One-tank escapes for 8 cities

Published: Sunday, July 01, 2012 @ 12:03 PM
Updated: Sunday, July 01, 2012 @ 12:03 PM

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Summer vacation doesn't have to mean a long, expensive trek. These getaways are a short drive from eight major urban areas. All you need is a weekend and a tank of gas!

Shenandoah Valley, Va.

107 miles from Washington, D.C.

A collection of 10 independent cities make up the Shenandoah Valley, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, an idyllic watercolor landscape and outdoor adventure haven.

SEE OUR SUMMER ROAD TRIPS!

Shenandoah National Park is famous for its outdoor beauty, accessible via both easy and difficult hiking trails, some of which are part of the park's 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail (540/999-3500, nps.gov/shen, $15 per vehicle, $8 per person). The Limberlost Trail takes you past lush mountain laurel; Old Rag Mountain offers panoramic vistas. To refuel, perch in the Pollock Dining Room's taproom at Skyland Resort Lodge and order a Prohibition Punch, featuring local (legal) moonshine ($7.50), and a slice of famous blackberry ice cream pie, made from scratch from the season's harvest (540/999-2212, visitshenandoah.com/dining/skyland-restaurant, Prohibition Punch $7.50, blackberry ice cream pie $6). Not outdoorsy? Stroll through downtown Winchester with a guided tour of the Patsy Cline Historic House, where the country star lived for five years (540/662-5555, celebratingpatsycline.org, $8), or pick your own flowers in the fragrant fields at White Oak Lavender farm in Harrisonburg (540/421-6345, whiteoaklavender.com, tours $5).

WHERE TO STAY Instead of camping out with her hubby FDR in Shenandoah National Park in 1936, Eleanor Roosevelt opted for luxury in Luray: "Franklin, you can rough it if you want, but I'm staying at the Mimslyn," she allegedly told the president. Even today, the property has opulent touches like Doric columns, formal gardens, and fine dining courtesy in the hotel's "upscale Southern" Circa '31 restaurant—necktie recommended (800/296-5105, mimslyninn.com, from $160).

DRIVING TIP I-81 runs the length of the valley and connects large towns like Winchester, Harrisonburg, and Stanton. Consider jumping onto Skyline Drive to take in some of the most beautiful mountain vistas in the U.S.

Yountville, Calif.

56 miles from San Francisco

A walkable mecca for wine and food enthusiasts, Yountville offers glasses of big California reds, award-winning bites, and lush Napa Valley scenery that's a refreshing change from San Francisco's cityscapes.

To sample vino, hop the Napa Valley Wine Train that chugs through the heart of town: It serves meals onboard, and visits local wineries for tours (800/427-4124, winetrain.com, from $135). Or go rogue and create your own tasting of five wines at Cornerstone Cellars (707/945-0388, cornerstonecellars.com). Get Michelin-star-quality flavor for less at chef Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc restaurant by partaking in the evening family-style four-course menu (707/944-2487, adhocrestaurant.com, $45); also, make time to walk through Keller's French Laundry Garden, which nurtures fresh vegetables and fruits used at French Laundry and Bouchon Bistro—it's free and open to the public. On a weekend morning, stop by Bouchon Bakery for the somewhat elusive chocolate doughnut—brioche dough filled with decadent chocolate pastry cream and topped with chocolate frosting and chocolate-covered Rice Krispies. But go early (it opens at 7) to score one (707-944-2253, bouchonbakery.com/yountville). Then float above the horizon on a group hot air balloon ride for eight to 12 passengers or take a romantic trip à deux with Napa Valley Balloons (800/253-2224, napavalleyballoons.com, from $210).

WHERE TO STAY For a French country feel, book a room at Maison Fleurie, a B&B with a morning breakfast buffet and complimentary wine, tea, and hors d'oeuvres in the afternoon. Borrow bicycles from the front desk and go for a leisurely ride when you tire of tippling (800/788-0369, maisonfleurienapa.com, from $145).

DRIVING TIP The most direct route from San Francisco is I-80 East, over the Bay Bridge, to Highway 37 West and then Highway 29 through Napa Valley.

New Braunfels, Tex.

175 miles from Houston

If you visit New Braunfels and don't (a) eat German food or (b) get wet, you're doing something wrong. The town is well known for the innovative 65-acre Schlitterbahn Water Park, but its German history, food, and freshwater activities are equally compelling.

