Traveling this Thanksgiving? AAA has tips to make your trip easier

(WKBN) – Holiday travel can be stressful, but AAA has tips to make a trip go smoothly.

You are going to want to take some extra time when traveling this holiday season.

AAA estimates that more than 53 million people are expected to travel for Thanksgiving. That is the highest single-year increase since 2005.

With that many people on the roads — or traveling by plane — you will want to plan your departure time accordingly.

“If you can leave early on Wednesday or later on Wednesday, that’s a better option, and the same logic applies when you return on Sunday. You’ll want to leave either very, very early or very, very late,” said Lynda Lambert, spokeswoman and safety advisor for AAA.

Some other tips AAA recommends:

  • Get to the airport early two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights.
  • Driving? Make sure your car is checked out before hitting the road. AAA says they rescue more than 400,000 people during the Thanksgiving holiday.
  • If you still need to book anything — hotel or rental cars — you need to book those as soon as possible; the earlier, the better. Consider working with a travel advisor who can make any last-minute changes to travel plans and explore travel insurance options.
  • Protect yourself and your trip. As travel restrictions remain in flux, it’s essential to know requirements and recommendations based on your vaccination status, where you’re traveling from and where you’re traveling to. AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and  can help travelers understand closures, recommendations and requirements when traveling in the U.S.

Lambert also emphasized one tip over the rest.

“Be kind and patient this holiday season,” she said. “There are labor shortages in every industry, and the travel industry is no exception so bring your patience. Bring your kindness.”

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16 Holiday Travel Tips for 2021 — How to Make Christmas Travel Easier

If you’re traveling over the holidays this year, we’ve got the sanity savers you need to get to your destination without flying off the deep end.

Planning on traveling this holiday season, whether you’re jetting off on a warm-weather Christmas getaway, checking out a magical Christmas town, or visiting family? You’re not alone. According to Chris Davidson of travel research company MMGY Global, 53 percent of adults in the United States are making plans to travel in the next three months. And, says online travel resource Hopper, the TSA is anticipating around two million travelers each day over the Christmas travel period, which is double 2020’s levels. Of course, when it comes to celebrating Christmas, it’s worth it—but you do need some holiday travel tips to make things as smooth and stress-free as possible.

After all, even without large numbers of people joining you on the road and in the sky, traveling can be tricky, especially right now. “If the last 18 months has taught us anything about traveling, it’s the importance of being prepared,” says Carol Mueller, vice president of Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. “The unpredictable nature of travel disruptions has been compounded by the pandemic.”

To help you spend your holidays at your destination instead of stuck in the security line or trying to find lunch at the highway rest stop, we asked top travel experts to share their best Christmas travel tips. You’ll get the lowdown on everything from when to book a flight or drive to your destination, how to pack presents, and—this year, again—how to deal with COVID travel guidelines. Trust us: It’s information you shouldn’t leave home without. Looking for Christmas activities closer to home? Some of these tips will also come in handy when you’re driving to the best Christmas light shows near you.

Take the earliest flight of the day

The holidays are a notoriously difficult time to fly, says Molly Fergus, general manager of TripSavvy. Winter weather and peak crowds mean that one cancellation can cascade down to multiple other flights. Even worse, bad weather in a busy airport like JFK or O’Hare can ripple throughout the whole country and impact millions. The best holiday travel tip to hedge against canceled or delayed flights is to book the very first flight of the morning, Fergus says: “It’s unpleasant, sure, but you won’t have to worry about your plane getting stuck at another airport and delaying—or altogether canceling—your flight.”

Book early

This holiday and winter travel season is poised to set records. As such, experts are urging travelers to begin planning now, as hotel and flight costs are rapidly rising. Travel booking site Hopper recommends booking both Thanksgiving and Christmas travel no later than Halloween, after which airfare is expected to increase by 40 percent.

Choose the right travel date for the best deal

Choosing the right day for holiday travel is important, too. According to Hopper, the cheapest day to fly for Thanksgiving is Monday, November 22. For Christmas travel, the magic date for the best deals is Tuesday, December 21.

