Everyone wants to know the best time to fly, even if it’s the middle of February. Is it cheaper to fly on a Tuesday? Will things be quieter if I fly out Friday night instead of Saturday morning? But, there is one time of year when throngs of people are traveling and the “when to fly” question becomes even more important. Christmas time. Really, it starts around Thanksgiving and doesn’t let up until after the New Year…
Holiday travel can be stressful for sure, but hopefully, these tips will keep you a little saner this year.
Thanksgiving is the busiest travel time of the year. Don’t even think of flying on Friday, Nov 16. Historically, the Friday before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days of the year at the airport. Similarly, the Wednesday before and Sunday after are both busy and expensive.
Flying on Thanksgiving day and the day after are your best options (let everyone else trample each other for Black Friday deals). If you don’t think you can do Thanksgiving day, try the Monday before. By then every who is leaving early left over the weekend and the late arrivers aren’t flying out until Wednesday. And if you can’t miss hitting those Black Friday deals, then try flying home on Monday, after everyone else is back at work.
Around Christmas and New Years there is a 17-day window of extreme travel madness. The exact dates will vary based on how the weekends fall in relation to the two holidays themselves.
Christmas falls on a Tuesday this year (2018), so travel will be the busiest Friday, Dec 21 through Monday, Dec 24. If you can grab a flight the Tuesday or Wednesday before, you’ll find the airport a little less crowded and the fares slightly cheaper. Thursday (Dec 27) seems to be the most expensive day to return home right now, so aim for Wednesday or Saturday.
Much like Thanksgiving, if you can fly in or out on Christmas day, you’ll definitely have an advantage in both price and crowds. That can be tougher to swing if you have little ones though.
When to Book
This isn’t one of those times when you want to push for the cheapest fare you can find. Book at least a month in advance and if you see a good deal, snag it ASAP. Don’t let the sales dictate your holiday travel either. Know when you want to be at your destination and stick to that. If you find yourself trying to switch things around, you’ll likely end up with stress worth more than whatever you’re saving on the flight.
Making it Less Stressful
It’s going to be busy, regardless of when you travel during the holidays. So, why not make things a little easier on yourself?
TSA PreCheck – Sign up for TSA PreCheck and you’ll get to go through an expedited security line. No need to remove shoes, jackets, laptops, liquids, or belts.
Global Entry – If you’re flying internationally, Global Entry will speed up your trip through customs when you return home. No processing lines, no paperwork to fill out, shorter wait times…
Mobile Passport – It’s not as comprehensive as Global Entry, but it also doesn’t cost you a dime. Mobile Passport is an app that allows you to enter your personal and trip info on your phone and submit it to Customs and Border Patrol wireless-ly (and paperless-ly). Then you hop in the Mobile Passport line, show the agent your passport and the barcode on your app, and breeze through.
I hope these tips help you with your holiday travel this year. And, if you need a hand, that’s exactly what travel agents are here for!