Floating down the spring-fed Comal River on giant inflatable "toobs" is essential in New Braunfels. Rent one for the day or take a guided group trip at Rockin 'R' River Rides (830/629-9999, rockinr.com, call for a group trip quote). Quell your post-river appetite with one of 10 types of schnitzel, pan-fried bouletten (meatballs), or classic brats at Friesenhaus, one of the area's specialty German restaurants (830/625-1040, friesenhausnb.com, schnitzel from $15). No German meal is complete without a hearty dessert, so pop into Naegelin's Bakery, "the oldest bakery in Texas, since 1868," for a big hunk of apple streudel—a whole one is more than two feet long (830/625-5722, naegelins.com).

WHERE TO STAY The 30-unit Greune Mansion Inn, right on the Guadalupe River, has a quiet, Victorian feel, with multiple historical buildings broken up into residences that guarantee each guest his or her own entrance and porch. Many of the units have river views (830/629-2641, gruenemansioninn.com, from $190).

DRIVING TIP Take I-10 to I-46, making sure to avoid Houston rush hour if you can help it.

Hood River, Ore.

62 miles from Portland

Orchards, wineries, and outdoor recreation are all hallmarks of this Columbia River Gorge destination.

Taking a drive on the whimsically named Fruit Loop steers you through 35 miles of orchards, vineyards, forests, and farmland (541/386-7697, hoodriverfruitloop.com). Sampling the area's up-and-coming viticulture is another must: Columbia Wine Tours shuttles from two to 24 people to four wineries in four hours and provides bottled waters and snacks along the way (541/380-1410, hoodrivertours.com, two-person tour $140). Or if you prefer hops to grapes, swing by the Full Sail Brewing Company Tasting Room & Pub for a sip (or three) of Full Sail Amber (541/386-2247, fullsailbrewing.com). Dubbed the "windsurfing capital of the world" by some, Hood River is an ideal place to test your mettle on the water: Hood River Waterplay offers five different levels of windsurfing classes, plus equipment rental if you need it (541/386-9463, hoodriverwaterplay.com, from $69).

WHERE TO STAY Seven Oaks Bed and Breakfast describes itself as a "garden oasis," surrounded by two acres of flowering plant life and fenced in by Douglas firs. The four-unit house (plus separate cottage) provides storage for recreational equipment and serves organic eggs, jams, and pastries (541/386-7622, sevenoaksbb.com, $160).

DRIVING TIP I-84—a.k.a. the Columbia River Highway—is a straight, gorgeous shot from Portland. Look for both mountains: Mount Hood and Mount Adams.

Harbor Country, Mich.

26 miles from Chicago

Hitting the beach in the heart of the Midwest is possible at Harbor Country, a group of eight towns on the white-sand beaches of Lake Michigan. The southern beaches of New Buffalo and Warren Dunes State Park are biggest, but individual townships have access too (harborcountry.org).

Charter a fishing boat in the New Buffalo Harbor with Cap'n D Charters to hunt down salmon, trout, bass, and blue gill (574/232-0436, capndcharters.com, $500 for up to four people for six hours) or try surfing or stand-up paddleboarding in New Buffalo or St. Joseph, assisted by Third Coast Surf Shop (269/932-4575, thirdcoastsurfshop.com, $75 for a 90-minute private lesson). Afterward, head to Three Oaks to the brand-new organic Journeyman Distillery, nestled in a former corset-making factory, and kick back in the tasting room for a sample of Featherbone Bourbon, a nod to the turkey feathers that the corsets were fashioned out of (269/820-2050, journeymandistillery.com). Soak up the booze at Skip's in New Buffalo, famous for its ultra-tender prime rib (269/469-3330, skipsrestaurantandcatering.info, from $22).

WHERE TO STAY Directly across the road from its own private beach, the 31-room Lakeside Inn, built in the late 1800s, has a front porch filled with rocking chairs, plus an on-site café (269/469-0600, lakesideinns.com, from $80).

DRIVING TIP Stick to highways 90 or 94. Creatively taking the back roads will only lead you into stop-and-go traffic.

Clarksville, Tenn.

207 miles from Memphis

How to describe Clarksville? "Think Carrie Bradshaw meets Dolly Parton," suggests the Clarksville Chamber of Commerce's website. With entertainment offerings just as diverse as those two pop culture icons, Clarksville manages to be a little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll.

