Fridays are the most busy days of the week, while Tuesdays are the quietest. However, this trend does not hold true during holidays.

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Sunday following Thanksgiving is the busiest day for U.S. airlines in most years. This agency tracks the number of passengers that are screened each day. The airports draw large crowds two days before Christmas and one full day before Thanksgiving.

This is a list of the best and worst times to fly during winter holidays. It also shows how to plan your schedule to avoid crowds and save cash.

Thanksgiving is the busiest time to fly

Airport crowds are often harrowing on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. According to TSA, for every 100 people who flew Thanksgiving Day 2021 there were 177 people who flew out the following day.

The Sunday that was also the busiest day at an airport in 2019 and 2021 was the same Sunday. Before the widespread impact COVID-19 which would decrease holiday travel later in 2019, the busiest days in 2020 were concentrated in January and Februar.

This is a look at Thanksgiving Week over the past three year, ranked by most to least air travelers at TSA’s U.S checkpoints:

Thanksgiving is the busiest day to fly

  1. Sunday after Thanksgiving (most packed).

  2. Wednesday before.

  3. Saturday after.

  4. Friday before.

  5. Monday after Cyber Monday.

  6. Sunday before.

  7. Tuesday before.

  8. Monday before.

  9. Saturday before.

  10. Tuesday after Giving Tuesday.

  11. Friday (Black Friday)

  12. Wednesday after.

  13. Thanksgiving Day (least crowd).

If past trends continue, Sunday Nov. 27 will be the busiest day for travel around Thanksgiving. Wednesday Nov. 23 will follow. Even if you fly one day earlier than the largest crowds, Saturday will likely still be busy.

This year’s crowds are likely to be larger than in the past two years.

“Thanksgiving travel volumes look similar to what was seen in 2019 pre-pandemic,” says Hayley Berg (lead economist at Hopper), travel booking app.

Christmas is the busiest time to fly

Christmas crowds are harder to predict than Thanksgiving crowds, because each holiday falls on a different day of the week and air travel patterns are often determined by the workweek.

The days immediately following Christmas are extremely popular, just like the Sunday after Thanksgiving draws huge crowds. As with Thanksgiving Day, very few people travel to New Year’s Day.

This is a look at Christmas, and seven dates in the calendar before and after, over the past three year, ranked by the most to least average air traveler based on TSA data:


  1. Dec. 27 (most crowded).

  2. Jan. 1 (New Year’s Day).

  3. Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve).

  4. Dec. 31 (New Year’s Eve).

  5. Dec. 25 (Christmas Day) (least crowded).

2022 will have a different holiday season because Hanukkah (which begins on the 25th Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar) aligns closely with Christmas. The eight-day celebration can sometimes take place in November or early December. However, this year it starts on Dec. 18th and continues through Dec. 26th.

Kwanzaa is also celebrated for a week, from December 26 to January 1. This means that travelers might not only celebrate Christmas but also be attracting more holiday people to airports than they do in other years.

It’s also worth noting that Dec. 23, the day before Christmas Eve, is the busiest day of the year. This year, it falls on a Friday. You’ll remember that Friday is the busiest day of any week. Although Dec. 23 is not a holiday, many holiday travelers might leave that day.

How can you choose less crowded and cheaper travel days

It is possible to travel on your holiday without having to deal with crowds. You might be able to catch the first flight for the day and arrive on time for the evening celebrations. To reduce the chance of delays, it is a good idea to fly early. According to Bureau of Transportation Statistics data, 7.3% of flights were delayed due to late arrivals in the first eight months of 2022.

It is possible to take days off work, or work remotely.

According to Expedia flight data, travelers can save 15% by leaving on the first half the week and not the Thursday or Friday before Christmas. Expedia also discovered that Wednesday departures are 15% more expensive than those departing on Mondays before Thanksgiving.

You could also celebrate something like un-Thanksgiving. This means that the family’s dinner is moved up by a few days or weeks. Turkey, potatoes, and pumpkin pie do not need to be reserved for Thursdays in November.

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