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Michael Bennett is the former Senior Producer of the Travel Channels west coast operations and is currently a travel writer for Savoy and Black Enterprise Magazine. Michael is the host of Globetrotting on BET's BET on Jazz Network. For travel question write to

Thanksgiving Now

Summer time is over. Yeah, I know what the calendar says, fall doesnít officially begin until September 22. For all practical purposes summer is over, Labor Day has come and gone, the kids are back in school and all the blockbuster summer movies from Jurassic Park to Rush Hour 2 are approaching home video status.

As journalists you are settling in for the long stretch between now and Thanksgiving. With no pressing national election to follow many of you are wondering where the next big story will come from. Will they find Chandra Levy? Will there be a natural disaster to report? Will the economy bounce back in time for Christmas? Those of you on the broadcast side are planning, if not actually shooting pieces for the November sweeps, just over a month away.

So, what Iím about to suggest might sound crazy, but here goes. Have you thought about Thanksgiving? More to the point, are you planning to fly during the Thanksgiving holiday? Letís face it most of you will be entirely too busy worrying about sweeps to properly handle your personal Thanksgiving travel plans until itís to late.

Oh yeah, you will all do stories on the busiest travel day of the year. Reporters will be staked out at the airport interviewing frustrated passengers as they wait in long lines on Thanksgiving eve. More reporters will stakeout strategic positions on some freeway overpass as hordes of vehicles head out of town. What about you? The time to start planning is now.

The airlines have blackout dates around all major holidays, so cheap tickets are out of the question, right? Wrong! One way to avoid being gouged by the airlines and their inflated holiday ticket prices is to book earlier. You will be rewarded dearly with lower prices. If you wait until early November, the price you pay for a ticket may double. And if you wait until the week before Thanksgiving, youíll be greeted with high prices, sold out flights or both. Those of you into last minute bargain hunting are taking a major risk during peak travel periods. The number of bargain seats are minimal at best and if you do get lucky enough to find a ticket, it will have so many restrictions youíll end up shooting yourself in the long run if your flight is cancelled. Those carrying so called bargain or cheap tickets are the last to be considered when it comes to flight changes or being bumped due to overcrowding. If youíre like me, I absolutely hate crowded airports.

To me, the day before Thanksgiving at a crowded airport is right up there with having a tooth pulled without Novocain. No parking, long lines, screaming children and grouchy flight attendants are things I can do without. Hereís a trick I use when flying around Thanksgiving. Rather than fly the day before the holiday, try flying on the holiday.

Thatís right, fly on Thanksgiving Day. This works especially well if your destination is two hours or less away from home. Iím based in Los Angeles and my mother lives in Arizona. I catch a flight to Phoenix and Iím sitting in her living room by 10am. I enjoy the smell of turkey in the oven, watch football, spend time with my mother and I donít have to fight airport crowds. If you use this method, take a cab or have someone drive you to the airport. There will be no parking if you take your private vehicle.

When I return, I fly out on Saturday or Monday rather than Sunday. Itís still a little crowded but itís a lot easier than flying on Sunday with the masses. If you fly back on Monday, you might be able to get a cheaper flight.

Thereís nothing worse than dealing with the stress of the November book, then dealing with the chaos most passengers must endure at the airport the day before Thanksgiving.