It's another record-setting Thanksgiving travel week, but some airlines, airports and, yes, even the Transportation Security Administration are offering tips and treats to take some of the hassle out of the stressful journey.
On its blog, the TSA has a very thorough — and somewhat amusing — post dissecting the Thanksgiving dinner table, reminding travelers that while gravy and liquor is prohibited from carry-on bags (unless packed in 3.4 ounce containers in your one-quart-sized clear, zip-top bag), cakes, pies, bread, donuts, fruits, vegetables, turkeys and even turducken are allowed.
Automated security lanes that speed things up are now operational at some lanes at airports in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Newark. There's also news for travelers with TSA Precheck status about a new tool that tells you if (and which) Precheck lanes will be open when you're scheduled to fly.
Thanksgiving Meals at the Airport
Through Sunday, November 27, airport restaurant and retail operator Paradies Lagardère is offering active or retired military personnel a free meal (one menu item, plus a non-alcoholic beverage) at more than 40 restaurants in 11 airports.
On Thanksgiving Day, Delaware North will be offering a free Thanksgiving dinner to military and/or airport police and TSA employees at eight different airports, including Austin, Atlanta, Tampa, Los Angeles, Richmond, Ontario, Nashville, and New Orleans. (Check airport websites for details.)
And for those who can't wait to get to the Thanksgiving table to have some turkey, keep in mind that many airport restaurants will have special holiday-themed meals available.
For example, at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, 1897 Market will have a Thanksgiving Dinner with potato hash, baby carrots, roasted green beans, gravy, and cranberry; while Brookwood Farms BBQ will be serving roasted turkey with traditional sides, including green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce, corn, collard greens, and corn bread.
At Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, the menu at Ike's (Terminal 1, Airport Mall) will include a Thanksgiving dinner including Ike's sage roasted turkey served with sage stuffing, Yukon gold mash potatoes, and a slice of pumpkin pie.
Many airports have live music lined up to entertain travelers during the busiest travel days; and airport therapy dog teams and their handlers in Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco, and more than two dozen other airports around the country will be on duty to help calm frenzied nerves and offer furry distractions.
On Wednesday, Dunkin' Donuts and JetBlue will be offering free donuts along with Crème Brulée or Peppermint Mocha Lattes and espresso shots to customers traveling through JetBlue's T5 at New York's JFK International Airport from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the marketplace grandstand area.
And Denver International Airport will open its free ice skating rink — with complimentary skates — on Friday November 25 in the open air plaza between the main terminal and the Westin Denver International Airport. (Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through January 1). Entertainment, carolers and a holiday market will take place on the plaza as well.
Getting to or Away from the Airport
To celebrate what is dubbed "Orange Wednesday," on November 23 Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport is offering a week of free Terminal Parking to the first 1,000 cars that enter through specially marked parking plaza lanes. Details here.
And through December 31, American Express and Uber are offering card members two free rides (up to $65/ride) from 11 different airports in the U.S, including JFK, LaGuardia, Newark Liberty, Dulles, Washington Reagan, Boston Logan, Houston's Bush Intercontinental, Seattle-Tacoma, and McCarran International in Las Vegas. Details here.
Shopping Deals for Your Next Trip
And if you're stuck at the airport or just waiting in line, be sure to check airline websites, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages for Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals for your next trip.
On November 25, British Airways will be giving away 1,500 free hotel room nights to 1,000 passengers booking BA flights departing the U.S. on January 10 or January 14, 2017 from almost two dozen cities. The deal goes live at ba.com at 10 a.m. ET and includes 3 hotel nights, an Oyster card stocked with £15 credit for the London Tube/bus networks and discount booklets for shops and restaurants.
Some offers are live now while others are still under wraps, but Delta Air Lines has Black Friday award deals available now, Alaska Airlines has a sale starting Sunday at 5 p.m. Pacific Time, Cathay Pacific's sale is already underway and all Emirates, Virgin America and several other airlines say "stay tuned."