for Thanksgiving weekend. His biggest tip: Leave early. “We typically try to leave around 5 a.m., which I think is the most critical part of the trip. One, it’s great to be more than halfway there by noon. And two, the earlier we leave, the better the chance the kids will fall back asleep on the road, which gives us a chance of driving for a few hours before our first stop. Minimizing the stops is key. It may not seem like much, but a few extra short stops can add up, and that makes things tough on the home stretch, when you could have already arrived at your destination.”

2. Don’t travel Wednesday or Sunday. “I recommend driving from the Washington, D.C., region on Thanksgiving morning and returning either the next day or early morning on Saturday to minimize traffic delays,” says David Kass, clinical professor of finance. “Driving up and down the East Coast on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or the Sunday after should be avoided if possible. What is normally a four- to five-hour drive between D.C. and New York will take at least eight hours on those days.”

The same advice applies to air travel, says Elinda F. Kiss, associate clinical professor of finance, who flies to Chicago every Thanksgiving to spend the holiday with family.

3. Book smart and plan ahead. It may be too late for this year, but remember these tips from Kiss next year: “Buy your tickets early. Just before Labor Day is ideal. Do not travel on the Wednesday before or the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We fly in on Thanksgiving day. Many other travelers now have joined us on those holiday fights, so that ‘hack’ does not reduce the fare as much as it used to, and the flight is full. Fly early in the day. Get TSA Pre-check or Global Entry for faster security lines (No need to remove your shoes. And your laptop and quart-size bag of three-ounce liquids can stay in your carry-on bag.)”

4. Plan for crowds and fly like a pro. Kiss’s other tips for navigating the air travel: “Leave for the airport early. Traffic can make you later than you expected. If you can take metro to the airport, that eases traffic and parking concerns. Get to the airport early, at least two hours before the flight to allow for long security lines. Take an empty water bottle through security to fill at the airport and bring food from home, or leave time to buy some at the airport. Do not wrap gifts.”

5. Make it fun (if possible) when you’re stuck in traffic. “If you must drive and fight traffic, accept that it will take a while to get there and plan something fun for the car ride, like a good audio book or a game,” says Joseph P. Bailey, associate research professor in the decision, operations & information technologies department.

Rebecca Ratner, associate dean of academic affairs and marketing professor, agrees: “Podcasts make the drive go so much faster. My favorite podcast for a holiday drive is RadioLab. The music is festive and the stories always pull me in.” Plenty of snacks and TV help, too, says Barnes.

6. Take public transportation when possible. If you book ahead, you can’t beat relaxing on a train instead of fighting traffic, says Bailey.

7. Stay home instead. The best way to avoid travel headaches? Don't travel, says Bailey. Instead, “celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends who are local.”

“For about 20 years, I would travel for Thanksgiving (by plane when in college, by car post-college) to get to where family was,” says Ratner. “I solved that about 12 years ago by moving to where family is. Now I can save that time that had been spent traveling relaxing.”

And one Maryland Smith professor takes it even further, saying we should just change the timing of Thanksgiving altogether: “Let’s have it and the end of October, double it up with Halloween,” says Oliver Schlake. One less day of eating too much food, better for the national health, we can finally have a university fall break, and resolve some of the travel congestion toward year’s end. And the weather at the end of October is much better suited for travel.”

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About the Expert(s)

Joseph P. Bailey's research and teaching interests span issues in telecommunications, economics, and public policy with an emphasis on the economics of the Internet. This area includes an identification of the existing public policies, technologies, and market opportunities that promote the benefits of interoperability. Bailey is currently studying issues related to the economics of electronic commerce and how the Internet changes competition and supply chain management.

Sean L. Barnes is an Assistant Professor of Operations Management in the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park. Prior to joining the Smith School, he was completing his doctoral degree in the Applied Mathematics and Scientific Computation (AMSC) program in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Maryland, College Park. His current research interests are modeling the transmission of infectious diseases, healthcare analytics, agent-based modeling, discrete-event simulation, and network analysis.

Dr. David Kass has published articles in corporate finance, industrial organization, and health economics. He currently teaches Advanced Financial Management and Business Finance, and is the Faculty Champion for the Sophomore Wall Street Fellows. Prior to joining the faculty of the Smith School in 2004, he held senior positions with the Federal Government (Federal Trade Commission, General Accounting Office, Department of Defense, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis). Kass has recently appeared on Bloomberg TV, CNBC, PBS Nightly Business Report, Maryland Public Television, Business News Network TV (Canada), American Public Media's Marketplace Radio, and WYPR Radio (Baltimore), and has been quoted on numerous occasions by the Washington Post, Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal, where he has primarily discussed Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway.

KissElinda

Professor Elinda F. Kiss' primary areas of research include Bank Regulation, Finance and Banking Crises and Fixed Income Securities. She teaches Corporate Finance, Banking, Business Finance and International Finance. Prior to teaching at the Smith School Professor Kiss has served as Associate Professor in the Departments of Finance and Accounting at Rutgers University and as Assistant Professor or Lecturer at the Wharton School, Wellesley College, and Temple University.

RatnerRebecca

Rebecca Ratner is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Dean's Professor of Marketing at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. She received a Ph.D. in social psychology from Princeton University in 1999, was a visiting scholar at the Wharton School in 1996 – 1997 and a visiting scholar at the Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business in 2004. Prior to her position at Maryland, she was assistant professor and associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ratner has taught courses on marketing management, marketing research, and consumer behavior to MBA students, undergraduate students, and executives.