With the joy, food, and travel headaches of Thanksgiving behind us, you may feel absolutely certain that Thanksgiving weekend is the absolute worst time to travel all year long.
Well, the good news is you’re not entirely wrong. Thanksgiving is actually a bigger holiday travel period than Christmas and New Year’s. According to the United States Department of Transportation’s holiday travel statistics, travel to a destination 50 miles or more away increases by 54% over Thanksgiving weekend and only by 23% during Christmas and New Year’s.
You might be surprised to learn, though, that there actually several Friday during the summer when the airports and roads are even busier than they are during the holidays. Memorial Day weekend, for example, kicks off the summer travel season, and it seems like virtually everyone takes advantage.
But let’s focus on the holidays. The US Department of Transportation has found that more people travel on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving then travel on the actual day. Following the holiday, travelers tend to be pretty equally dispersed between Friday, Saturday, and Sunday travel.
However, people who travel by car to a destination between 50 and 99 miles away are more likely to travel on Thursday morning. Most of those same travelers will return home on Saturday.
Christmas and New Year’s are a little bit different. With Thanksgiving, we get the dependability of a Thursday holiday. But Christmas and New Year’s can fall on any day of the week. This year, Christmas falls on a Friday, which likely means that holiday travelers will be dispersed throughout the week days leading up to Christmas. And you can expect the drive or flight home on Sunday to be incredibly slow and torturous. (Sorry.) Try to head home on Monday or Tuesday, if you can.
Interestingly, over 99% of long-distance trips during Thanksgiving are two destinations in the United States. Christmas and New Year’s, however, the number drops to 97%. The US Department of Transportation found that people tend to travel farther and stay an extra day (an average of four nights rather than three) over Christmas and New Year’s compared to Thanksgiving.
As you try to figure out the best holiday travel strategy for you and yours this season, here’s one nice stats to keep in mind:
During most of the year, visits to see friends and family are the primary reason for about 24% of long-distance trips in America. During Christmas, that number goes up to 43%, and at Thanksgiving, it goes up to 53%.
So from all of us here at Swift, we hope you remember what the holidays are all about and that you enjoy safe travels home this season.
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.