These Are the Worst Days You Can Choose to Fly Home for the Holidays
Planning to fly home for the holidays? Yeah, you and millions of other Americans!
Flying is always at least a little bit of a hassle, but it’s even more so when the airport is packed with harried travelers trying to make it home for the holidays. Whether you want to visit your family or jet off on a vacation, you don’t want to fly on one of the busiest days of the year (at least not if you can avoid it).
Read on to check out the worst days you can choose to fly for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s. And get the inside scoop on how you can minimize hassles when flying home for the holidays.
Avoid the busiest travel days for Thanksgiving
Want to know which days the airport will be busiest? Just turn to Google, everybody’s tool of choice for searching for flights. Google used data from Google Flights searches over two years to determine which dates will be the busiest travel days this year.
Fortunately, it found that “Americans are pretty predictable when it comes to Thanksgiving travel plans.” (That’s partly because the holiday always falls on the fourth Thursday of November.) Read on to check out the three busiest days around turkey day when you really won’t want to fly.
Next: This is one of the busiest days to fly before Thanksgiving.
Google says you shouldn’t fly on Friday, November 17
Flying home the week before Thanksgiving sounds like a great idea — until you realize that millions of other Americans are also planning to fly on November 17. Google explains, “The last thing you need during the holidays is the added headache of long lines at the airport, flight delays, or cancellations.” But those are all things that you’re likely to run into if you fly on November 17, which will be one of the busiest days to fly this year.
Next: Here’s another date to avoid when you book a pre-Thanksgiving flight.
Steer clear of the airport on Wednesday, November 22
So November 17 is out. What about November 22, the day before Thanksgiving? Google characterizes that date as a no-go, too. Flying home the day before Thanksgiving sounds like a good idea, particularly if you don’t want to use a ton of vacation days to celebrate the holiday.
However, millions of other Americans will be standing in line at the airport, too, hoping to get through the traffic jam at the TSA checkpoint in time for some turkey. Do yourself a favor and pick another day earlier in the week.
Next: This is the worst date to fly home after Thanksgiving.
Don’t even think about flying on Sunday, November 26
Once turkey day is over, you aren’t out of the woods. Google identified another date as one of the busiest days to fly. According to Google Flights data, November 26 will see major crowds at the airport.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving is a logical day to fly home because you’ll be back in time to return to work on Monday. But if you don’t want to deal with long lines and potential delays, you’ll want to choose a different day.
Next: Here’s how to avoid the busiest travel days around Christmas and New Year’s.
Avoid the busiest travel days near Christmas
Flight-booking patterns aren’t as predictable for Christmas and New Year’s as they are for Thanksgiving. But there’s still plenty of data to work with.
Plus, Google isn’t the only company to try to offer travelers some insight into the worst days to fly. SmarterTravel crunched the numbers and came up with its own recommendations. As the publication explains, “The biggest year-end holidays fall on Mondays in 2017, making for a plethora of ‘worst’ holiday travel days.”
Next: This is one of the worst days to fly to get home for Christmas.
Don’t fly on Friday, December 22
SmarterTravel reports that you can count on December 22 to number among the worst travel days in 2017. Because Christmas falls on a Monday this year, plenty of people will want to pack up and fly out the preceding Friday. It sounds like a good idea, but millions of people have that same idea. If you want to avoid crowds and delays, you may want to consider flying earlier in the week instead.
Next: This day doesn’t offer good chances of short lines at the airport.
Try to avoid the airport on Saturday, December 23
Flying on the Saturday before Christmas won’t be any better than flying out on Friday. December 23 falls in the final weekend right before the holiday. That means plenty of people who don’t want to take a day off for travel will probably book their flights that day.
The influx of travelers at your local airport will probably become pretty obvious when you walk in the door. From long check-in lines to interminable waits at airport security, you’ll definitely notice when you fly on one of the busiest travel days of the year.
Next: Don’t choose this date for a pre-Christmas flight, either.
