The least busy travel days fall on major federal holidays in the United States. While this may come as a surprise, many people prefer to spend the holidays with family, not on the road, so travel hubs tend to be more desolate during these times.
The least busy travel days of the whole year are Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Tuesdays through Thursdays. Traveling on one of these days will help you avoid crowds, save time, and avoid accidents.
No matter where you’re headed, data confirms that traveling one to two days before a holiday tends to be hectic, and the Sunday after a federal holiday is equally busy. This article examines the least busy travel days of the year to help you save cash and spend less time waiting in the airport, train station, or traffic. Read on to learn more.
1. Thanksgiving Day
Each year, over a million travelers in the United States leave town via airplane to spend Thanksgiving elsewhere. When you add in road traffic and rail travel, that number goes up to a whopping 55 million people traveling for Thanksgiving.
Most people travel a day or two before the actual holiday, making the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving two of the busiest days in the travel industry. Thanksgiving Day, however, is one of the least busy travel days of the whole year.
When you’re ready to head home after spending Thanksgiving with family and friends, it’s best to avoid the Sunday after. According to AP News, Sundays after Thanksgiving are particularly brutal for airports and road travel. Instead, try to leave on Friday or wait until Monday or Tuesday if possible, as these days tend to be less busy.
2. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Every year, Christmas falls on a different day of the week, so travel predictions are a bit more complicated. That said, travel data shows that the work week determines travel behavior among Americans. Based on this information, we can come up with a good idea of what to expect regarding travel around Christmas and the holiday season.
Like Thanksgiving, millions of people travel via air, rail, and road to visit friends and family for Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah in December. Travelers prefer to leave at least two days before the holiday begins.
December 23rd tends to be the busiest day of the season in airports, particularly when it falls on a weekend. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are two of the least busy travel days of the whole year when it comes to flying.
Road traffic is a little different. On Christmas Day, road traffic tends to be pretty light. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, there is an increase in traffic accidents. These incidents spike when Christmas falls on a weekend. So, if you’re traveling by road, be mindful and drive safely.
When returning home after your holiday celebration, avoid December 27th. This date tends to be one of the busiest travel times of the year, as people are returning home after Christmas and also flying out for New Year’s Day celebrations.
3. New Year’s Day
Traveling home for the holidays can be a stressful experience, especially when there are large crowds. Most people fly out for New Year’s festivities around December 27th through the morning of the 31st. Therefore, if you’re trying to avoid an airport crowd, don’t fly out around this time. The morning of New Year’s Eve is also a busy travel time.
The evening of New Year’s Eve tends to be far less crowded and less expensive, though it means having to forgo some of the festivities. If that’s okay with you, in exchange for less crowded travel, go for it!
New Year’s Day is another light travel period, as long as you travel in the morning. However, booking a morning flight means going to bed early on New Year’s Eve.
When flying home, choose a weekday, preferably Tuesday through Thursday, assuming your fly-out date doesn’t fall on January 2nd. Choosing these days as your option for flying will help you avoid long lines at check-in and security that would otherwise occur on Saturdays and Sundays.
When taking the train, bus, or driving, you’ll see heavy traffic on January 2nd, especially if it’s a weekday. Around this time, most people return to work. You might also notice increased traffic on the evening of New Year’s Eve as people travel to attend their desired festivities. Accidents also tend to increase during this time, so be careful when traveling by car.
4. Tuesday Through Thursday
Because peak travel times are typically dictated by the workweek, the busiest days tend to fall on the weekends and Mondays (usually when there are three-day weekends). As such, the least busy travel days of the whole year tend to fall between Tuesday and Thursday, assuming you’re not traveling around the holidays or a busy period, like Mardi Gras, Spring Break, or large events occurring in your travel destination.
This general rule applies to all modes of travel, from trains and buses to airplanes and cars. Airports have known that Tuesdays through Thursdays are the least busy travel times for years, which is why they offer the best rates during these times.
Even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that the least number of road accidents occur on Tuesdays. As such, this is the best day of the week to travel by car. Saturday is the most dangerous day to travel, followed closely by Friday and Sunday. It’s because there are far more travelers on the road during the weekend versus the work week.
If you want to choose a specific season to travel, opt for the early spring or late Autumn. There tend to be fewer people on the road during this time. However, you should be wary of poor weather conditions, especially if you’re traveling to an area that receives snowfall or low temperatures, as this can cause slippery roads and other dangerous driving conditions.
- Reuters: U.S. Consumers Propel Thanksgiving Air Travel To Highest Level in 3 Years
- AP News: The Busiest Days to Fly During the Winter Holidays
- USA Today: Want to Avoid Christmas Traffic? Here Are The Worst Times to Drive
- InstaMotor: Driving Safety (By the Numbers) In the US