7 Days You’ll Want to Avoid Flying This Holiday Season

Be sure to allow plenty of time to get through check-in and security!

Side view of multiracial people standing in queue to check in in airport hallPressmaster/Shutterstock

For most of us, the holidays mean getting to spend some quality time with family and friends. It’s just the getting there part that can sometimes be a hassle.

How much of a hassle? The TSA anticipates that 25 million people will be traveling in the United States this Thanksgiving season alone. That’s up 7 percent from 2017—this year is expected to be the busiest holiday travel season ever.

While we don’t know exactly how 2018’s holiday season is going to play out yet, some data from last year can give you a sense of when you might want to avoid the airport. The overall busiest day to fly last year in most airports was the Friday before Thanksgiving: November 17, according to AirHelp, a passengers’ rights company. Find out the 14 holiday travel tips airlines don’t want you to know.

Airports remained busy during the week of Thanksgiving when more than 153,000 flights departed in the United States between the Tuesday before Turkey Day and the Monday following the holiday.

The absolute worst day to fly during that time frame around Thanksgiving, based on last year’s data? The Sunday after the holiday. Not surprisingly, flights that took off early in the day—between 6 a.m. and 11:59 a.m.—were less likely to be delayed. These are the best and worst airports for holiday travel.

Here’s a breakdown of the flight routes that experienced the most disruptions:

1. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) → San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

2. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) → Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

3. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) → San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

4. San Diego International Airport (SAN) → San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

5. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) → San Diego International Airport (SAN)

6. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) → Orlando International Airport (MCO)

7. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) → Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS)

8. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) → Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

9. Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) → San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

10. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) → New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

Interestingly, though, Christmas and New Year’s were a different story last year. The busiest travel days between Thursday, December 21, 2017, and Tuesday, January 2, 2018, varied widely, according to AirHelp. Here’s the breakdown from top airports around the country:

1. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL): December 29, 2017

2. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD): December 22, 2017

3. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX): January 2, 2018

4. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW): January 2, 2018

5. Denver International Airport (DEN): December 22, 2017

6. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT): December 27, 2017

7. Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH): December 29, 2017

8. San Francisco International Airport (SFO): December 22, 2017

9. New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): December 21, 2017

10. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR): December 22, 2017

So if you’ll be flying this holiday season, be sure to get to the airport early and bring plenty of things to read. Next, here are 68 travel secrets that guarantee you a stress-free trip.

Popular Videos

Jen McCaffery
Jen McCaffery is an associate editor for Reader’s Digest. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Prevention, Rhode Island Monthly, and other publications and websites. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s growing veggies or trying to figure out the way home from assorted trails.