The worst time to set off on your holiday trip this year? Priceline reports that one of the busiest days to travel will be the day before Thanksgiving, Wednesday, November 24. Some other dates to add to that list: the Wednesday before Christmas, December 22, and the Tuesday between Christmas and New Year’s, December 28. Leaving a day or two early and staying a day later can save you a lot of money and time spent in transit. Or consider flying on the holiday itself, when air traffic is lighter and prices are lower. Celebrating with some extra special Christmas Eve traditions can make up for traveling on the big day.

Consider alternate airports

One way to beat the crowds and cut down stress during the holidays is to fly in and out of airports that are traditionally less crowded. In Southern Florida, for example, flights into Miami may be full, but less than an hour north are Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach airports, which both offer flights around the country and may have additional seating and lower prices than the larger hub. FYI, these are the most reliable airports in the United States.

Watch the weather

Speaking of delays, winter holidays often mean rain, sleet, snow, and ice, which can wreak all sorts of havoc on your plans, whether you’re flying or driving. Make sure to watch the weather reports in advance of your trip and do your best to adjust accordingly. Ahead of a major weather event or storm, airlines typically issue flexible travel policies to allow travelers to postpone their trip to a later date or move plans to an earlier date for no additional fees. You may even be able to choose an alternate destination, but keep in mind that if you change the destination, you may have to pay any difference in the fare.

Even if the weather is fine in your part of the country, keep an eye on your destination, and remember that when there’s a weather event that impacts some of the country’s busiest airports, the effects ripple out all over the country. If you’re driving, be sure to follow our safety tips for taking a winter road trip.

Have a backup plan

man standing at the Delta counter in an airport decorated for christmas and the holiday season

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Plan your aspirational trip for the holidays, but also come up with a second option, just in case. “That way, if something happens, you have a playbook and are not caught flat-footed,” says Jacqueline Hampton, CEO of travel planning site Portico. “And if your aspirational trip happens, you can use your backup plan for a fun January/February getaway.”

Alexa LaBaw, of private luxury travel advisor Marchay Travel, agrees, recommending that you always have not just a Plan B but also a Plan C. “Things can change on a dime, and it’s best to be prepared for various scenarios,” she says. “It’s always helpful to check resources like the CDC or government/tourism board websites, and working with your travel advisor on alternative trip options can be key.” This may be the time to consider using a travel advisor, even if you wouldn’t normally do so. “Travel is different these days,” LaBaw adds. “The preparation and knowledge from a trusted travel advisor helps set expectations for the trip and curb stress if something needs to be canceled or rescheduled.”

Ace airport security

You never know when you’re going to get flagged by the TSA. You can save yourself a lot of time and security-line headaches by applying for TSA PreCheck. You’ll skip the longest lines at security and get to keep your shoes, jackets, and belts on. The fee covers you for five years, and if you’re a parent, your kids 12 and under can go into the Fast Pass line with you, too.

Don’t have time to sign up for PreCheck? Then know the TSA rules to avoid security delays: All liquids need to be less than 3.4 ounces and fit into one 1-quart bag (the 3-1-1 rule). Wondering whether your baby food and pie can fly? Check out the TSA’s What Can I Bring page. (Spoiler alert: They’re both fine.)

Don’t wrap gifts before you fly

Traveling with Christmas gifts? Don’t wrap them, regardless of whether you’re putting them in your carry-on luggage or checked baggage, advises Liberty Travel’s Christina Pedroni. If the TSA decides they need to inspect your items, they will have to unwrap them. And, says Pedroni, “if you plan to give bottles of wine as a gift, make sure to pack them in your checked baggage, as they will exceed liquid limits for carry-on bags and be refused at security.” FYI, the same goes for snow globes.