The tobacco trade—specifically stemmeries—brought in the big bucks in Clarksville in the late 1800s: Tour the Greek Revival/Italinata-style Smith-Trahern mansion, built in 1958 by a wealthy tobacconist - the slaves' quarters out back are still standing, as is an adjacent 1700s cemetery (931/648-5725, fceclarksville.org, $2). Continue exploring the past via the trails at Fort Defiance Civil War Park, between the Red and Cumberland rivers. The site was a Confederate fort that fell to Union soldiers in 1862; soon after, it served as a safe place for freed and runaway slaves (931/472-3351, fortdefianceclarksville.com). Or, hike one of three trails at Dunbar Cave State Park—the caves were once mined for gunpowder (931/648-5526, tn.gov/environment/parks/dunbarcave). Cool off afterward amid 1870s architecture downtown, at the Blackhorse Pub & Brewery, which makes its own beer onsite, including the signature Barnstormer Red Ale, made with Bavarian Hallertau hops. Pair it with one of the eatery's specialty pizzas, like the Whitehorse, a pie topped with alfredo sauce, fresh spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, feta, provolone, and mozzarella (931/552-3726, theblackhorsepub.net, from $15.50).

WHERE TO STAY For an authentic 1800s experience, drive 15 miles southwest of Clarksville to Lylewood Inn Bed & Breakfast in Indian Mound, run by Mandy Williams. The rich antebellum décor—some rooms have claw-foot bathtubs—is matched in decadence only by the group meals: In addition to the requisite country breakfast, home-cooked dinners can include glazed pork loin, garlic cheese biscuits, and fresh berry cobbler (931/232-4203, lylewoodinn.com, from $75).

DRIVING TIP Take Highway 40 to Highway 24, but don't fear the backroads. Visit the Tennessee Trails and Byways website for multiple mapped driving routes from different destinations - like the "Screaming Eagle" trail that begins in Nashville (tntrailsandbyways.com).

Excelsior Springs, Mo.

28 miles from Kansas City, Mo.

Soak up the late-18th and early-19th century history of Excelsior Springs, a Missouri town that boomed due to its wealth of pure, natural springwater. Early tourists came from miles around to bathe in the mineral-rich H2O and hopefully heal their ailments, and the city has preserved that craze via historic buildings and walking tours.

Belly up to the world's longest water bar, housed in the Art Deco-style Hall of Waters and Cultural Museum, built in 1937, where you can taste the mineral waters that put Excelsior Springs on the map (816/637-2811, visitesprings.com). A few blocks down, stop into Oooey Gooey Chocolates for a chocolate-dipped Twinkie on a stick—your choice of either milk or white chocolate (816/630-9255, oooeygooey.com, $2.25). Or get away from it all at the 40-acre Knott Nature Sanctuary, which features education and recreation programs that include hiking, camping, and gardening and landscaping (816/630-2872).

WHERE TO STAY Notorious characters Al Capone and Bugsy Malone reportedly threw their own bathtub gin and gambling parties at The Elms Resort and Spa, which reopened this year for its 100th anniversary after a multi-million-dollar renovation that includes a spa with a hydrotherapy grotto. The hotel is perhaps best known, though, for being the place Harry S. Truman found out he'd defeated Dewey for the presidency in 1948 (816/630-5500, elmshotelandspa.com, from $139).

DRIVING TIP The quickest way to get to Excelsior Springs: Catch I-35 North from downtown Kansas City, then take Highway 69 to Excelsior.

Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

30 miles from New York City

Indulge your love of literature, the arts, and lifestyles of the rich and famous in this storied region north of New York City.

Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman live on (in spirit, anyway) in the Sleep Hollow Cemetery, which author Washington Irving name-checked in his 1820  story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Walk the grounds for free and visit cemetery residents including Irving himself, Andrew Carnegie, Elizabeth Arden, and William and J.D. Rockefeller, or take a two-hour, lantern-lit guided evening tour—if you dare (914/631-0081, sleepyhollowcemetery.org, guided tour $25). For a quick bite, select a hot "Fleetwood original" calzone (stuffed with pepperoni, sausage, peppers, onions, mozzarella, and tomato sauce) from Fleetwood Pizzeria, founded by the Guzzo family in 1965 (914/631-3267, fleetwoodpizza.com, $5.75). Drive two miles northwest, on Bedford Road, to Pocantico Hills to see how the other half lived at Kykuit: The Rockefeller Estate. Drift through the main rooms of the six-story stone house, past the fountains and sculptures dotting the expansive gardens, and tour the underground art galleries, replete with works by Picasso and Warhol (914/631-8200, hudsonvalley.org/historic-sites/kykuit/tours, from $23).

