Skip the crowds with these helpful tips.
Christmas is quickly approaching, which means holiday travel will soon be at its peak. If you’re planning to see your far-away friends or family in December, you can expect crowded airports and flights on your way to your destination. As you plan your itinerary, keep in mind the busiest travel days for Christmas 2021, whether you fly, drive, or take a train, according to travel experts, so you can book smarter.
Traveling during the holidays is stressful, but you can make it a whole lot easier when you plan ahead. Before you start any travel plans, keep in mind holiday guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of Dec. 9. According to the CDC, you should get the COVID-19 vaccine and delay travel until you are fully vaccinated as well as wear a face mask throughout all phases of your travel and where it’s required. Additionally, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a Dec. 1 White House press briefing that anyone eligible for a booster should get one. “Get boosted if you’ve been vaccinated for more than six months with an mRNA or two months with J&J,” Dr. Fauci said.
Once you’ve settled on travel plans, the next step is making sure it’s as easy as possible. With an influx of travelers taking to the skies, roads, and railways, steering clear of the crowds is likely your No. 1 priority. Elite Daily reached out to travel experts to get the lowdown on which days you should absolutely avoid during Christmas 2021 travel — and which ones won’t give you an unwanted holiday headache.
Busiest Travel Days For Flying
Anna Brown, PR Manager for Expedia, tells Elite Daily the busiest travel day for Christmas 2021 will be Thursday, Dec. 23, according to flight demand. The second busiest day is shaping up to be Friday, Dec. 17.
Luckily, Brown also shared the least busy days to travel near Christmas to hopefully avoid crowds: Tuesday, Dec. 21, and New year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2022, are your best bets.
If you haven’t booked your flight yet, take a cue from Lisa Farbstein, a spokesperson for Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Strategic Communications and Public Affairs department, who has advice about how to avoid typical airport rush hours. “To avoid crowds, book a flight outside the typical airport rush hours, which are usually from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m,” Farbstein says.
“The busiest time to fly for Christmas really depends on when the holiday falls,” says Matt Clarke, Vice President of North America Marketing at online travel agency KAYAK. “For example, in 2019, the busiest day for domestic travel was Saturday, Dec. 21, whereas last year it was Wednesday, Dec. 23, given [that] Christmas fell on a Friday.” KAYAK’s historical booking data for international travel marks the Friday before Christmas as the busiest day to fly, which is Dec. 24 this year.
Farbstein adds that Christmas Day, Dec. 25, will be the least crowded travel day.
The TSA is predicting heavy holiday travel volume for 2021. Over the 10-day Thanksgiving 2021 holiday period, TSA screened “just under 21 million travelers,” which was more than double the 9.5 million people screened during the same 10-day period in 2020. With that, Farbstein recommends travelers “get to the airport early, wear a mask and make sure you know what is in your carry-on bag, which means that you don’t have anything prohibited at the checkpoint.”
If you haven’t booked your flight yet, Clarke recommends doing so ASAP — the best rates for the holiday season pop up two to four weeks in advance of the holiday.
Busiest Travel Days For Driving
Driving to your Christmas destination doesn’t mean avoiding crowds altogether, but you can plan your way to a smooth road trip. According to AAA’s 2021 Year-End Travel Forecast, “More than 109 million people — an almost 34% increase from 2020 — will travel 50 miles or more as they hit the road, board airplanes, or take other transportation out of town between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2.”
Because of the high number of travelers, Ellen Edmonds, the Manager of AAA’s Public Relations department, recommends you book any flights, accommodations, or car rentals as early as possible. The company also partnered with INRIX, a leader in transportation analytics, to confirm which days are stacking up to be the busiest for road travel.
Based on their collected data, the least busy driving days will likely be Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2021, and New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2022. If you plan to travel in the days leading up to Christmas, the busiest driving times will be between noon and 8 p.m. local time on Dec. 23 and between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. local time on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24. The roads will be the least crowded after 7 p.m. on Dec. 23 and before 1 p.m. on Dec. 24. If you plan to drive anytime between Dec. 26 and Dec. 31, it’s best to hit the road sometime before 11 a.m. or noon local time.
Busiest Travel Days By Train
Marc Magliari, PR manager for Amtrak Government Affairs and Corporate Communications, says Amtrak’s busiest days, based trending ticket sales, will be from Friday, Dec. 17 to Saturday, Dec. 19, as well as Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022.
Avoiding crowds entirely might not be possible, but you can plan to stay home on the busiest days, if you’re able, to avoid the worst of it.
The CDC recommends traveling only after you’re fully vaccinated and your vaccine has become fully effective. If you’re not fully vaccinated and must travel, check the CDC guidelines before you book. Check your destination’s vaccination and testing requirements before you depart.
Anna Brown, PR Manager for Expedia
Matt Clarke, Vice President of North America Marketing at online travel agency KAYAK
Lisa Farbstein, Spokesperson for Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Strategic Communications and Public Affairs department
Marc Magliari, PR Manager (Spokesman) for Amtrak Government Affairs & Corporate Communications