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North Hills Monthly

Travel Tips to Help You Keep that Holiday Spirit

Oct 31, 2019 11:05AM ● By Kathleen Ganster

Thanksgiving with cousins, aunts and uncles, Christmas with grandma and grandpa, Hanukkah with the in-laws—your family may be one of the millions traveling for the holidays. And with so many travelers come more travel challenges than usual.

More than 54 million people traveled 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving and more than 112 million for the end-of-the-year holidays in 2018, according to Jim Garrity, spokesperson for AAA East Central.

“The majority of these travelers are taking road trips, but there are still a lot flying and traveling by other means,” Garrity said.

Taking time to plan ahead can make the traveling easier for everyone. “Holidays are stressful enough as they are,” he added. “Why not remove what stress you can?”  

That includes purchasing tickets well in advance for those who are flying. But if you procrastinate—then really procrastinate.

“Once you miss the window for booking by the end of October, waiting until about 7–13 days prior to the holidays may give you the best bargains, though you may be faced with limited availability,” Garrity said.

The best bargains are usually days where there are fewer travelers—Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve—if you can celebrate with your family a bit later. On the flip side, high traffic days include the Sunday before holidays, the day before Thanksgiving and the day after many holidays.

“You want to get the best bang for your bucks and beat the crowds,” Garrity suggested. 

Traveling light is always a safe bet; maybe this is the year you forgo presents or give gift cards to everyone. Using a simple carry-on will save you time and waiting for luggage, plus eliminate the chance of lost luggage during the busy travel season. 

The holidays are definitely not the time to procrastinate when getting to the airport. 

“If anything, add time on the TSA recommendations for arriving before a flight. It is the holidays, and the airports will be busy,” said Garrity. “You also might want to take advantage of TSA Pre®. That can really save you a lot of time.”  

Lines for TSA Pre® are often shorter than regular security lines and eliminate the hassle of removing shoes and small electronics from your bags. AAA East Liberty is offering appointments Nov. 18–22 to assist members and nonmembers with applying for TSA Pre® just in time for holiday travel.

While millions will fly for holiday travel, even more—many more—will travel by car. Of course, knowing your travel route is imperative, even for those who have GPS and mapping devices on their phones. AAA provides Triptiks with maps and directions online that can be printed out, or they can prepare them in advance to be mailed or picked up at one of their offices.  

“The majority of travelers take road trips; up to 90 percent,” said Garrity. “And the top three calls we get during these times are dead batteries, flat tires and those who have locked themselves out of their cars.”  

Before heading out on that road trip, there are several precautionary measures, particularly in the colder months, that can make travel much safer and help prevent the issues Garrity discussed. A week or two prior to travel, it is wise to have the car checked out by a professional mechanic. Don’t wait until the day before, just in case there is something that needs to be repaired that requires a part or two. 

“Check all tire pressure, including the spare, as well as tire tread,” said John Berger, shop manager at J & T Tire Pros & Auto Service. “Check all lights, the battery, wiper blades and brakes. 

“Most people forget to rotate their tires and have the alignment checked, and to get the oil changed,” he continued, adding that all fluids—including differential, transfer case and tranny fluid—should also be checked.  

“Always check the owner’s manual for the preventive maintenance schedule and follow it,” Berger added. “Preventative maintenance is the key to getting the most out of your vehicle as well as saving money in the future.” 

One other note: An emergency kit in the car is always a good idea. Make sure to stock it with water, flares, a first-aid kit and a blanket or two for colder weather. 

For more information about AAA, visit You can sign up for the TSA Pre® event at

J & T Tire Pros & Auto Service can be found at