WHERE TO STAY Venture eight miles north of Sleepy Hollow to bunk at the Alexander Hamilton House, an eight-unit Victorian B&B with an eight-foot-deep swimming pool and a giant lawn chess set in the backyard (914/271-6737, alexanderhamiltonhouse.com, from $135).

DRIVING TIP Allow traveling time for New York City traffic—the 25-mile drive can take much longer than an hour, even during off-peak hours.

Travelers love airline flash sales but the ultra-cheap fares are becoming less common

Published: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 @ 2:52 PM

The following seven tips will help you save money and avoid facing debt when you get back from your trip Look for a price-drop guarantee Sites like Groupon and CityPASS can help cut the price of popular attractions if you're visiting a major city When you book a hotel, Consumer Reports recommends bargaining for better rates The cheapest travel day is Wednesday, and you'll also save by avoiding weekend travel Sites like Priceline let you name a price you're willing to pay The cost of meals can add up quick

The Twitter ad seemed too good to be true: fares starting at $20 on JetBlue Airways.

A few hours after the ad appeared last week on the social media site, it was gone, leaving would-be travelers frustrated that they missed the remarkable deal.

Those who clicked too late ended up on a page advising: “This promotion has ended. Act fast! In some cases, a fare may not even last an hour.”

Such “flash” sales are a tactic used by the airline industry to fill empty seats during slow travel periods and lure travelers to an airline website where they may be tempted to book a more expensive flight.

Airlines also have used flash sales to inflict economic pain on rivals. Cutting prices on routes dominated by competitors often forces the other airlines to try to match the lower fares.

“It’s like kids in the airfare sandbox, fighting,” said George Hobica, a fare expert and president of Airfarewatchdog.com.

But such flash sales are on the decline, industry experts say, partly because the airline industry has become more consolidated through mergers and acquisitions, which has diminished competition and reduced the need to undercut rivals with limited-time fares.

>> 7 last-minute ways to save money on your next vacation

And with demand for travel reaching record levels, carriers can sell seats without resorting to deep discounts.

Flash sales are also used less often today because computer programs have made airlines more accurate at estimating the number of seats needed for a particular route so that empty seats are rarer.

That means travelers looking for deep discounts are going to have fewer opportunities to book a bargain seat.

Since 2008, the nation’s biggest carriers have been buying smaller or weaker competitors, solidifying their dominance in specific markets and hubs throughout the country.

For example, Delta and its regional carriers fly nearly 80 percent of all passengers who travel out of the nation’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. American Airlines carries nearly 85 percent of all passengers at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. United Airlines is dominant in Newark Liberty International Airport, flying about 51 percent of all passengers who use the New Jersey airport.

Combined, Delta, United, American and Southwest control more than 70 percent of all domestic flights in the U.S.

Flash sales are now used primarily by low-cost airlines, such as JetBlue, as they continue to battle with the major carriers to win bigger shares of the country’s most popular markets and hubs.

A JetBlue representative declined to comment on the carrier’s use of flash sales.

>> The 12 best US small towns to revel in all things holidays

Industry experts say the restrictions imposed on such sales are so numerous that the goal is not to make money from the low fares but to boost publicity and interest in the carrier.

“From a marketing perspective, you want to get likes or visitors or Twitter followers,” said Rick Seaney, who heads fare comparison site Farecompare.com.

Usually, flash sales are over within hours or minutes.

When JetBlue offered a $20 flash sale Aug. 30, it sold out in less than 60 seconds, according to the response from Twitter followers who tried unsuccessfully to book the bargain deals.

Instead of flash sales, Delta, United and American say they are competing against low-cost carriers by offering bare-bones fares — called basic economy seats — which are offered on highly competitive routes but come with fees for carry-on bags, rebookings and many other extras.

“We prefer to adjust prices on a longer-term basis — including reducing fares when needed, based on demand,” said Joshua Freed, a spokesman for American Airlines. “For us, flash sales are just not a great way to do that.”