Utilize the hotel concierge

If you’re staying at a hotel during your holiday trip, be sure to reach out to the concierge and share your itinerary, advises Jeffrey Morgan, who’s worked in hospitality for 30 years and is currently chief concierge at Conrad Washington DC. “A good concierge is always aware of what is current in the city, what new events are happening, the latest restaurants, and the newest museum exhibits,” he explains. “They may have better restaurants to suggest or could access better dining times. They can really help make your family’s vacation memorable.”

Hampton also recommends leveraging the concierge at the hotel for help with COVID protocols. “They’ll know where you can get a test or be able to call the pharmacy if you’re traveling internationally,” she says.

Research COVID requirements before leaving town

Every state is handling COVID precautions differently. “In some cities, like New York City, to dine indoors you must have proof of vaccination or a negative test result within the last 72 hours,” says Fergus. Proof requirements will vary by city and state, too, so look up any apps that are accepted in your destination country and download them before leaving. Here are the other things that should be on your COVID checklist for your holiday travels:

  • Take a picture of your vaccination card, and then put the card in a Ziploc bag or in an openable plastic protector, suggests Hampton. You’ll need the actual card at the airport to check in, but most restaurants accept a picture of it as proof. Or, download an approved COVID vaccine app that keeps track of your status.
  • Bring a home test with you, if possible. “Given we’re moving into cold season, it can come in handy for peace of mind,” says Hampton. “Recently when I traveled, my partner caught a cold. Since we were visiting his elderly parents, we wanted to be extra careful and used the home test to verify that it was just a cold. I suggest ordering it well before your trip and also keeping one or two on hand for the winter.”
  • Be sure to pack masks, hand sanitizer, and any other PPE that you may need while traveling and at your destination. And don’t let your guard down—these are the places you’re most likely to catch coronavirus.

Pack light

Anonymous Female Packing Stuff in Backpack and Putting Face Mask on the Backpack

miniseries/Getty Images

“Pack light and aim to just bring carry-ons—avoid checking bags,” advises Byron Thomas, founder of travel company Niarra Travel. Remember: Most hotel and travel accommodations offer laundry services, so you really don’t have to pack everything in your closet, even for longer trips. Not checking luggage makes getting through the airport quicker, and it’s less stressful to have fewer bags to weigh you down and keep track of. “Packing light and only traveling with carry-ons is also better for the environment,” he adds, “as cargo and baggage contribute to the weight of an aircraft, which adds to carbon emissions.”

Bring snacks

All of our experts note that bringing food, whether you’re driving or flying, is an important holiday travel tip this year. Some airports (and highway rest stops) are still operating at a reduced capacity, says Fergus, so consider packing your own snacks and essentials for your flight. Bring a reusable water bottle to fill up at the airport, too, she says—just remember to empty it before going through security.

Hampton always takes a protein snack (e.g., nuts or power bars) and a pick-me-up snack (e.g., dark chocolate). “That way, if there are unexpected delays or you have a long trip, you’re all set,” she says. Or pick up a salad (keep the dressing separate so it will last longer) from a spot like Farmer’s Fridge, packaged for travel and available at many airports.

Buy travel insurance

“The COVID-19 pandemic impacted virtually every traveler on the planet, and for that reason, we expect the demand for insurance coverage to remain high,” says Megan Moncrief, chief marketing officer at travel insurance company Squaremouth. “Close to 40 percent of our travelers who booked trips for this holiday season specifically sought out coverage for contracting COVID-19—that is the highest percentage we have seen since the onset of the pandemic.”

Just remember that travel insurance policies only apply to contracting COVID-19 and being quarantined, before or during your trip. Travel-delay coverage can also provide benefits if a traveler is quarantined at their destination and is unable to return home as scheduled. However, things like missing your flight due to long security lines, your passport not arriving, not getting a negative COVID test in time, or not wanting to travel due to vaccine requirements or general health concerns are not covered under a standard cancellation policy. In other words, a traveler would not be reimbursed if any of these COVID-related things caused them to cancel their trip.

