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Thanksgiving Travel Myths Debunked

By Sean O'Neill
updated September 29, 2021
Courtesy <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/modrak/217935056/" target="_blank">OndraSoukup/Flickr</a>

Local TV news shows trot out a few staple stories every November, as reliably as families trot out Butterballs for basting.

Air travel during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is one topic that reliably brings tall tales.

Here are some popular myths, debunked.

Myth No.1

The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for flying.

Not true! Don't listen to your local TV newscaster. The Wednesday before Turkey Day won't even be in the top 25 busiest days of the year for air travel this year, according to all forecasts. That Wednesday in previous years hasn't been "the busiest day for air travel" in many years. The Saturday after Thanksgiving is usually busier. What's more, taking a flight on virtually any Thursday or Friday during the summer is usually worse than any days during this period.

This Thanksgiving is expected to pale in comparison to previous ones—at least when it comes to air travel. Fewer people will fly this year than last year and the year before, and numbers are down 12 percent from boom-boom year 2006. A forecast for this year's Thanksgiving holiday period by AAA predicts about 23 million vacationers will take to the skies between Friday, Nov. 18, and Tuesday, Nov. 29.

All that said, severe weather can, of course, wreak havoc on the aviation system at any time. So, keep an eye on the weather forecast as you travel. Also: Florida's main airport have the unique problem on the weekend before Thanksgiving, when cruise passengers mix with travelers starting their Thanksgiving holidays early.

Myth No.2

It's too late now to redeem frequent flier miles for travel on many routes. Not necessarily so! Just ask Jared Blank, the frequent flier analyst who blogs at Online Travel Review. Blank has access to the computer databases that give peeks into the availability of reward travel. He says flights from the East Coast to Florida and the Caribbean still have business-class seat upgrades available. And "flights to Europe, especially on European carriers, look quite open over the Thanksgiving break," he says.

Myth No.3

There are more flight delays at Thanksgiving than at most other times of year. Wrong again! Reporters at NPR and USA Today debunked this chestnut in recent years. They asked the Department of Transportation to crunch the numbers on this, and, historically, "on-time performance for flights since 2001 during a 12-day window with Thanksgiving in the middle" were the same as the average for the rest of the year. No blips.

For the record, LAX International in Los Angeles will be the nation’s busiest airport this Thanksgiving, followed by Chicago O’Hare, Orlando International and San Francisco International, according to the annual Orbitz Insider Index.


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London Tests Free Public Wi-Fi

In London, finding free Wi-Fi has been about as difficult as finding Platform Nine and Three-Quarters at the train station that goes to Hogwarts. But that may soon change. Until the end of 2011, London will let the public enjoy free Wi-Fi in 26 hotspots downtown, such as Oxford Street, reports BBC News. The new trial service, sponsored by Nokia, will limit downloads to one megabit per user. That's enough space to look up directions or restaurant reviews, but not enough to watch a video. With luck, that limit will ensure that many people can use the service at the same time in crowded areas. Unlike some other cities in the U.S. and the world, London has only offered spotty complimentary Wi-Fi over the years in a way easily accessible to international visitors. (Many services required users to have accounts with local phone companies or banks.) But clever travelers know where to find free Web surfing: First, try McDonald's, Burger King, and Pret a Manger restaurants in the city. Or, try one of the 400-odd Starbucks coffee shops around town; many provide free Wi-Fi to customers, and as of this fall, you no longer have to own the U.K. version of the Starbucks Card to enjoy this perk. Caffe Nero, a local competitor chain of coffee shops, also introduced free Wi-Fi for customers this fall, though you have to fill out an online registration form with your e-mail address to use it. You'll also find free Wi-Fi at St. Pancras Station, which is where you can catch the Eurostar train to Paris, and at the Tate Modern museum by the Thames River. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL How to Book Your Own Grand European Tour London: Top Fish and Chip Shops Real Deals: London, Air/4 Nights, From $884: Book by Nov. 15, 2011

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Poland Crash: Tips on Surviving an Emergency Plane Landing

Tuesday's fiery crash landing of a plane without wheels underscores the importance of passengers following airplane safety instructions. All 220 passengers flying LOT Polish Airlines from Newark, NJ, survived the crash in Warsaw. The happy ending is mainly due to the skill of pilot Tadeusz Wrona, who made all the right moves after discovering that his landing gear wasn't working. But another key safety factor is that passengers had paid attention to the safety briefing from flight attendants. Plane crashes are survivable. In the US, a federal study of plane crashes found that roughly 95 percent of passengers survived. Where's the safest part of the plane to sit? Internet searches will turn up results claiming that the back of the plane is safest. But that belief is based on 1970s amateur analysis of plane crashes, reports journalist Barbara S. Petersen. No one knows if one part of a plane is safer than another. That said, a few years ago Ed Galea, a professor at the University of Greenwich, in England, studied the seating charts of more than 100 plane crashes and crunched the numbers in his computer. He found that people seated within five rows of a exit had the best chances of escape. Passengers in aisle seats were also more likely to survive. So, sitting in an aisle seat within five rows of an exit may be a help. Another statistic worth noting: A large majority of survivable plane crashes happen in the first few minutes and the last eight minutes of a flight. No plane has ever been knocked out of the sky by turbulence, as scary as turbulence can be. A couple of pointers from experts: Focus on opening your seat belt In an emergency, many people panic. The typical passenger may try to open their seat belt as if it had a button like seat belts in cars do. Keep thinking about pulling the latch open in the final seconds before impact, while you're in the brace position. Count the rows to your nearest exit beforehand Keep that number in your head. If you're seven rows away from an exit, and the cabin fills up with smoke and there are almost no lights, you'll have to count seven rows until you feel your way to the exit. (Geeks will point out that the nearest exit may not be working. If that happens, move on to the next.) Remember, your chances of survival are excellent. You don't have to know the perfect thing to do. You don't have to be brave. In many cases, the most important thing is to simply take action to get out. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. NEW AT BUDGET TRAVEL: Would You Fly More Frequently if Airline Seats Were More Comfortable? SNL Takes on Southwest Airlines Is Air Traffic Out&ndash;of&ndash;Control?

