Absent car keys. Sneezing toddlers. Parking pandemonium.
You might think you know Thanksgiving, but plenty of pitfalls await even the most seasoned travelers as the holiday looms.
Here are tips and facts from the experts to ensure your only Thanksgiving stress is whether to indulge in a second piece of pie.
AAA anticipates 2.4 million Illinoisans will drive to a destination more than 50 miles away from home over the long weekend.
With smartphones and smart cars that choose routes and warn of hazards, few Americans think twice about getting on the road for a holiday trip.
Yet, AAA will rescue more than 330,000 drivers over the holiday, spokeswoman Beth Mosher said.
The reasons are embarrassingly preventable -- with lockouts, dead batteries and flat tires topping the list.
"Get your batteries and tire pressure tested before you head out," Mosher advised.
Nothing takes the thankful out of the holiday more than sitting in traffic and that's why you should head out early on Wednesday, the busiest Thanksgiving week travel day on Illinois toll roads.
"More than 1.8 million vehicles (are) using our system," tollway spokesman Dan Rozek said. On an average day, about 1.6 million vehicles are on the toll roads.
If you're picking up loved ones at O'Hare International Airport, peak congestion is expected Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., AAA warns.
Surprisingly, many travelers who booked flights months in advance end up getting unpleasant surprises by ignoring the small print, Travelocity's Keith Nowak said.
"They may have booked a basic economy flight with no amenities," Nowak said. Now's the time to double-check your ticket and see if you need to make contingency plans like shipping luggage ahead to avoid last-minute baggage fees.
Another omission is not checking for flight changes. "Things can happen. At the very least, check the status the night before," Nowak said.
The Transportation Security Administration anticipates screening more than 28,000 passengers at Midway Airport and more than 90,000 passengers at O'Hare at checkpoints on peak travel days, spokesman Michael McCarthy said.
Among them will be fliers toting a variety of undesirables in their carry-ons, from firearms to gallons of gravy, TSA officials expect.
Here's the basic drill: Formula, breast milk and juice for toddlers and infants are fine in regular-size bottles in carry-ons. But gravy, as well as shampoo, saline solution, cough syrup and, yes, that water bottle you grabbed from the fridge, won't fly. Liquids must be in 3.4-ounce containers and collected into a clear, plastic quart-size zipped bag.
Pies generally are fine in your carry on, and so are frozen turkeys, though they might require extra screening and the TSA has the final decision whether they're going on the plane. Check the TSA's helpful "Can I Bring" feature at https://apps.tsa.dhs.gov/mytsa/cib_home.aspx.
One more thing
Once the holiday's over, pediatrician Shelly Vaziri Flais is hoping her waiting room at Naperville Pediatric Associates won't be clogged, but it happens. Families are understandably focused on reuniting children with grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, but there's a "best laid plans" syndrome, she noted.
"You plan to do a road trip to see grandma, and lo and behold, someone's running a fever or there's stomach flu," said Flais a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Parents should check their health insurance for out-of-state coverage, make sure young children stick to napping and sleep schedules when possible and be willing to postpone plans if temperatures hit the 101 range.
"If any of your kids have food allergies, plan ahead, and either host yourself, or inquire regarding the menu and bring your own food as needed to accommodate your child's allergies," Flais said. "And don't forget the auto-injectable epinephrine in case of an accidental ingestion or cross-contamination."
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