AP

The busiest days to fly during the winter holidays

Nov 16, 2022, 5:00 AM | Updated: 8:31 am

Most weeks of the year, Fridays are the busiest days to fly, and Tuesdays are the least busy. But during the holidays, that trend doesn’t necessarily hold true.

In most years, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is actually the busiest travel day for U.S. airports, according to the Transportation Security Administration, which tracks the numbers of passengers screened daily. Two days before Christmas and one day before Thanksgiving also tend to draw big airport crowds.

Here’s a breakdown of the best and worst days to fly during the winter holidays, and how you can strategize schedules to avoid crowds and save money.

THE BUSIEST DAYS TO FLY AROUND THANKSGIVING

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is brutal for airport crowds. For every 100 people who flew on Thanksgiving Day 2021, there were 177 people flying out on the Sunday after, according to TSA.

That same Sunday was the year’s single busiest airport travel day in both 2019 and 2021 . In 2020, the busiest days were largely concentrated in January and February, before the widespread impact of COVID-19, which would reduce holiday travel later in the year.

Here’s a look at the days surrounding Thanksgiving week over the past three years, ranked in order of most to fewest air travelers at the TSA’s U.S. checkpoints:

— Sunday after Thanksgiving (most crowded).

— Wednesday before.

— Saturday after.

— Friday before.

— Monday after (Cyber Monday).

— Sunday before.

— Tuesday before.

— Monday before.

— Saturday before.

— Tuesday after (Giving Tuesday).

— Friday after (Black Friday).

— Wednesday after.

— Thanksgiving Day (least crowded).

Assuming past trends continue in 2022, expect Sunday, Nov. 27, to be the busiest travel day around Thanksgiving, followed by Wednesday, Nov. 23. Even if you fly out one day ahead of the biggest crowds, Saturday, Nov. 26, will also likely be busy.

And this year, crowds will likely be bigger than they were over the past couple of years.

“Thanksgiving travel volumes are looking similar to what we typically saw pre-pandemic in 2019,” says Hayley Berg, lead economist at travel booking app Hopper.

THE BUSIEST DAYS TO FLY AROUND CHRISTMAS

Christmas airport crowds can be trickier to predict than Thanksgiving crowds given that the holiday falls on a different weekday each year and that air travel patterns are often dictated by the workweek.

But just as the Sunday after Thanksgiving tends to draw huge crowds, the days just after Christmas are wildly popular. And much like how few people travel on Thanksgiving Day itself, relatively few people travel on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day.

Here’s a look at Christmas and the seven calendar dates before and after over the past three years, ranked by most to fewest average air travelers, based on TSA checkpoint data:

— Dec. 27 (most crowded).

— Dec. 23.

— Dec. 20.

— Dec. 26.

— Dec. 30.

— Dec. 19.

— Dec. 29.

— Dec. 22.

— Dec 28.

— Dec 21.

— Dec. 18.

— Jan. 1 (New Year’s Day).

— Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve).

— Dec. 31 (New Year’s Eve).

— Dec. 25 (Christmas Day) (least crowded).

The 2022 holiday travel season will be different because Hanukkah, which begins on the 25th of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar , aligns closely with Christmas. While the eight -day celebration sometimes happens in November or early December, it begins this year on Dec. 18 and runs through Dec. 26.

There’s also the weeklong celebration of Kwanzaa, which runs from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. Thus, travelers during that period might be celebrating more than just Christmas, potentially concentrating more holiday crowds in airports than in other years.

What’s more is that one of the busiest travel days of the year, Dec. 23 — the day before Christmas Eve — happens to fall on a Friday this year. Friday, you’ll recall, is typically the busiest travel day in any given week. Dec. 23 is not an official holiday, but many holiday travelers may leave on that day.

HOW TO CHOOSE LESS CROWDED (AND CHEAPER) TRAVEL DAYS

Traveling on the holiday itself is often the best way to avoid crowds. Catch the first flight out for the day, and you might arrive in time for evening festivities. Taking early flights is also considered good practice to reduce your odds of a flight delay. In the first eight months of 2022, 7.3% of flights were delayed because an aircraft arrived late, according to Bureau of Transportation Statistics data .

If you can take the days off work or work remotely, then it can make sense to fly as long before or after a holiday as possible.

Travelers can save an average of 15% by departing the first half of the week instead of the Thursday or Friday before Christmas this year, according to flight data from travel search engine Expedia. Average ticket prices for departures on the Monday before Thanksgiving are 15% cheaper than Wednesday departures, Expedia also found.

Or consider celebrating something like an un-Thanksgiving, where you shift the family dinner by a couple of days or weeks. Turkey, potatoes and pumpkin pie don’t need to be reserved for the fourth Thursday of November.

_____________________________

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Sally French is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: sfrench@nerdwallet.com.

RELATED LINK:

NerdWallet: The best days to fly around Thanksgiving in 2022 https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-best-days-to-fly-around-thanksgiving

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A newly released report on last year’s fatal crash involving a pickup truck and a group of bicycl...

Associated Press

Report suggests steering of vehicle that caused fatal Goodyear bicycle crash worked fine

A new report on last year’s fatal Goodyear bicycle crash has cast doubts about the driver’s claim the vehicle’s steering locked up.

3 hours ago

Israeli Embassy...

Associated Press

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

2 days ago

Biden and Trump to visit Mexico border Thursday immigration...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump both plan trips to the Mexico border Thursday, dueling for advantage on immigration

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday.

2 days ago

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

6 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

7 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

The busiest days to fly during the winter holidays