Best and Worst Days to Travel at Christmas

by Jessica

November 11th, 2010

xmasairportLast week we looked at the difficulties surrounding getting a good deal on airfare Thanksgiving, so this week we’re moving onto the other big holiday coming up for many – Christmas. With this first installment, we’re going to go over the best and worst days to travel at Christmas.

Luckily for anyone who has to fly over Christmas, the crush at the airport isn’t as bad as it is at Thanksgiving. Most people get more time off (or just take more time off) over Christmas than the usual couple days they get over Thanksgiving, so there isn’t that one day at the airport when everybody and their brother is trying to get on a plane in order to get somewhere in time for the big turkey feast.

At Christmas, there are certainly days which are busier than others – and the whole couple of weeks around Christmas, which airlines routinely include in their blackout dates every year, tend to also be when ticket prices spike. So even though it’s not as critical to figure out which days are the worst or best days to fly at Christmas, it certainly doesn’t hurt to consult a calendar before you book your trip.

>> In 2012, Christmas falls on a Tuesday

Worst Days to Travel at Christmas

Thanksgiving is on a specific day of the week each year, so it’s much easier to target which days will be bad days to travel to and from the festivities. With Christmas, which is on the same date each December but moves around on the calendar itself, it’s a bit more challenging.

In general, although people tend to take more time off over Christmas than they do at Thanksgiving, enough people are still waiting until the last minute to fly out and rushing back to the office as soon as possible. This means that December 23rd tends to be one of the busiest days at the airport, and December 26th and 27th tend to be busy days for the return leg. For those who are taking a bit more time off, most people travel on weekends – making the Sunday before Christmas and the Saturday/Sunday after the holiday busy, too.

With regard to cost, the days already mentioned are typically some of the most expensive on which to travel, but unfortunately there’s usually a big block over both the Christmas and New Year holidays when air tickets are more expensive than they’ll be two weeks before or after.

With December 25th falling on a Saturday in 2010, some of the worst days to fly at Christmas for this year are December 19th (the Sunday before the holiday, for people who are taking a longer vacation), December 23rd (the Thursday before the holiday, for people who are rushing out at the last minute), and December 26th (the Sunday after the holiday). Monday the 27th will likely also be bad, despite being a Monday, because people won’t want to leave immediately after the big day.

Best Days to Travel at Christmas

When it comes to picking the best days to fly at Christmas, If you can avoid the worst days to fly (detailed above), then that’s a very good start. As mentioned, the whole latter half of December tends to be when airlines raise prices on all kinds of tickets, so the usual budget travel trick of shifting your trip by one or two days in either direction doesn’t work as well as it does at other times of year.

Still, there are some days over Christmas when it’s less expensive to fly than on the worst days to travel, and these are also usually some of the least busy days at the airport as well.

Easily the best day to travel is Christmas day itself, regardless of what year it is – so you’ll find people recommending that you either arrive or depart on December 25th. Prices on airfare drop on the 25th as compared to the days around it, and the airport’s decidedly less crowded. Why? Because everyone’s at home celebrating Christmas on that day, of course – which is why it’s not fun to fly on the 25th, even if it is cheaper.

Alternates to flying either in or out on Christmas day that will still generally save you a little money on your airline ticket are if you fly out either 3-4 days before or even the day before Christmas, and fly back 3-4 days after the holiday.

Looking at the calendar this year, the best days to fly for Christmas 2010 are December 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 28, and 29. Of course, if you really want a bargain, you’ll fly well before the holiday season starts on December 17th or 18th and wait until January 6th or 7th to return. Oh, if only we all had that kind of vacation time…

photo by Moody75

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