Southwest, which has grown to be the nation’s largest domestic carrier, has cut back on flash sales over the past decade as it has established itself as a dominant carrier across the country, according to industry experts.

As a result, the Dallas-based carrier now offers flash sales primarily during the slow travel season — to fill seats on flights mostly flown by leisure travelers to vacation spots.

Southwest spokesman Dan Landson declined to discuss the carrier’s pricing tactics.

5 East Coast ski resorts for the snow novice

Published: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 3:35 PM

We've highlighted five excellent options, all of which will provide an ideal winter escape Sugarloaf Ski Resort, Maine Whiteface Mountain Lake Placid Ski Resort, New York Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort, West Virginia Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont Cannon Mountain Ski Resort, New Hampshire

As “Game of Thrones” fans would say, winter is coming. And while the snow and ice won't hit most of the South as hard as other parts of the country (and the White Walkers are almost certain not to be a threat), it's about time to start planning for the season.

RELATED: 8 of America’s most dazzling holiday parades

If you're thinking about a winter ski trip, instead of heading west to Colorado, why not consider trekking east? Whether your'e a novice or a skilled skier, there are lots of great resorts providing the perfect place to hit the eastern slopes this season.

We've highlighted five excellent options, all of which will provide an ideal winter escape:

1. Sugarloaf Ski Resort, Maine

Phone: (207) 237-2000

As the East Rockies largest ski resort, Sugarloaf Ski Resort is a paradise for snowboarders and skiers alike. With 146 total runs and a 2,820 feet vertical drop, you're sure to find fun and adventure.

For daredevils, the resort features three terrain parks, a super-pipe and a snowboardcross course designed by Seth Wescot, an Olympic gold medalist.

Rates: One-day lift tickets range from $85 to $95 (adults), $75 to $79 (teens) and $65 to $69 (juniors/seniors), depending on the date. The daily price goes down with each additional day booked (up to seven days).

2. Whiteface Mountain Lake Placid Ski Resort, New York

Phone: (518) 946-2223

Situated in the Adirondacks, Whiteface Mountain boasts the Northeast's tallest mountain. In addition to 87 ski trails (a third of which are reserved for experts), you can enjoy bobsledding with a professional brakeman or check out the Olympic ski-jumping complex.

Rates: The ski resort has numerous lift ticket deals if you book online, with one day passes available for less than $40. Five to seven day tickets can be booked for less than $200.

Snowboarders at Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort(Joint Base Langley-Eustis/For the AJC)
3. Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort, West Virginia

Phone: (877) 441-4386

Snowshoe Moutain Ski Resort is located in the Alleghenies and offers skiers and boarders a rugged terrain to enjoy. For the experienced (and brave), Shay's Revenge has previously been named the region's most challenging run. In February, the resorts host the Cupp Run Challenge, a giant slalom race for expert skiers and snowboarders.

But don't worry, there are also plenty of slopes for novice and intermediate skiers.

Rates: One-day lift tickets range from $79 to $99 (adults), $66 to $82 (teens) and $10 to $30 (juniors/seniors), depending on the day.

4. Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont

Phone: (888) 253-4849

Stowe Mountain Resort is home to Vermont's tallest peak, Mount Mansfield. The resort offers skiers six distinct zones, including a freestyle terrain park, which includes rails, jumps, bonks and ramps.

For the less adventurous (or for those who wish to relax at the end of a long day), the resort's Cliff House restaurant at the summit offers a range of regional cuisine. Enjoy your meal while taking in the incredible view!

Rates: One-day lift tickets range from $94 to $99 (adults) and $80 to $84 (children 5-12), depending on the date. The daily price goes down with each additional day booked (up to seven days).

Skiers enjoying Cannon Mountains slopes(WikiMedia/For the AJC)

5. Cannon Mountain Ski Resort, New Hampshire

Phone: (603) 823-8800

Calling itself "the living legend", Cannon Mountain Ski Resort boasts 87 acres of back country as well as New Hampshire's highest vertical slope. Considered a classic alternative to the mega resorts, Cannon Mountain promises some truly incredible vistas from the top.

Rates: One-day lift tickets cost $77 (adults), $64 (teens 13-17) and $55 (children 6-12). Multiple day deals are available as well.

Thanksgiving 2017 travel trends and tips

Published: Wednesday, November 08, 2017 @ 12:39 PM

Thanksgiving - By the Numbers

Whether your Thanksgiving travel plans involve domestic destinations or an international getaway, understanding holiday travel trends for 2017 can help you maximize your Thanksgiving travel budget and minimize stress.

