Most weeks of the year, Fridays are the busiest days to fly, and Tuesdays are the least busy. But during the holidays, that trend doesn’t necessarily hold true.
In most years, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is actually the busiest travel day for U.S. airports, according to the Transportation Security Administration, which tracks the numbers of passengers screened daily. Two days before Christmas and one day before Thanksgiving also tend to draw big airport crowds.
Here’s a breakdown of the best and worst days to fly during the winter holidays, and how you can strategize schedules to avoid crowds and save money.
THE BUSIEST DAYS TO FLY AROUND THANKSGIVING
The Sunday after Thanksgiving is brutal for airport crowds. For every 100 people who flew on Thanksgiving Day 2021, there were 177 people flying out on the Sunday after, according to TSA.
That same Sunday was the year’s single busiest airport travel day in both 2019 and 2021. In 2020, the busiest days were largely concentrated in January and February, before the widespread impact of COVID-19, which would reduce holiday travel later in the year.
Here’s a look at the days surrounding Thanksgiving week over the past three years, ranked in order of most to fewest air travelers at the TSA’s U.S. checkpoints:
— Sunday after Thanksgiving (most crowded).
— Wednesday before.
— Saturday after.
— Friday before.
— Monday after (Cyber Monday).
— Sunday before.
— Tuesday before.
— Monday before.
— Saturday before.
— Tuesday after (Giving Tuesday).
— Friday after (Black Friday).
— Wednesday after.
— Thanksgiving Day (least crowded).
Assuming past trends continue in 2022, expect Sunday, Nov. 27, to be the busiest travel day around Thanksgiving, followed by Wednesday, Nov. 23. Even if you fly out one day ahead of the biggest crowds, Saturday, Nov. 26, will also…