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My favorite Thanksgiving movie is John Hughes’ Planes, Trains and Automobiles. My wife and I watch this film every year at this time and I know we’re not alone. After watching it last night, I woke up in the morning thinking about all the mistakes Neal Page, played by Steve Martin, made. Although his mistakes are what made the movie funny, none of it’s funny if it happens to you in real life. RELATED: This is My Number One Travel Tip
Obviously, a lot has changed in the past 30 years since this movie was made but much of it is still relevant as most of those travel snafus could still happen. So, here’s how to avoid making the same mistakes Neal made in the hilarious movie.
1. Don’t travel on Amateur Day
For starters, frequent travelers know not to travel on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving unless you absolutely have to. This is why the busiest travel day of the year is known as ‘Amateur Day’.
2. Book a car in advance
However, if you must travel on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, then arrange for a car service in advance to take you to the airport. If not, use a ridesharing app or even a taxi app. If all else fails, then try to find someone you can share a ride to the airport with. They might be happy to split the fare or have it paid for for them (if you’re really desperate). I’ve done this multiple times when there are long taxi lines and no Ubers available.
3. Use flight status apps
Neal’s colleague knew not to book the 6pm flight. Instead, he took the 8pm so he didn’t have to fight for a taxi during rush hour. Another way to relieve stress is to use an app like Flighty or TripIt to keep you abreast of your flight. Flighty sends updates to your iPhone and Apple watch if your flight will be delayed or cancelled. They also let you know when your inbound aircraft has taken off, landed and arrived at the gate.
4. Quadruple check your reservations
Neal got bumped from first class to coach. It does happen but not often. One way to prevent this is to quadruple check your reservations. I check them right after I book, then again about a month before, a week before and the day before I travel to make sure everything is accurate.
5. Set seat alerts
Another way to make sure you don’t get bumped is to set a seat alert. I use ExpertFlyer (here’s how as it’s complicated) for the seat the I reserved on my flight so I know the moment I get moved. Sometimes airlines swap aircraft and you don’t want to get stuck in a seat you don’t want. If I can’t get the seat I want (usually bulkhead aisle or exit row aisle), then I set an alert for it. This way, I don’t have to keep checking the seat map because if my desired seat opens up, I get alerted and can quickly log on to change my seat. Very rare do I get stuck in the middle because of this.
6. Be nice to flight attendants and gate agents
Neal wasn’t the most charming guy. If things aren’t going your way, then be sure not to take it out on the flight attendants. Instead, be extra nice to them and the gate agents. I almost always bring them chocolates to show my gratitude for their hard work.
7. Bring headphones
Neal isn’t the friendliest guy either and if you don’t feel like speaking to your seatmate, then wear noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds. They will quickly get the hint. But I always say hello to my seatmates and I’ve met some incredible people this way.
8. Book a hotel right away
The moment you get diverted, book a hotel room like Del (played by John Candy) did. Don’t wait for the airline to book you one (most won’t if it’s weather related, anyway). Use a booking app or website first. If everything is sold out, including Airbnb, then call hotels directly. Just make sure you have the right number and don’t get tricked by scammers on Google.
9. Know your route
If you’re using a taxi, find out how far the hotel is by using Waze or Apple Maps. If the driver is going off the beaten path, tell them to go the direct route and that you don’t want to sightsee or pay a much higher fare.
11. Lock your cards
The thief in the movie just stole cash and didn’t take the credit cards but in today’s world, they definitely would. That’s why I set alerts on my cards so I know every time a transaction is made. Better yet, use your bank’s app to lock your cards. I unlock my ATM card on my app a minute before taking cash out and then I lock it again immediately after. I started doing this after my bank card was hacked – here’s how to prevent it from happening.
12. Choose your rental car company carefully
One of the funniest scenes from the movie is when Neal gets dropped off in the middle of a huge rental car lot only to discover that his car not there. He snaps and throws away his rental agreement. Neal made so many mistakes here, including the way he spoke to the agent when he got back to the airport. When I rent a car, I usually use a company that doesn’t make me wait in any lines and lets me choose the car in the lot. They keys are already in it and I just drive to the exit and show my driver’s license and I’m off. If you are going to rent a car, read my ultimate rental car guide to save time, money and headaches.
Since you’re now probably reminiscing about this classic holiday comedy, here are a few clips to entertain you:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)- Those Aren’t Pillows!
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) – Owen’s Truck scene
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a classic movie and it’s hilarious to watch all the mistakes that Neal and Del made. However, it’s not funny if any of this happens in real life so I hope these tips help make your travels smoother, cheaper and safer. Let me know if I missed anything in the comments.
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