Here are the key travel trends for Thanksgiving, including best and worst places to visit, busiest airports and a look at gas prices for those whose Thanksgiving travel plans includes hitting the road.
 
Thanksgiving 2017 travel trend watch
 
Top trending destinations for Thanksgiving 2017: According to a report by the Points Guy, Google Flights data determined the following as the trending destinations for Thanksgiving in 2017.
 
In the U.S.:

Honolulu, Hawaii
Tucson, Ariz.
Burbank, Calif.
Providence, R.I.
Fairbanks, Alaska
 
International:

Brussels, Belgium
Rome, Italy
Nice, France
Malaga, Spain
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
 
The most wallet-friendly places to visit this Thanksgiving

GOBankingRates used cost of hotels, holiday flights, food, drinks, transportation and entertainment to come up with the most expensive places you could travel for Thanksgiving this year. One of the priciest to visit at Thanksgiving was Cape Town, South Africa. Winter for us is summer in South Africa, and it costs $1,341 to fly from Los Angeles to Cape Town during Thanksgiving, more than any other city on the GOBankingRates list. The average daily cost of meals came in at $48, with the daily drink cost average at $24.

GOBankingRates had much better news at the other end of the spectrum. It listed these three among its most affordable places to visit during Thanksgiving.

  • Seattle: Holiday flights to Seattle are cheaper than to most other cities in the rankings and the average nightly hotel rate during Thanksgiving is $142.
  • Chicago: You’ll be rewarded for braving chilly temperatures with low average nightly hotel rates of $87 during Thanksgiving. And holiday flights to Chicago are among the cheapest in the rankings.
  • San Francisco: The average nightly rate for a hotel during both Thanksgiving and Christmas is $121 and within San Francisco, transportation costs are among the lowest in the rankings and you can see the city’s most popular tourist attractions for free.

KAYAK also ranked "wallet-friendly" Thanksgiving destinations for 2017 using its billions of annual search queries, coming up with these Top 10: Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Calgary and Seattle.
 
Highest and lowest gas costs

If your Thanksgiving travel plans include driving, you’ll want to know the gas price trends.

As of Nov. 7, 2017, the national gas price range was $2.21 per gallon to $3.22 per gallon, according to AAA.

Gas Buddy lets you see gas prices around the country at a glance with a color-coded map indicating the average price for regular unleaded gasoline.

Generally, you'd pay the least for gas in Texas, Midwest states including Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Virginia and Oklahoma and Southeastern states including the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia (Florida is slightly higher.) As you make your way into Northern, Northwestern and Pacific Northwest states you'll encounter the highest gas prices, with California topping the list to the West.

If you're concerned that gas costs will derail your travel budget, check the AAA website a few days before Thanksgiving to get a prediction on how gas prices will fare during 2017 Thanksgiving peak car travel days.

Top 10 busiest airports Thanksgiving 2017

Whether hustle and bustle is your thing or you're looking for an excuse to stay out of the fray, these 10 airports will be the busiest in the U.S. come Thanksgiving, according to Google Flights:

  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Ft. Lauderdale
  • Honolulu
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • New York City
  • Orlando
  • San Francisco

 
Travel tips Thanksgiving 2017
 
When to book: KAYAK's annual Holiday Hacker Guide has a hard and fast rule for Thanksgiving fliers: Avoid flying the Sunday after Thanksgiving. KAYAK data pegs that day as one of the most expensive departure dates.

KAYAK also shared the best days to fly for the price-conscious, based on 2016 data. The best 2016 flight deals were for those who could depart and fly back on Thanksgiving day (median price $163 in 2016) or Black Friday ($261), leave the Monday before Thanksgiving and return Thanksgiving day or Black Friday ($286 and $300) or leave the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and return Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday ($296 and $299.)

Book your flight ahead of the price increases. While variances are inevitable, a good rule of thumb is to expect fares to increase 21, 14 and again 7 days before your desired departure date, according to Google Flights.
 
Plan your road trip costs: To make sure you'll still have money left over for Black Friday, or to avoid arguments with your cheapskate co-travelers, use Gas Buddy's trip cost calculator to plan how much you'll spend getting to Thanksgiving get-togethers.
 
