With the scariest night of the year now behind us and the countdown to your Turkey Day feast fast approaching, it's officially crunch time to start planning for all the holiday travel that's coming up, whether you're flying or driving. Considering that the time around Thanksgiving Day is widely touted as the most-traveled period of the year, you'll want to take note of the busiest travel days for Thanksgiving 2018 to avoid traffic jams and delayed flights, all of which could potentially contribute to you missing out on the turkey spread that awaits you.
According to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, you'd be better off packing up and leaving for your destination a day or two early if you're driving to your Turkey Day celebration, especially as a record number of Americans are expected to drive for the holidays. Per the BTS, you're likely to encounter the worst traffic driving to your location on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22 this year) and driving back either on the Friday or Saturday after (Nov. 23 and Nov. 24). In this case, spending some extra time with your relatives might mean serious savings on time spent waiting in a gridlock, so you might want to consider for planning your travels for the least busy days that week: Tuesday and Sunday, according to BTS.
If you're flying out, however, traveling on Thanksgiving is actually a less busy option compared to the surrounding dates. Trends over the past few years have shown that the Wednesday right before Thanksgiving (in this case, Nov. 21) is the busiest and most expensive day to fly to your destination while the Sunday after Turkey Day (Nov. 25) is the worst day to fly back if you're trying to beat long lines at the airport. Per Google Flights' reports from 2017, the Friday before Thanksgiving is also a popular travel date for people looking to take advantage of the long weekend before the festivities commence the next week. If you think about it, these busy dates make perfect sense considering that most companies only give their employees that Thursday and Friday off, and many people want to make it back to the office without having to use any of their vacation days.
Considering that the BTS found that flying out on the Monday and Tuesday after Thanksgiving were just as busy and expensive as heading back to the office on Sunday, sacrificing a few vacation days to get back home on Wednesday might be well worth your while. Plus, according to USA Today, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving this year (Nov. 20) might be an equally busy option, so it could make sense to try to fly out on the previous Monday or Thanksgiving Day itself, which tends to have less delayed and cancelled flights than the days surrounding it, according to INSIDER. While heading to the airport on Thanksgiving Day long after everyone else is already "OOO" might seem like the less-appealing option in the moment, you'll potentially be beating sky-high fares, delayed or cancelled flights, and the longest lines of the year — all while making it home in time to catch the delicious Thanksgiving spread and the football game.
Whether you're road-tripping your way to a turkey feast or planning to fly in for the holiday, I'd make sure to weigh the pros and cons of your travel dates as well as keep an eye out for when you can score the best Thanksgiving fares.