Holiday Travel Red Suitcase

The Best and Worst Times for Holiday Travel

As someone who lives with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), holiday travel is very difficult. The crowds are enormous, the airports are chaos, the weather is unpredictable, the tickets are crazy expensive, and people are battling colds and flus. It’s like the perfect storm for travel anxiety. That’s why I generally skip traveling during this time. When it’s unavoidable, though, I try to look at the best and worst times to book holiday travel before planning my trip. 

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If you travel frequently, you’ll probably get a feel for it but every year is different. Plus, some of the dates are counterintuitive (consider buying some travel insurance!). So, if you’re scouring the net for suggestions on when to book that flight to secure a good seat and save on airfare, keep reading. I’ve looked over the holiday airfare data from Hipmunk, and here’s the scoop!

Best and Worst Days for Thanksgiving Travel 2019

Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, so flight trends for this holiday tend to be pretty consistent. The travel dates are locked, so there’s only so much wiggle room. If you’ve got kids in school, they probably have Friday off, but are still expected to extend classes on Wednesday so it’s a tight squeeze. 

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Looking at the historical data from Skyscanner, you can see that the day before Thanksgiving is actually the busiest travel day of the year! If you’ve ever been in the airport during that time, you will know that it can be a nightmare. Let’s not even talk about the lineups at the TSA Security Checkpoint (although, if you have TSA Precheck, you might be able to avoid it!). So, the advice here is pretty limited for all of these reasons.

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Best Thanksgiving Travel Day

So is all hope lost when it comes to saving money and sanity for Turkey Day? Not necessarily. If you can swing it, the best day to travel for Thanksgiving in 2019 is (drumroll, please!):

  • Monday, November 25

You’ll find smaller crowds and lower fares if you can plan to travel on that Monday before Thanksgiving this year. It’s also great because you’ll have a buffer if your flight is delayed due to inclement weather or some other reason.

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The last thing you want is to have the perfect itinerary all planned out and then miss out on a seat because you waited too long. We’ve done that and it really does suck.

Best Alternative Thanksgiving Travel Days

You can’t always get what you want, especially if your employer or school won’t give you and your kids time off. So, here’s the backup plan for Thanksgiving travel this year:

  • Thursday, November 28 (Thanksgiving)
  • Friday, November 29

No one wants to fly on Thanksgiving day, so people do everything they can to get there the day before. While they are hellbent on being there when the turkey goes into the oven in the morning, you’ll be on your quieter, cheaper flight. Don’t mind a super short visit? Fly home on Friday to avoid the crazy weekend.

Thanksgiving Travel Days to Avoid

While Saturday is more expensive and busier than Friday, it’s still manageable. That Sunday after Thanksgiving? Avoid it like the plague. It’s going to be INSANE at the airport! So, to recap, these are the WORST travel days for Thanksgiving in 2019. 

  • Wednesday, November 27
  • Saturday, November 30
  • Sunday, December 1

Save your sanity and do everything you can to avoid these dates, especially if you’re traveling with kids? Can’t avoid it? Have a few backup plans in case things go wrong. Have a family discussion about what the airports and flights will be like, and brace yourselves. When you get to your loved ones, it will be worth it!

Best and Worst Days for Christmas Travel 2019

Christmas is not on a set day every year like Thanksgiving, so the schedule is always changing. The historical data is less useful, so we have to make some guesses. Just like with Turkey Day, you have to consider things like school breaks, time off from work and weather when it comes to Christmas planning. 

This year, Christmas falls on a Wednesday which means that schools could be closed all week (which would be great!) or kids are having to attend on that Monday. If the Friday before Christmas is the last day of classes, you’ll have more flexibility. There are also other holidays to consider:

  • Hanukkah begins on December 23 (Monday)
  • Kwanzaa begins on December 26 (Thursday)

The same logic we saw with Thanksgiving likely applies to Christmas travel:

  • Travel on the actual holiday to get the lowest fares
  • Returning the Sunday after the holiday will be busiest with the highest fares

Without further ado, let’s look at the best and worst travel days for Christmas in 2019. Based on what we’ve already discussed, it’s pretty easy to narrow it down:

Best Christmas Travel Days 2019

  • Tuesday, December 24
  • Wednesday, December 25
  • Saturday, December 28

Worst Christmas Travel Days 2019

  • Saturday, December 21
  • Sunday, December 22
  • Sunday, December 29

Why is Saturday among the best travel days for Christmas 2019 when we said to avoid it after Thanksgiving? There are two weekdays following Christmas Day, so there should be less congestion on the Saturday so the crowds will likely spread out over those three days before swarming the airport on Sunday. 

Most years, we don’t travel at all for the holidays so we’re pretty thrilled about that. With six kids, including three under four years old, that would be too much. A lot of people can do it, and we tip our hats to those brave souls, but with travel anxiety and OCD, it’s too much. So, if we end up getting snow here in Idaho, we’ll bundle up inside with some warm drinks and classic movies. 

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