This is a Special Edition of the USATourist News Magazine.
The week of Thanksgiving is the busiest travel time of the year followed by the weeks of Christmas and New Years. When flying during these periods, be sure to arrive at the airport two hours before departure. Monday mornings and Friday afternoons are exceptionally busy at most airports, and the security check lines can be very long.
Winter weather often interferes with airline schedules to causes delays. Choosing a non-stop flight over one with connections can decrease chances of a delay. Morning flights are less likely to be delayed than afternoon and evening flights.
Airline passengers are asked for identification several times before boarding. Wear a lanyard with a plastic passport holder for easy I.D. access. You will be asked to remove your footwear at the security check, so wear slip-on shoes and clean socks.
The biggest changes in the airlines this year have been the added fees. Many airlines began charging for the first, second and beyond checked bags. The prices vary between carriers and may be increased without any warning. Check with the individual airline for their checked baggage rates.
Inflight snacks and meal services have been decreased on many American flights. Some airlines have gone to the extreme of charging for drinks. The best advice is to pack a lunch or pick something up on the way to the airport if you have a long flight ahead of you. Liquids are still not allowed through security, but beverages can be purchased at an airport vender after passing security screening.
When packing luggage, all valuables, electronics, and medications should be kept in carry-on luggage. Packages should never be wrapped.
Label all checked and carry-on luggage pieces inside and out with your name and contact information. Tie a colorful ribbon around the handle for easy identification.
Many homes in the US are decorated with lights in celebration of the
Christmas holiday. Taking a driving tour to appreciate these displays
is a favorite activity for many Americans.
Photo by Mike Leco ©USATourist.com
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will cut the lock off of your luggage if it is chosen for a random inspection. To avoid this problem, do not lock your bags, or use a TSA approved lock that may be opened by security agents via a universal TSA code.
If you travel with a laptop computer, be prepared to remove it from the carrying case and put it through the x-ray machine independently.
You can carry liquids, gels or pastes that are no larger than 3 oz. (9 cl.) in your carry-on luggage, but you must place them in a one quart (1 liter) plastic bag. At the security check, you must remove that bag of cosmetic items and place it on top of your luggage through the x-ray machine. You should carry all larger liquid items in your checked luggage. Generally, you can carry unlimited quantities of prescription medications, diabetic nutritional supplements, baby formula or breast milk as long as you declare it at the checkpoint.
Consider upgrading your rental car to one with a navigation system which can help you get to your destination with ease.
The winter months often bring snowstorms, hail, and fog which can make for dangerous driving conditions. Take caution when driving during abnormal weather. In mountainous regions, passes may be closed or chains might be required on the drive wheels of your car. Check weather conditions in advance before entering the mountains.
When traveling through cities with a tollway system carry exact change or purchase the local prepaid toll pass.
The biggest New Year's Eve celebrations are at Times Square in New York City and on the Strip in Las Vegas. Disney World in Orlando Florida is nearly as large. If you plan on attending any of these gala events, you must book your hotel reservations well in advance. Nearly all of the hotels in New York and Las Vegas will likely be sold out long before the holiday.
While shopping for hotels keep an eye out for those that offer a free breakfast. Continental breakfasts with cereals, muffins, and coffee are quite common while some of the nicer scale hotels provide elaborate buffets.
Most hotels have a complimentary shuttle service that takes hotel guests within a 1-3 mile radius of the hotel. Tipping the driver is always a nice gesture.
Parades, light shows and fireworks are just some of the popular and usually free outdoor holiday events in the U.S. If you plan to attend such an event try to avoid the traffic and parking situations by taking public transportation or a taxi.
A light show takes place in the Grand Court of
the Lord & Taylor Department Store in Philadelphia, PA.
It features 100,000 twinkling bulbs depicting holiday
scenes accompanied by the largest pipe organ in the world.
Photo by Edward Savaria, Jr.
©Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau
Many people decorate their homes with elaborate colored lights and Christmas decorations especially in the northern states. Try to go into the suburban bedroom communities outside of the cities to fully appreciate this unique American custom.
Eating on Holidays
Many U.S. restaurants close on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Days, but some do remain open. Your best bet for a traditional holiday meal is at a hotel restaurant. Reservations may be necessary.
Shopping season begins the Friday after Thanksgiving. "Black Friday," as it is called in the U.S., is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Stores offer special sales and discounts to attract the first Christmas shoppers and they usually get huge crowds on that day. From then until Christmas most major stores and malls stay open for extended hours often until 11 PM or midnight.
Christmas Eve is a busy shopping day. Try to avoid the malls or stores on that day as parking can be impossible and shopping may be unpleasant.
As soon as Christmas Day is over, most merchandise prices are reduced for quick sale. Winter clothing and gift items are heavily discounted. All holiday themed items and candy prices are slashed 50-90%. This is a great time to shop for bargains.
Written by: Elizabeth Blair
Top Photo: Airport Check In Line © Elena Elisseeva