Get insurance if you’re driving for a holiday vacation, too

“Travel insurance is a wise choice even for vacations that are within driving distance,” says Berkshire Hathaway’s Mueller. If you opt for a comprehensive travel insurance plan, you can protect a portion of your non-refundable hotel, resort, or rental-property deposits if forced to cancel for a covered reason. Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection’s ExactCare Lite plan is designed specifically for road-tripping vacationers and includes valuable coverages such as up to $500 in trip cancellation, $750 in trip interruption, and medical-expense and medical-evacuation protection to cover expenses incurred when traveling outside of your medical network.

Book your airport taxi in advance

“In many places, availability for rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are reduced or have very long wait times,” says TripSavvy’s Fergus. Consider using an app’s book-in-advance feature to schedule your pick up at your destination or your ride home from the airport. “You’ll have a (mostly) guaranteed ride that you can always reschedule should your travel plans change,” says Fergus.

Download travel apps

Speaking of rideshare apps, before you head to the airport, load up your mobile phone with helpful travel apps, including the one for your airline so you can follow flight schedules and get quick booking help. Other apps to download: a hotel booking option, a car rental company option, and a GPS option. While you’re at it, add YELP for restaurant options and a weather option, as well. The right road trip apps will also come in handy for everything from booking last-minute hotel stays to getting gas to finding the best restaurant on your route. In short, all of these will turn your phone into a virtual travel agent in an emergency.


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CDOT’s COtrip Planner travel app aims to make it easier to navigate road closures

Navigation apps are hardly novel, but the Colorado Department of Transportation says its new offering for smartphones has something that Google Maps and others often lack: Real-time road information — direct from the source — that’s particularly vital for winter mountain driving on Interstate 70 and beyond.

The free COtrip Planner app, which launched Oct. 1 in the Apple and Android app stores, adapts the same road-condition and closure information that CDOT long has provided via its website. The website also has a more user-friendly refresh, and both integrate Google’s recognizable mapping interface as their backbones, with CDOT live conditions available as overlays.

The COtrip changes were the result of a $2.1 million state contract that also included an upgrade of CDOT’s Advanced Traffic Management System. That system feeds live data to its operations centers and plays a key role in management of highway incidents.

App users can plot out driving routes and see traffic buildups, weather conditions affecting travel, construction projects and partial or full road closures — along with stretches where chain laws are in effect. A “trucker mode” shows information specialized for big-rig drivers.

The app’s “TellMe” function allows hands-free use, with the app announcing upcoming conditions and incidents along the route or in the area. The app also allows users to view live road cameras on CDOT’s network across the state.

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United Airlines is making it easier to use flight credits: Travel Weekly

United Airlines will automatically display flight credits as a payment option during the checkout process. 

The new functionality goes into effect for MileagePlus members this week. The carrier said it is working to roll it out for all customers who hold flight credits in the near future. 

“Unlike most airlines where travel credits are difficult to use, at United we’re doing something different,” chief customer officer Toby Enqvist said in a prepared remark. “We’re showing our customers they have credits — and we’re making them easier than ever to use.”

Related United news:

United discontinues AD fare program for travel advisors

Aiming to boost business travel, United eases loyalty program restrictions

United customers can combine multiple flight credits when booking flights. The carrier said that flexibility will soon include the ability for customers to use electronic travel certificates in conjunction with future flight credits. Electronic travel certificates and future flight credits are similar, though they vary on specifics such as expiration rules.  

Credits can also be used for bookings made on United partners via the United app or

In a new wrinkle, next week United will also begin allowing customers to use travel credits to pre-pay bag fees and to buy seats with extra legroom. In addition, the carrier will begin allowing customers who have wholly unused travel credits that were issued by Aug. 31 to share those credits with another traveler by applying them as payment on the checkout screen. 

U.S. airlines have issued an unprecedented number of credits during the Covid-19 pandemic, due in part to the unpredictability that the virus has caused for travel planning and also to the carriers’ decision to do away with change fees.

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Want to fly to Britain? Its struggling travel industry hopes it just got easier

In a summer full of depressing travel news, Canada finally delivered Stewart Wingate, the CEO of London’s Gatwick Airport, something he could celebrate. 

