What Are the Worst Days to Travel?

With Thanksgiving approaching, our contributor decided to find out what days really are the worst to be traveling on

Flickr/lunchtimemama
Avoiding crowded airports around Thanksgiving and Christmas is a tough challenge.

While traveling may never be 100 percent stress-free, you can improve the odds by avoiding some of the worst travel days of the year. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, as many of our favorite holidays are precisely the days when traffic jams and crowded airports are common. As you’d expect, one of the biggest food holidays of the year, Thanksgiving, is also topping the list of the worst days to travel.

Travel expert Jim Grace, who heads up the travel insurance comparison website InsureMyTrip, says to avoid peak travel times when possible. "Our statistics show more people always seem to travel around the major holidays," he says. "This is also the time when airline prices go up — and inevitably — longer lines at airport security checkpoints. The first Monday coming off a holiday weekend, for example, is generally much busier at airports and roadways."

Post-holiday Mondays are always busy; according AAA. The 2013 Labor Day holiday, for example, had its largest share of travelers (46 percent) depart on Friday, Aug. 30. Monday, Sept. 2 was the most popular date of return. The positive economic outlook gave travel overall a boost, with more than 2.61 million leisure travelers (8 percent) arriving at their destination by air, a slight increase (2.8 percent) from last year’s 2.54 million air travelers.

But Thanksgiving and Christmas time are the most hectic times of the year, when airfare soars and traffic and delays are at their worst. Travel experts predict the worst days to travel in 2013 are:

  • November 24, 28
  • December 24, 27, 31
  • January 2, 3 (Year 2014)

The good news? The advance of technology can help offset some of the hassle around traveling during these peak times. According to Priceline, mobile-equipped travelers have the upper hand by booking the best rates on the fly, checking flight delays, and even bypassing traffic tie-ups while driving to-and-from a trip destination. 

And if you must travel during these times, you may want some extra protection against trip delays and cancellations. Grace advises travelers to seek advice from licensed insurance agents. Travel insurance is a small price to pay for peace of mind. For those who can put their trip plans on hold, departing on a Wednesday will most likely bring in the lowest-priced airfares.


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