Consider getting away instead of going home. The Points Guy blogger reported 5 top holiday tips from the Google flights team, and this was both the most radical and most sensible idea. If you won't be drummed out of the family over your choice, consider a brief vacation instead of going to a traditional Thanksgiving gathering.

If you can’t afford a high-cost Thanksgiving travel destination, consider traveling to a less popular destination over Thanksgiving week. The Points Guy says that in some cases, travelers can visit international destinations for less than domestic fares during the holiday season.

Related

Holiday travel with kids: Top survival tips

Published: Wednesday, November 08, 2017 @ 3:06 PM

5 Free Things You Can Get When You Fly

Holiday travel with kids can be a challenge. Whether you’re driving or flying, normal routines are interrupted, and challenges such as traffic jams or delayed flights can lead to boredom and fussy children.
 
A little preparation can go a long way to making a holiday trip with kids go more smoothly.
 
The following tips from sources such as ParentsReader’s Digest and the AJC will help everyone keep their sanity when embarking on holiday travel with kids.
 
Pack ahead of time
If you’re stressed at the start of your trip, you could be setting the tone for your entire first day. If possible, have everything packed the night before so you’re not rushed and cranky when you’re starting your trip.
 
Prepare some snacks
Even adults can get cranky when they’re hungry, so why should kids be any different? Be prepared with snacks like cereal, pretzels, granola bars or string cheese and have them easily accessible in the car or on the plane. Water is also a good choice for a drink, since kids aren’t likely to guzzle more than they need. If you’re flying, you can pick these items up at an airport store after you’ve gone through security.
 
Bring some distractions
Help your child pack some small, quiet toys, books, a small box of crayons, paper and a favorite stuffed animal or blanket for the trip. These will help keep them busy and offer comfort in unfamiliar places or situations.
 
Let kids help plan
Allow children to have input on sightseeing when making travel plans. Maintaining a child’s interest can make for smoother travel. Let kids choose their own entertainment when traveling. On long road trips, try to find points of interest along the way if you have time.
 
On the road
 
Prepare for emergencies
If you’re hitting the road for a long trip, have your mechanic check your car out before you go. Few things can ruin a trip faster than a breakdown along the way. While you’re at it, also pack a basic first aid kit, a flashlight and jumper cables.
 
Get enough sleep
This advice holds true for both parents and kids. If everyone is sleep-deprived, they’re likely to be cranky. And if you’re driving, you’ll need to be as alert as possible.
 
Use Pull-Ups
For those with very young children, you may want to use Pull-Ups even If they are potty-trained. If you’re stuck in traffic and are miles away from the nearest bathroom, they can provide an emergency back-up. The same goes for flying, during takeoff and landing when passengers are not allowed out of their seats.
 
Take frequent breaks
Stop every couple of hours if you’re on a long road trip. This can give kids a chance to stretch their legs and burn off some energy. 
 
Prepare for messes
Have an extra change of clothes for everyone, as well as wipes and resealable plastic bags. Traveling with kids often means dealing with a diaper blowout, car sickness or other unexpected mess.
 
Point out the sights
Holiday travel with kids can involve some long, boring stretches, but they can often enjoy mundane sights like a funny billboard and farms with cows and horses. If it’s a long trip, your child may also enjoy seeing changes in terrain along the way.
 
In the air
 
Fly early in the morning if possible
Early flights are less likely to experience delays, and they’re often less crowded. With any luck, your kids will end up napping for part of the flight. 
 
Dress in layers
You’ll be outdoors, in the airport and in the airplane cabin, so your child can experience a wide variety of temperatures. Dressing in layers can allow him or her to add or slip off a jacket or another layer if necessary.
 
Make sure you’re sitting together
Since computers assign seats, make sure you’re sitting together before you board the plane. Be sure to check and sort it out before boarding begins.
 
Board early
Parents with young children are sometimes allowed to board the plane before other passengers, so you can have a minute to let your kids check out the seat, window shades and bathroom. You’ll have the chance to get settled in and not feel like you’re in such a rush.
 
Keep it clean
Wipe down surfaces that can harbor germs, like trays. Also carry along hand sanitizer to use before eating or in other cases where germs can easily be transmitted.
 
Don’t pull out everything at once
Don’t pull out your child’s entire stash of snacks and entertainment right when you’re seated. Most kids will find flying to be exciting at first. Once they’re been in the air a while and have become bored, then you can reach for the toys and food.