For the first time in almost a year, the blue star of Canada’s third-largest carrier, Air Transat, was back at Gatwick as the airline resumed flights to the United Kingdom this week after a break during the pandemic.

“To have the Air Transat planes back in the sky, it’s incredibly important to us,” Wingate told CBC in an interview from the rooftop of Gatwick’s nearly deserted South Terminal.

Air Transat’s return came just a few days before Britain revamped its international travel rules on Friday in a bid to restore consumer confidence in taking an overseas holiday. Westjet, which also flies into Gatwick, had resumed flights from Calgary and Toronto in July.

Once the busiest single-runway airport in the world, with a plane taking off or landing roughly once a minute, Gatwick, 50 kilometers south of London, is operating at only one-third of its usual capacity. Pre-pandemic, Gatwick claims it was Europe’s 16th-busiest airport in terms of passenger volume, whereas now it has fallen to 64th place.

While Gatwick’s South Terminal is seeing little traffic, the U.K.’s tourism sector says European airports are twice as busy as British ones because of simpler rules on COVID-19. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

Gatwick’s focus is largely on leisure traffic, and it’s the hub for discount carrier EasyJet.

Likewise, London’s No. 1 airport — Heathrow — has also seen its passenger numbers fall off a cliff, dropping by more than 80 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

From the Gatwick terminal rooftop, the sight of many vacant departure gates illustrates the struggles Britain’s diminished travel sector has faced.

The country’s travel industry association, ABTA, the Association of British Travel Agents, estimates the downturn has cost the country more than 100,000 direct travel-related jobs.  

Missed rebound

European airports such as Frankfurt and Amsterdam, on the other hand, have rebounded much faster than those in the U.K. largely because their host countries have simplified their travel restrictions, said Wingate.

“We’re only running at about half the level of the European airports.”

Queues of people wait to clear U.K. customs at Heathrow airport in London on Sept. 1, 2021. Even though traffic is down, excessive paperwork and short staffing at airports have created huge backlogs for passengers arriving in the country. (Guy Faulconbridge/Reuters)

All summer and now into the fall, Britain’s airlines, tour operators and passenger rights groups have been engaged in an acrimonious fight with the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson as they pushed for changes to Britain’s international travel regulations.

The prime target has been the UK’s “traffic light system,” which gave every country a classification — green, amber or red — depending on their level of vaccinations and the incidence of COVID-19.

The industry complained the ratings often changed without notice, and by mid-summer, ABTA claims 58 per cent of travellers ended up cancelling holiday plans because of the uncertainty.

Travel, both outbound and return to the U.K., has also required a series of pricey COVID-19 tests for passengers — as many as four or five per return trip — costing up to $130 Cdn each, which added another disincentive for taking a trip.

Visitors to red list countries are also required to hotel quarantine upon their return for 14 days, at a cost of up to $4,000 Cdn for an adult.

“The global economy’s been incredibly damaged by COVID-19 and we need to get things moving,” ABTA spokesperson Sean Tipton said in an interview.

Stewart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick Airport, says with new U.K. travel rules, passenger traffic should slowly ramp up again over the fall and into Christmas season. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

New rules

Finally, Johnson’s government gave the industry much of what it was hoping for on Friday, with a “simpler, more straightforward system,” according Transportation Minister Grant Shapps.

The traffic light system will be replaced by two lists, a red list of countries where travel is banned for all but essential reasons and a green list for everywhere else. Canada has been on the U.K.’s green list since the last review three weeks ago.

Crucially, fully vaccinated travellers also won’t have to pay for COVID-19 PCR tests after they enter the U.K., which should eliminate cumbersome paperwork and reduce the cost of flying.

Instead, passengers will have to take a much cheaper and easier lateral flow test. Full hotel quarantines after returning from red list countries will still apply.