Travel Tips

One Airline Boards Its Customers Faster Than Most

An article in this morning's New York Times quotes a Boeing study that found boarding times to have increased by 15 to 25 minutes since the 1970s. Getting people on planes used to take 15 minutes, now it typically takes between 30 to 40 minutes. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('56fcca7f-a4a5-4809-a1a8-108be8f8f2f6');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)There is, however, at least one airline that still manages to get all of its customers onboard in just 15 minutes. That airline is Southwest. The reasons why boarding times have increased for other airlines might shed a light on why Southwest's process is so speedy. According to the New York Times article, the problem is largely due to the revenue-driving measures most airlines have added in the last couple of decades. First, you have fees for checked luggage, which means that more people are bringing their belongings into the cabin&mdash;and slowing everybody down by trying to find room in the overhead bins (and blocking the aisles while they do so). Interestingly enough, when Spirit Airlines started charging passengers $20 to 40 per carry-on bag (more than they charge to check luggage), their boarding times decreased by six minutes on average. Next, in addition to business and first class, you have new classes of passengers&mdash;premium economy, early boarding&mdash;which complicates the boarding process (and spells less overhead bin space for the coach travelers who follow). On top of that, airlines have been cutting capacity left and right, which means that planes are more packed than ever. So what does Southwest do right? Essentially the opposite of everybody else: they don’t assign seats, they don’t charge to check luggage, and they don't offer different "classes" of seating. They do have two options for travelers to board early (either by purchasing a "Business Select" ticket or the "early-bird check-in" pass for $10), but otherwise, people just grab seats as they get on the plane. The results are fewer obstacles in the aisle and a faster gate-to-seat experience. But do travelers appreciate the faster process? I've heard the boarding procedure at Southwest described as a "cattle call," and having been through the experience myself I can say that at times it feels more hectic than on other airlines (there is something comforting about knowing exactly which seat you will sit in). Given how much money major U.S. airlines make on ancillary fees ($12.5 billion in 2011 alone), it seems unlikely other companies will be adopting the Southwest boarding model anytime soon, but as the airlines explore new methods of getting people on planes, it certainly can't hurt for us to sound off on what we like (and don't like). Thoughts? Opinions? Do you appreciate the Southwest boarding method? SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Video: the Best Way to Board Airplanes 4 Most Common Reasons Airlines Lose Luggage 5 Credit Cards Every Traveler Should Consider

Travel Tips

The Legal Ramifications Of Drinking And Flying

Have you ever been on a plane next to someone who seems a little wobbly? Maybe they smell a bit of rum and coke. Or are slurring. Maybe they start to act up a little, start demanding more drinks, or harassing the crewmembers and other passengers. It's one thing to have a drink before your flight, or to have some wine with dinner onboard. But, if you're wondering what the consequences are for being completely intoxicated on a flight, they can be pretty severe. Earlier this month, an American Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles was diverted to Denver after a drunken passenger struck a flight attendant in the face, the Associated Press reported. Flight attendants had to restrain and sit on him until the flight landed, upon which he was arrested and charged with interfering with flight crew. First off, a passenger who already appears intoxicated at the gate shouldn’t be allowed to board, according to federal regulations. Air carriers have federally-required protocol for dealing with disturbances involving the service of alcoholic beverages onboard, the removal of a passenger who appears to be intoxicated, and how to handle passengers who have brought their own alcoholic beverages onboard (I personally witnessed this last one myself, when an elderly woman on an international flight I was on tried to crack open her Duty Free vodka bottle). If a passenger doesn't comply with federal regulations and interferes with a crewmember, it can be considered a criminal violation, resulting in arrest. In August, the U.S. Ski Team dismissed an 18-year-old member of its development squad after he was accused of getting drunk and then urinating on a fellow passenger aboard a JetBlue flight to New York, according to a story in USA Today. Criminal charges were later dropped. While these are some of the more extreme cases, surely many readers have been in a situation that could have veered towards the uncomfortable and even dangerous had a passenger's drinking habits escalated during the flight. Have any drunken passenger horror stories you care to share? Indulge (but perhaps don't over overindulge) us in the comment section below. More from Budget Travel: Are Ads Inside Planes and on Rental Cars Obnoxious? Trip Coach: Share Your Upgrade Strategies Ever seen a flight attendant freak out?