The Busiest Travel Day of the Year is Coming | A Complete Guide

The Busiest Travel Day of the Year falls around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Long lines and delays can frustrate holiday travelers. This guide covers when the busiest days occur, why they are so crowded, and tips to handle busy airports and highways around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Learn the best times to fly and drive to avoid delays.

The busiest travel day of the year refers to the specific day when most people travel by air and road. With so many people on the move, lines grow longer, flights fill up, and congestion soars. If you’re hoping to avoid the hassles of crowded transportation hubs, then this guide will help you navigate the busiest travel day of the year.

Busiest Travel Day of the Year:

DateDay of the WeekHoliday
Sunday after ThanksgivingSundayThanksgiving Holiday
Tuesday before ThanksgivingTuesdayThanksgiving Holiday
Wednesday before ThanksgivingWednesdayThe day before Christmas Eve
Two days before ChristmasFridayChristmas holiday
Day before Christmas EveSaturdayChristmas holiday
Christmas EveSundayChristmas holiday
Memorial DayMondayMemorial Day holiday
Fourth of JulyFridayIndependence Day holiday
Labor DayMondayLabor Day holiday

When is the Busiest Travel Day of the Year?

The busiest travel day of the year typically falls in the days preceding Thanksgiving and Christmas. Here are some key dates:

The Day Before Thanksgiving

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is hands down the busiest travel day of the year for air and road travel. With many companies giving their employees the rest of the week off, travelers flood the airports and highways on this day as they make their way to celebrate the holiday with family and friends.

In 2022, the Busiest Travel Day of the Year was the day before Thanksgiving, Wednesday, November 23. Almost 55 million people traveled on this day, according to AAA predictions.

The Weekend Before Christmas

The Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before Christmas are extremely busy travel days as holiday travelers set out to celebrate Christmas and New Year. Sunday, December 18 was predicted to be the busiest day for holiday travel in 2022, with 7.3 million travelers.

Other Busy Travel Days

The Fridays and Mondays surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas also tend to be very busy. For example, Black Friday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve consistently rank among the busiest travel days. Fridays and Mondays are popular for starting and ending vacation getaways.

Busiest Travel Day of the Year

Why These Days Are So Busy

Several factors contribute to the spikes in travel volume around the holidays:

  • Time off from work – Many Americans get Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and the days between Christmas and New Year off from work. This allows time for travel.
  • Family gatherings – Thanksgiving and Christmas are times when extended families come together, often requiring cross-country trips.
  • School holidays – Schools typically close for 5-7 days around Thanksgiving and 2 weeks over Christmas and New Year’s. This frees up families with school-age children to travel.
  • Desire to travel before the holidays – Many people want to complete their holiday trips before the actual holidays begin, leading to heavy traffic in the preceding days.
  • Christmas shopping – Busy malls and shops encourage people to get away on vacation around Christmas.
  • Cheap airfares – Airlines often offer discounted fares around the holidays, incentivizing travel.

How to Handle the Busiest Travel Days

If your schedule requires you to travel on or around the busiest days, here are some tips to handle the crowds:

Flying Tips

  • Book early – Flights fill up fast, so booking as far in advance as possible gives you the best chance at cheaper fares and more options.
  • Fly early – Opt for the earliest flight out to avoid long lines at security later in the day. Red-eye flights are also less crowded.
  • Bring food – Airport restaurants will be packed, so bring your own snacks and an empty water bottle.
  • Check bags – Checking bags means less time waiting at the gate. Shipping gifts in advance also avoid luggage hassles.
  • Sign up for TSA PreCheck – This allows access to shorter security lines, making the airport experience much smoother.
Busiest Travel Day of the Year

Driving Tips

  • Travel early or late – Leaving at odd hours like 6 a.m. or 10 p.m. can help you miss the worst congestion.
  • Pack food and entertainment – Prepare for stalled highway traffic by packing games, books, and snacks.
  • Have your car checked – Get tune-ups, and check tires and fluids to ensure your vehicle is ready for a long drive.
  • Keep your gas tank full – Fill up whenever you hit half a tank in case stations are packed.
  • Bring extra blankets and supplies – In case you get stranded, you’ll be prepared for cold weather.
Busiest Travel Day of the Year

Alternatives to Traveling on the Busiest Days

To avoid the biggest crowds of the year, consider these options:

  • Travel on Thanksgiving Day itself – Most people are already at their destination, so lines are shorter.
  • Fly on Christmas Day – Airports are much less crowded on December 25.
  • Take the train or bus – Trains and buses tend to be less crowded than air travel around the holidays.
  • Travel a day earlier or later – Leaving just before or after the peak dates can make a big difference.
  • Postpone travel until January – Flying after New Year’s often means lower fares and thinner crowds.

