Busy winter traffic

Thanksgiving and the year-end holiday are among the busiest times of year to take to the air and the roadways. But what other days of the year create travel chaos?

Busiest Travel Periods of the Year

Check out our list of busiest travel days in the US and read up on what you can do to avoid travel issues.

  • Thanksgiving
  • Festive Holidays
  • New Year
  • Spring Break

If you’re thinking of traveling on any of these occasions ensure you’re well prepared just in case you get stuck in heavy traffic or suffer a breakdown, and give yourself adequate time so that you can take any issues that confront you in your stride.

Busy travel days are likely to make your trip longer. If you are driving, you will encounter more traffic delays on the roadways. If you are flying, forget about the luxury of an empty seat beside you where you can normally spread out your belongings. In fact, you may discover that because the airline overbooked, you don’t even have a seat of your own. Also, due to tight scheduling, a flight cancellation or delay causes more missed connections and fewer options for a quick fix.

Of course, one way to reduce stress is to plan ahead and pre book your airport parking. One less item to worry about!

Thanksgiving Travel

The busiest travel days of the year vary depending on the occasion, and several key events consistently draw crowds across the globe. In the United States, Thanksgiving stands out as a prime travel period, with the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after being the pinnacle days for air travel according to TSA.

Families journey far and wide to reunite and give thanks, contributing to congested airports and highways. If you’ve got a long journey ahead of you this holiday season, be sure to note down the best ways to avoid travel anxiety during Thanksgiving and reduce stress by checking our Thanksgiving travel checklist.

The Research and Innovative Technology Administration reports that 91 percent of holiday travelers who have more than 100 miles ahead of them opt to cover the distance by car. Just 5 percent take flights and the remainder choose bus, train or sea transport.

More drivers with less than 50 miles to cover hit the road on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the holiday week. Those driving more than 100 miles for a turkey dinner are equally likely to choose any day from Tuesday through Sunday of Thanksgiving week for their travels. Americans who take other modes of transportation, including air and rail, more often opt to get started on the Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday. The following Sunday is the most popular day to return home.

Winter Holiday Travel

However, winter holiday travel can be even more hectic, with college students, families with children and elderly people all en-route to the homes of family and friends through the worst weather of the year. Even though airlines actually have a better track record for on-time flights during the year-end holiday season, those flight delays that do occur may affect your holiday plans more seriously, causing you to miss out on some of the festivities of the season.

Christmas and New Year’s celebrations trigger a surge in travel. The days leading up to and immediately following these holidays see masses of individuals crisscrossing the country to visit family, exchange gifts, or ring in the New Year.

The busiest travel days during December depend upon the calendar. If the holiday falls early in the week, for example, most people set off on the prior weekend. The least busy days to hit the road or the skies in December are between 16 through 20, while those days that promise to be most congested are the few days leading up to Christmas Day and those that fall just after with people either on their way to visit friends and family for New Year celebrations or making sure they get home in time to see in the New Year.

Spring Break Travel

For students and sun-seekers, Spring Break in March and April translates to crowded beaches and vacation spots. The Golden State of California is a popular location with LAX projecting around 12 million vacationers during March and April in 2023. So be sure to pre-book your parking at LAX to avoid disappointment and stress!

Meanwhile, Easter weekend lures travelers with an extended break, making the Friday and Monday around Easter a peak period for holiday trips.

Event Travel

The summer vacation months, spanning from late June to early September, see an annual influx of tourists. Globally, events like the Super Bowl and national celebrations, including the Fourth of July in the United States, also bring out the travel enthusiasts, fostering an atmosphere of bustling airports and highways as people gather to witness their favorite sports or commemorate their nation’s pride. These occasions show the importance of careful planning and preparation when navigating the busiest travel days of the year.

Strategies for Simpler Holiday Travel

The best strategy for simplifying your winter holiday trip is advance planning. Many people shop for holiday tickets prior to Labor Day to get the prices and the schedules they prefer. You also have the best selection of accommodations and rental cars by reserving them well in advance of the holiday season.

However, even if your plans gel at the last minute this year, you may still have some leverage to make your trip less costly and hectic. One way to get where you need to go despite full holiday flights is to try an alternative airport. For example, if you cannot find a flight to Seattle on Dec. 23, try flying into Portland, Oregon, and rent a car to complete your journey on time.

To avoid overnight schedule delays, leave early in the morning. This holds true both for auto and air travel. If you are driving, you will find the interstate less crowded in the predawn hours. If you are flying, you will have more time to get on an alternative flight should yours be delayed or canceled due to weather.

Plan ahead, make sure your car is serviced, fill it up before you go and if you’re flying make sure to pre book airport parking to get the best spot. And above all, have a safe journey!

Image credits:
Photo by Sanjeev Kugan on Unsplash