Travelling during the holidays can be a headache, to say the least. One of the most difficult aspects for travellers is having to deal with airport traffic and all the delays that come with it. To avoid this hassle, many vacationers choose to avoid travelling during the holidays, which can result in missed out opportunities for family and friends. So, there is an opportunity cost when it comes to staying put and having peace of mind spending time with loved ones.
As you make your travel plans and weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each travel season, here is a list of the busiest travel days of the year to help with your vacation planning.
1. Thanksgiving Day (USA)
Nearly 50 million Americans travelled more than 50 miles on Thanksgiving. On Turkey Day, air travel is at its slowest between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., with the potential of delays lasting up to 30 minutes. Additionally, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is typically the busiest road traffic day of the year. With the increase in traffic and a decrease in patience, there tend to be more accidents. So, plan additional time, take a deep breath, and put your defensive driving cap on. Remember the 3 second rule.
2. The 4th of July (USA) – Independence Day
Due to the long weekend and official national holidays, airports are especially congested and it is not uncommon for some flights to be delayed by three hours or more. Keep in mind that travelling by train can be extremely busy, as many people travel to destination cities to see the fireworks and attend parties.
3. Christmas Eve (Worldwide)
In 2019, 119.3 million Americans travelled between December 23rd and January 2nd.. With all the last-minute shoppers, passenger drop-offs, and pick-ups, holiday traffic can make this day a nightmare for anyone. The late-night traffic on routes that are close to airports may end up causing delays with multiple small aircraft making their way into the airport during this busy time. Since the evening before is a busy time for air travel, most airlines will release their schedules earlier than usual. Many businesses and schools close, and people take flights home to visit family, so expect traffic to be at its slowest between noon and 3:00 p.m., with potential delays lasting up to 30 minutes.
4. New Year’s Eve (Worldwide)
As with Christmas Eve, this night is also extremely busy, with delays potentially last for up to an hour or more during peak traffic times. This is due to the last-minute nature of travellers trying to make it to their party destinations. There are also a higher number of auto accidents on the road, leading to heavier traffic in places. The most efficient way to get around during this time is by train and bus, as many people will drive to their destinations if possible. The most popular fireworks show is in Times Square, New York City where lines will be long, however, the crowds are fun and festive. As with the other two holidays, most airlines will release their schedules earlier than usual.
5. Valentine’s Day (Worldwide)
Unfortunately, February travel isn’t as laidback as it would seem. Many are not aware that many major airlines have cut back on flights and have cancelled or delayed flights on this day due to financial losses. This is due to a lack of demand and people holding off because they feel travel may be cheaper during the holiday season.
Due to the high number of travellers on this night, flights are delayed or cancelled, often leaving travellers waiting in unfamiliar places for hours.
5. Victoria Day (Canada)
As with other holiday weekends, Victoria Day sees travel from around the world, and it is not uncommon for delays to last four hours or more. Expect heavy traffic jams starting in the morning for travellers heading east toward the United States. To make the most of the long weekend, most people vacation at beaches or other destinations which means delays are common until the afternoon.
6. Friday before Memorial Day (USA) – Traffic is heavy;
Daytime traffic on the Friday before Memorial Day can last up to an hour or more. It may not seem like much, but when travelling with small children, this is quite a hassle. The rest of the day is free of delays, as long as there aren’t any major incidents that would require a traveller’s attention. It’s a busy day for travel, but with preparation, it can be a nice experience.
7. Labor Day (USA)
This holiday weekend is mostly remembered for being the last opportunity to go have fun in the sun before school starts up again. For travellers, this is a nightmare, as airports are particularly congested and delays are common as everyone tries to get home at the last minute. The big cities get even busier with long lines at the airport and traffic jams for those arriving in destination cities.
8. St. Patrick’s Day (USA)
This is a very popular holiday for travellers, as it is a national holiday in many countries across the world. With traffic starting to flow after midnight, finding parking can be extremely difficult on the road or even on the airport property, especially at locations close to airports. The rest of the day is relatively quiet with no major delays expected.
9. New Year’s Day (Worldwide)
Due to the day being a holiday for most of the world, travel around the world is not as heavy as other holidays, however, there can be backups on the ground and in the sky depending on the weather and actual travel times.
Knowing when the major holidays are can help you plan your trip well in advance by knowing the busiest days and being prepared for them. Being prepared can help you to avoid delays and cancellations, and save you time in general. Busy times require you to get there early, check in, and plan where you are going and how are you going to get there. Be flexible during busy periods. Try to allow for an extra day before or after major travel days to avoid rushing and paying extra.