Busiest Travel Day of the Week


Sunday is typically the busiest travel day of the week. This is because many people travel home from vacation or to start a new workweek on Sunday. Additionally, many businesses and schools are closed on Sunday, which makes it a convenient day to travel. Great post to read positive good morning blessings prayers.

Here are some other factors that contribute to Sunday being the busiest travel day of the week:

  • Business travel: Many businesses have a policy of sending employees home on Friday afternoons and returning to work on Monday mornings. This creates a large number of travelers on Sunday.
  • Family travel: Many families travel together on Sunday to avoid the crowds at airports and on the roads.
  • Vacation travel: Many people return home from vacation on Sunday.
  • School travel: Many students travel home from college or university on Sunday.

If you are planning to travel on Sunday, it is important to be prepared for the crowds. Here are a few tips:

  • Book your flights and hotels in advance.
  • Arrive at the airport early.
  • Be patient and understanding with other travelers.
  • Allow extra time for travel.

Busiest Travel Day of the Week:

Day of the WeekBusiest Travel Day
FridayMost popular day to fly domestically, followed by Sunday and Monday.
SaturdaySecond most popular day to fly domestically.
TuesdayLeast popular day to fly domestically.
WednesdayThird most popular day to fly domestically.
ThursdayFourth most popular day to fly domestically.
SundayFifth most popular day to fly domestically.
MondaySixth most popular day to fly domestically.

Other Busiest Travel Days of the Week

In addition to Sunday, here are some of the other busiest travel days of the week:

  • Friday: Many people travel on Friday to start their vacations or to visit family and friends.
  • Monday: Many people travel on Monday to start their workweeks.
  • Tuesday: Tuesday is often the least busy travel day of the week.
  • Wednesday: Wednesday is typically a bit busier than Tuesday, but still not as busy as Friday or Sunday.
  • Thursday: Thursday is usually busier than Wednesday, but not as busy as Friday or Sunday.
Busiest Travel Day of the Year

Tips for Avoiding the Busiest Travel Days

If you are trying to avoid the busiest travel days, here are a few tips:

  • Travel during the off-season.
  • Travel during the middle of the week.
  • Book your flights and hotels in advance.
  • Be flexible with your travel dates.
  • Consider alternative transportation options, such as carpooling or taking the train.

By following these tips, you can help make your travel experience less stressful and more enjoyable.

Busiest Travel Day of the Year FAQs

Still, have questions about navigating the busiest travel days? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

When are the least busy days to travel around Thanksgiving?

The Tuesday and Saturday before Thanksgiving tend to have the lightest travel volume. Thanksgiving Day itself is also less crowded than the preceding days.

What’s better – to drive or fly on the busiest travel days?

Flying is usually faster, even with airport delays. But driving allows more flexibility, especially with small children and pets. It depends on your specific circumstances.

How early should I arrive at the airport on a busy travel day?

Arrive at least 2 hours before domestic flights and 3 hours for international on busy travel days. Even longer buffers are wise if checking bags.

How can I find the cheapest flights around Christmas?

Book early, stay flexible on dates, and use flight deal alert services. Midweek flights around Christmas are often cheaper than weekends.

Is it worth paying more for a direct flight around the holidays?

Yes, direct flights are best around the holidays to minimize the risk of delays causing you to miss connections. The extra cost brings peace of mind.

Should I ship gifts instead of bringing them on busy travel days?

Yes, shipping gifts via UPS, FedEx or USPS reduces luggage hassles on crowded travel days. Just be sure to ship them early in December.

Wrap Up

While the busiest travel days of the year can be frustrating, proper preparation and planning can help everything go smoothly. Avoid peak congestion when you can, but if your schedule requires you to join the holiday travel crowds, follow these tips. Focus on comfort, flexibility, and minimizing stress. Stay up to date on travel forecasts so you can anticipate busy times. With the right mindset and logistics, you can still enjoy safe, economical, and happy holiday journeys even on the busiest travel days of the year.