Holiday Travel: 11 Items to Add to Your Travel Checklist for a Smooth Trip
Going home for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Here's what to pack, prep and check ahead of time.
Mary KingAssociate Editor
Mary is an associate editor covering technology, culture and everything in between. She recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she served as an editor at The Daily Tar Heel and reported for newspapers across the state. You can usually find her decked out in UNC merch and streaming lo-fi hip-hop while she writes.
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Every traveler has their preferred method of packing clothes: Some fold their garments, others roll them into logs and still others flatten them into packing cubes. We recommend mixing these three strategies.
Fold your more structured, bulky clothes: jeans, trousers, formal dresses and button-downs. Then roll up the rest of your garments and stuff them into the remaining gaps in your suitcase. For some extra flattening down, squeeze some of those rolled clothes into packing cubes.
2. Prepare for TSA
If you're flying, you'll need quick access to your electronics when you go through security.Stick them in the top layer or outer pocket of your suitcase (or your allotted personal item).
Otherwise, you'll have to jumble your perfect packing as you dig around for your laptop, stalling the line behind you in the process.
3. Put the most important things in your carry-on
When you check your luggage, you run the risk of losing it. That's why your carry-on or personal item is the optimal place for the essentials that would be most difficult to replace: your wallet, contact lenses, glasses, medication, electronics or anything you would hate to be stuck without for a few days.
Is there a chance you'll go shopping or bring back a big gift? As you're loading up your luggage, take into account any extra space you might need on the way back.
Prepare your car for the road
Not everyone is flying home for the holidays. In 2021, 84% of Thanksgiving travelers planned to travel by automobile, according to Cars.com. With gas prices coming back down after record highs, driving might seem the saner option. But it also means your safety is in your hands.
6. Get your car checked out
If you're hitting the road for Thanksgiving or Christmas, now is the time to bring your car in for an inspection. Even if the "check engine" light isn't on, have the mechanic check the tires, car battery, brakes, fluids and wiper blades.
7. Prepare for an emergency
If you don't have a well-stocked roadside emergency kit in the trunk, go get one. Some 400,000 drivers need roadside assistance during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, according to AAA.
In addition to triple-checking all your doors, make sure you secure your windows, the next easiest entry point for thieves. Better yet, a smart lock can alert you when a window is unlocked and allow you to lock it remotely.
10. Put timers on your lights
To make it look like you're home, plug light timers into your outlets or install a remotely controllable smart bulb. Set your indoor lights to turn on and off as they normally would, and set your outdoor lights to turn on at night.
11. Keep your plants alive while you're away
Don't doom them to wither in your absence. You can fashion a drip system out of a plastic water bottle by filling it with water, drilling some holes toward the top, turning it over and tucking it into the soil deep enough that the holes are covered. For big pots, water-filled wine bottles work well. (There's no need to drill any extra drainage holes: Just leave the bottle open.) For more ideas, check out our guide to helping your plants thrive while you're away. Looking for more travel tips? These Google Maps and Google Flights features help you save money and find your way around. Plus, elevate your travel photography with these 12 pro tips.