WATCH | Mishmash of regulations hinders international travel: 

Mishmash of rules hampers international travel recovery during pandemic

AirTransat has resumed its flights from Canada to the U.K., which some hope points to a recovery for international travel that has been hampered by a mishmash of rules and low consumer confidence. 2:00

In terms of regulations, the new British rules will bring the country closer to Canada, which earlier this month opened up for international travel to fully vaccinated visitors.    

A key difference is that Canada still requires passengers to have a PCR test within 72 hours of boarding their flight into the country.

Passengers flying back to Canada from Gatwick this week had already taken off before the new rules were publicized. But Wendy Day, who was on her way to Toronto, said the simplified rules system was long overdue.

“If it wasn’t for the fact that we were going to see our son, we probably wouldn’t have taken a holiday.” 

A passenger gets tested for COVID-19 at Gatwick Airport. The U.K. says arriving travellers will no longer have to pay for expensive tests if they are fully vaccinated. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

Prof. Kelley Lee of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., has been part of a multinational research effort studying the impact of travel restrictions during the COVID pandemic.

She said the U.K.’s “traffic light system” was never an effective way of dealing with the coronavirus because decisions over which countries to put on which list were inherently political and not based on science.

“That leaves open a lot of lobbying and a lot of undermining of public health,” Lee told CBC in an interview.

She said the broad conclusions of her research to date are that it’s still too soon to ditch travel restrictions altogether as coronavirus variants are continuing to evolve.  

While border controls can’t keep the virus out, she said, they have been effective at slowing its spread.

“What you can do is slow the virus down. You can buy yourself a few days, even a few weeks.”

However, Lee said there needs to be far better co-ordination and agreement among countries on what the rules for travel should be.

“It’s very unco-ordinated. For the traveller, it’s a nightmare. For the airlines, it’s a nightmare.” 

London’s Gatwick Airport specializes in taking passengers to holiday destinations. It is currently running at 30 per cent of its capacity. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

Wingate, the Gatwick CEO, said with the new rule changes, passenger traffic in the U.K. should slowly ramp up again over the fall and into Christmas.

“We’re a catalyst for the local economy,” said Wingate, “but we also know we are a catalyst for routes at the other end.  So when we are flying into Vancouver, Toronto or Calgary, we know what we are enabling is for global business to take place at both ends of that route.”

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Why It Just Got a Tad Easier for Americans to Travel to the U.K.

Traveling to other countries is becoming a bit hectic. Because of COVID-19, each country has its own set of rules, and new ones are constantly popping up for American travelers as infection rates climb throughout the country. Just today, the UK announced that after October 4, pre-departure COVID testing would no longer be needed for Americans who are fully vaccinated.

In May of 2021, the UK Implemented its traffic light system, which determined eligibility for entry. If you lived in a country on the green list to travel to the UK, you needed a Pre-departure COVID-19 test and a Post-arrival COVID-19 test. If your country was on the yellow list, you needed departure and arrival tests along with a 10-day quarantine. If your country was in a red zone, you couldn’t even think about getting in unless you were essential. Starting on October 4, however, the UK will only have a red list for countries they are marking as “do not travel.”

Vaccinated Americans will no longer need pre-departure testing to enter the country. This new standard will be upheld for any traveler looking to visit the UK who is not on the red list. The red list includes destinations in Africa, South America, and Asia. Today’s news is a bit of a bright spot for the UK and US tourism industries, which have taken a big hit since the pandemic’s beginning.

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Disney makes it easier to secure a spot on its most popular rides

Disney makes it easier to secure a spot on its most popular rides

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Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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American Airlines is making it much easier to redeem your existing travel credits

American Airlines is making it much easier to redeem your existing travel credits

Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Need to repair a trip hazard in your cracked concrete sidewalk? It’s easier than you think.

The cement stucco needs to be mixed using coarse sand, Portland cement and hydrated lime, if you can get it. For a strong repair, mix 4 parts sand with 2 parts Portland cement. If you can get the lime, then mix 4 parts sand, 1.5 parts Portland cement and 0.5 part lime. You blend all of this together dry until the mix is the same uniform color. Then you add clean water and mix until it’s the consistency of applesauce.

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