According to AAA, 54.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving this year, 2.5 million more people than last year. While most people will drive (more than 48 million, in fact), fliers account for the largest growth, with air travel up by 5.4 percent to 4.27 million travelers.

Welcome to the airport holiday hassle. Packed airports come with Thanksgiving, reappear in December and hit again at Spring Break.

To help fliers prepare for the crush, I've created the essential survival tools. Here's what you should carry to the airport and on the plane.

Pack medications in your carry-on, especially prescription meds but also over-the-counter pain relievers in case tensions (and the headaches that can attend them) arise.

Bring your airline's customer service number; mine are programmed into my smartphone. If a flight is delayed or canceled, getting an agent on the phone may lead to the quickest fix. Not that a fix will be possible, given full flights, so be prepared for the worst.

Bring toiletries. Toothpaste and toothbrush, face wipes, lotions and deodorant can help you feel fresh during a grueling airport stay.

Another potential bundle of joy (or, at least, relief) is a change of clothing. Plus, a pair of socks, clean underwear and a T-shirt rolled up in a jacket makes a fine pillow. I also wear an oversized scarf, which can double as a blanket in a pinch.

The right electronics — ear buds, power cord, mobile charger — ensure that a phone can act as a lifeline to family, music and other forms of escape.

Entertainment options are important. Mine range from magazines and novels (paperback, please) to movies preloaded onto a device.

Hydration is the key to health; bring a water bottle to fill up at airport drinking fountains.

Healthy snacks, from apples to power bars, can help keep me happy, no matter the circumstances.

Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.