Best and Worst Dates for 2018 Holiday Travel

Have you booked your holiday travel? If you haven’t done so yet, read on for the best days to travel this Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.

It’s true, there’s no place like home for the holidays – that is, as long as you can get there. If you wait too long, booking your holiday travel will be very expensive. The same goes if your schedule isn’t very flexible and you’re locked into traveling specific days. Even with the booking tips in this article, keep in mind you’re going to pay more to travel during the holiday season than other times of the year, even if you score a deal. Be prepared and don’t hesitate to jump on a great deal if you see one – it won’t last long!

Although the holiday travel season is more expensive overall, there are some significantly cheaper times to fly during a holiday week or weekend. Those are typically the less popular travel days, which is why it’s optimal to have a flexible travel schedule during the holiday season to score the best deals. Traveling on less popular days also means a stress-free airport experience, perfect if you’re traveling with children.

Predictive travel insights suggest which holiday travel dates are going to be more affordable and which will see packed planes with sky-high airfare over both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The Best and Worst Days for Thanksgiving Travel

Thanksgiving travel trends tend to stay fairly consistent from one year to the next, as it always falls on a Thursday. Most non-retail and non-food service businesses close for Black Friday, in addition to schools. This consistency means most people are locked into traveling on certain dates. Schools may close the Friday after Thanksgiving, but will be open the day before Thanksgiving. This forces parents to travel that Wednesday afternoon at the earliest, assuming they can’t or won’t let their kid skip the day.

The “best” Thanksgiving travel days are limited. If you’re flexible, take advantage of cheaper  flight prices on the following days. You’ll save yourself a few bucks!

Thanksgiving travel trends stay fairly consistent through the years. In 2018, the best day to travel to score the most savings on your fares is Monday, November 19. The worst days to travel are those leading up to Thanksgiving.

Best Thanksgiving Travel Day: Monday, November 19

After analyzing data from CheapAir, for the best fares, travel on the Monday before Thanksgiving. Historical data from Kayak backs this up as well. You’ll save about $40 per ticket on average flying the Monday before Thanksgiving as opposed to the Wednesday before. Likely, you’ll also find smaller crowds compared to later that week. Plus, you have a few spare days to travel in case the weather interferes with your flight last minute.

Other Ideal Thanksgiving Travel Days:

Sunday, November 18

Thursday, November 22 (Thanksgiving)

Friday, November 23

Tuesday, November 27

Traveling on Thanksgiving day usually presents great deals because no one wants to do it. Most people want to be at their destination on Thanksgiving morning, not heading to the airport or sitting on a plane for hours. But if you can fly out early in the morning, you’ll find lower fares and emptier airports, arriving just in time for an afternoon dinner.

Additionally, CheapAir suggests that the Sunday before Thanksgiving is also a good day to find great deals. It tends to be a slower travel day because most people don’t take a full week off for Thanksgiving. Historical data from Skyscanner confirms this is a typical trend for most Thanksgiving seasons. Maybe it’s time to consider using those saved vacation days and take more time off work this Thanksgiving.

As for the return trip, traveling on Black Friday will save you some money, as long as you don’t mind a shorter visit with family. Saturday tends to be a busier and more expensive travel day, but ultimately reasonable if you want to spend another day with loved ones. And if you really want to save and can do so, CheapAir says you’ll find great deals traveling the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. On average, you’ll save $209 per ticket just by delaying your return trip home a couple of extra days.

The Worst Thanksgiving Travel Days:

Tuesday, November 20

Wednesday, November 21

Sunday, November 25

Thanksgiving travel ramps up on the Tuesday before the holiday, leading into what’s usually the busiest travel day of the year on Wednesday. Not only are fares high due to heavy demand, but the number of people traveling indicates airports and planes will be packed to the max. If you can, avoid flying on these days.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is the most difficult and expensive day to head back home. In fact, CheapAir says it’s the single most expensive travel day of the entire holiday, period. Be sure to avoid Sunday travel if possible.

The Best and Worst Days for Christmas Travel

Unlike Thanksgiving, the Christmas travel schedule changes every year. Historical data is essentially useless in predicting fares and traffic for certain days. When it comes to Christmas, it’s all about the timing of the holiday. It has a major impact on people’s plans, especially in how it affects school breaks and other closures. This year, Christmas is on a Tuesday, which opens up the weekend for travel. Most schools and businesses will close beginning on Monday, the 24th aka Christmas Eve.

Best Christmas Travel Day: Christmas Eve (Monday, December 24)

According to CheapAir, the cheapest day to travel this year is Christmas Eve. It’s basically for the same reason as Thanksgiving: most people want to be at their destination for the holiday, so they avoid traveling on those days. Less people traveling means less demand for flights and fewer crowds at the airport.

Travelers save an average of $76 per ticket flying on Christmas Eve as opposed to traveling on Sunday, December 22nd (a more popular travel date). If you’re trying to balance your budget with quality family time, those extra savings could do just the trick. Kayak’s historical data also shows Christmas Eve as a prime day for travel, as it is significantly less expensive than the 22nd or 23rd.

Christmas travel trends change yearly. They largely depend on the day of the week Christmas lands on. In 2018, the best day to travel to score the most savings on your fares is Christmas Eve. The worst days to travel are those leading up to Thanksgiving.

Other Ideal Days for Christmas Travel:

Sunday, December 23

Friday, December 28

This year, the weekend prior to Christmas is a tough one for travelers. Only Sunday presents decent prices, according to CheapAir. Since Christmas falls so close to the weekend this year, many people can and will take advantage of this extra time off to travel. Expect packed airports and flights if you’re planning to travel that weekend.

What about the return trip home? Try planning it for Friday, December 28th. That’s the sweet spot between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Thursday, December 27th isn’t a bad choice for travel either, although CheapAir’s data points toward Friday travel to get the most bang for your buck.

Worst Christmas Travel Days:

Friday, December 21

Saturday, December 22

Wednesday, December 26

As we said before, while the weekend before Christmas is open for travel this year, it looks to be a tough time to fly. The Friday and Saturday prior to Christmas have some of the highest fares of the season according to CheapAir. Additionally, avoid traveling the day after Christmas as well.

Where do you usually spend the holidays? If you’re spending more than you want on holiday travel, use this article as a helpful guide for finding the best deals. When you come across a great deal, don’t wait to snag it!

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