These Will Be the Busiest Days to Travel This Holiday Season

New data is also predicting which days will be the least busy at airports this year.

All conventional travel wisdom really flies out the window when it comes to the holidays. Simple advice like "weekday travel is less busy than weekend travel" doesn't apply when major holidays fall on random Tuesdays, Sundays, or Mondays (as is the case with Christmas this year). So, using conventional planning won't cut it if you want to avoid major holiday travel congestion. This year, 84% of Americans are expected to travel for either Thanksgiving or Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa.

NerdWallet has studied data from the TSA to determine which days will be the most and least busy for 2023 holiday travel. These are the 10 busiest travel days of the last four years around Thanksgiving based on its analysis, ranked:
1. Sunday after Thanksgiving
2. Wednesday before Thanksgiving
3. Friday before Thanksgiving
4. Monday after Thanksgiving
5. Saturday after Thanksgiving
6. Sunday before Thanksgiving
7. Tuesday before Thanksgiving
8. Thursday before Thanksgiving
9. Monday before Thanksgiving
10. Saturday before Thanksgiving

The five least busiest days to travel around Thanksgiving are:
1. Thanksgiving Day (Thursday)
2. Wednesday after Thanksgiving
3. Friday after Thanksgiving (Black Friday)
4. Tuesday after Thanksgiving (Giving Tuesday)
5. Thursday after Thanksgiving

For 2023, that means that Sunday, November 26 will be the busiest travel day and flying on November 23, Thanksgiving Day, will be the least busy. "To avoid crowds and save money, consider skipping the busy days and book your flights on one of the slower ones," NerdWallet's study suggests.

Christmas travel data is more date-specific, because travel dates aren't tied to specific days of the week, and instead the actual dates of the holidays. These were the 10 busiest dates, ranked:
1. December 27
2. December 30
3. December 20
4. December 26
5. December 23
6. December 22
7. December 19
8. December 21
9. December 29
10. December 28

The least busy days to travel for Christmas are:
1. December 25 (Christmas Day)
2. December 24 (Christmas Eve)
3. December 31 (New Year's Eve)
4. January 1 (New Year's Day)
5. December 18

This year, the weeklong celebration of Kwanzaa begins December 26 and goes through January 1, and Hanukkah runs between December 7 through December 15. That means there will be less overlap for Hanukkah and Christmas travel this year, while people traveling for Kwanzaa may be able to avoid Christmas holiday congestion if they travel on the day or Christmas and after January 1. Otherwise, there’s a high likelihood that you'll encounter congestion in either direction.

No matter which holidays you are planning on traveling for, you can anticipate that they will be busier this year compared to 2022. TSA data shows that for 2023 holidays so far, air travel has surpassed 2022 and has set records. That is unlikely to change for the biggest holidays of the year.

For even more data to inform your 2023 holiday travel plans, check out the cheapest days to book holiday travel.

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. She holds a bachelor's and master's degree in Journalism from NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She's worked in digital media for seven years, and before working at Thrillist, she wrote for Mic, The Cut, The Fader, Vice, and other publications. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.