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Five Holiday Etiquette Rules for Thanksgiving Flyers

Welcome to Upright Position, SmarterTravel’s weekly series in which Features Editor Caroline Costello discusses emotional and controversial travel topics. Join the debate by leaving a comment below!

Oh, the irony. Thanksgiving—a holiday centered on gratitude and goodness—becomes a maddening, unpleasant undertaking when we head to the airport. Long lines, delays, waiting, screaming babies, bulky baggage, and barking TSA agents can vex even the best of us. But if we work together? We’ll get through this! Follow these five simple rules for behaving like a responsible, adult human being while flying, and the world will be the better for it this Thanksgiving.

1. Pack light or check your bag. This holiday is projected to be one of the busiest Thanksgiving travel periods in years; that means full flights and stuffed overhead bins. So before bringing two giant carry-on suitcases onto a plane, show some consideration for your fellow flyers and either dump some stuff or plan on checking your luggage. When you take up more bin space than is suitable for a single passenger, you’ll almost certainly force someone else to gate-check his or her bags on full-capacity holiday flights. That’s pretty rude.

2. Arrive early. It’s very kind and gracious when TSA agents allow passengers whose planes are about to depart to skip to the front of the airport-security line. But everyone else stuck waiting in line? We’re not so charitable. We bothered to show up at the airport early enough to allow for some wiggle room in case of an extra lengthy wait at security or to plan a connection with enough time to traverse the airport. So don’t blame us if we entertain a bit of hostility toward the late travelers elbowing ahead in the queue.

We’re in the throes of holiday travel here. There’s no excuse for underestimating the wait time at airport security and check-in. Get thee to the airport early.

3. Pay attention at the security checkpoint. One guy takes an extra few seconds getting through the line because he waited until the last second to untie his shoes. Another passenger stands texting for a few moments after the TSA agent calls him forward. Subjectively, these moments may seem negligible. But seconds add up to minutes, and such periodic minor disruptions decelerate the flow of the airport-security line. Put down the phone, pay attention, and have everything (shoes, identification, zip-top bag) ready to go when it’s your turn.

4. Tip more. There’s some debate going on about whether retail stores should stay open on Thanksgiving. Some people argue that retailers should stay closed on the holiday so that workers have the day off. Let us not forget, however, that there’s always been a contingent of people, from hotel employees to airport parking-lot shuttle drivers, who have to work every Thanksgiving. Remember to show your gratitude via a healthy, holiday-sized tip when appropriate.

5. Be nice. In the next few days, you may feel harried, stressed, and on the verge of throwing your Kindle at the kid kicking the back of your plane seat. We’ve all been there. And we’re all responsible for reducing the spread of stress-induced holiday jackass syndrome by getting ahold of ourselves. So breathe. Say a prayer or a mantra. Read some inspirational memes on Pinterest. Do whatever you need to do to get yourself off that proverbial ledge and keep Kindle firmly in hand.

Do you have any etiquette advice for fellow flyers this holiday? Discuss!

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