Steer clear of flights on Sunday, December 24
Your final choice for a flight before Christmas? December 24, another date that SmarterTravel recommends avoiding if you can.
Millions of people will want to fly on the 24th to get home just in time to celebrate Christmas with their friends and family. That means you can count on long lines at the airport. Also, if you wait until the last possible day to fly home, you won’t have much recourse if there’s a delay or a major storm. And nobody wants to spend Christmas alone in an airport.
Next: Choose a different date to fly home after Christmas.
Don’t fly on Friday, December 29
Even after Christmas, you’ll still need to book your flights carefully. SmarterTravel predicts that one of the worst holiday travel days after Christmas will fall on December 29. This date, which falls on a Friday, will likely see crowds of travelers descending on airports, either flying home after Christmas festivities or gearing up for a celebratory New Year’s. Whether you need to fly home or make your way to an exciting destination, try to choose a different date.
Next: This is the worst date to fly home after New Year’s.
Avoid the airport on Tuesday, January 2
A few hours after the countdown ends and the confetti falls, most of the New Year’s festivities will be over. But the hassles at the airport won’t be entirely finished.
SmarterTravel reports that January 2 will likely be the final worst day of the holiday season to be at the airport. If you can afford to take an extra day or two off and pick a different date to head to the airport, you definitely won’t regret it.
Next: Here’s how to deal if you have to fly on one of the busiest days of the year.
Try to choose an alternative to the busiest airports
If you simply have to fly on one of the worst travel days — or even if you successfully booked your flights for less busy dates — you should think carefully about which airport you choose.
Google provides a list of the U.S. airports that will likely be the busiest around Thanksgiving: Boston, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Orlando, and San Francisco. If you have the option of choosing a nearby airport that’s less crowded, that’s not a bad way to minimize hassles.
Next: This is when you should book your holiday flights.
Book your flights before prices increase
Another useful piece of advice from Google? Don’t forget to book your flights before prices increase. “Flight prices often rise 21, 14 and 7 days in advance of travel dates,” Google explains. “For example, if you’re looking at a departure date of November 23, you can expect significant increases in flight prices on Nov. 1, Nov. 8 and again on Nov. 15. So make sure to book your Thanksgiving flights by the end of October to get a better deal.” If you want to fly for Hanukkah, Christmas, or New Year’s, try to book before December.
Next: But keep this principle in mind.
Don’t let airlines dictate your holiday
SmarterTravel also offers a sage piece of advice for travelers who are already feeling stressed out about tracking fares and finding flights. “Be sensible,” the publication advises. “Sure, if you’re flying, you want to find good deals — but don’t let the airlines dictate your holiday. Always keep in mind those days you really want to be at your destination, not flying, and finalize your fares somewhat early.”
Next: If you don’t want to deal with crowds, consider switching up your travel plans for Thanksgiving.
Consider getting away instead of going home for Thanksgiving
If you or your family lives near a notoriously congested airport, Google has a novel idea to offer. Consider getting away instead of going home to celebrate Thanksgiving.
“While many people choose to go home for the holidays, it’s also an ideal time to get away from it all,” Google explains. Some U.S. destinations that Google characterizes as “trending” this year include Honolulu, Hawaii; Tucson, Arizona; Burbank, California; Providence, Rhode Island; and Fairbanks, Alaska. And if you want to travel internationally? Consider Brussels, Belgium; Rome, Italy; Nice, France; Malaga, Spain; or Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Next: Think about trying something new for New Year’s.
Think about a vacation abroad to ring in the new year
Similarly, Google reports that you can “make the most of the extra time off over the holidays and take an extended vacation somewhere exotic.” Need some ideas? Google’s list of trending destinations for Christmas and New Year’s this year include Rome, Italy; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Barcelona, Spain; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Lisbon, Portugal; Bogotá, Colombia; Bankok, Thailand; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Brussels, Belgium; and Denpasar, Bali.
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