The best days to fly around Thanksgiving in 2023

By Sally French | NerdWallet

Thanksgiving week tends to attract main airport crowds, and matched with inevitable climate delays, it may be a brutal time to journey. Not to say, the standard knowledge to fly on Tuesdays received’t essentially prevent a lot cash.

But some days inside Thanksgiving week are considerably busier than others. If you possibly can afford to be versatile with scheduling, you’ll not solely lower your expenses, however you may also keep away from chaos.

The greatest and worst days to fly round Thanksgiving

NerdWallet analyzed the previous 4 years of checkpoint journey numbers offered by the Transportation Security Administration, which tracks the variety of passengers screened every day within the U.S. at its checkpoints.

In every of the previous 4 years, the Sunday after Thanksgiving was probably the most crowded day to journey from the seven days earlier than and after Thanksgiving.

As far because the least crowded? Thanksgiving Day itself.

When averaging over the previous 4 years, right here had been probably the most to least crowded days for Thanksgiving flying:

  1. Sunday after Thanksgiving (most crowded).
  2. Wednesday earlier than Thanksgiving.
  3. Friday earlier than.
  4. Monday after (Cyber Monday).
  5. Saturday after.
  6. Sunday earlier than.
  7. Tuesday earlier than.
  8. Thursday earlier than.
  9. Monday earlier than.
  10. Saturday earlier than.
  11. Thursday after.
  12. Tuesday after (Giving Tuesday).
  13. Friday after (Black Friday).
  14. Wednesday after.
  15. Thanksgiving Day (least crowded).

When damaged out by pre- and post-holiday journey, listed here are the three least-crowded days to journey ranked from least to most crowded. Because they’re much less crowded and sure cheaper, it makes them a number of the greatest days to fly round Thanksgiving.


  • Saturday earlier than (least crowded).
  • Monday earlier than.
  • Thursday earlier than.


  • Wednesday after (least crowded).
  • Black Friday.
  • Tuesday after.

Why flying the Sunday after Thanksgiving is so horrible

By nearly all metrics, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is just about the worst day of the 12 months to fly. In 2019, 2021 and 2022, it was the busiest single day of the whole 12 months when it comes to U.S. passengers, primarily based on TSA passenger information.

(The post-Thanksgiving Sunday wasn’t the busiest day of the 12 months in 2020 as a result of, properly, you realize why. The most-crowded-day award in 2020 went to Friday, Feb. 14, which preceded the Presidents Day weekend and pandemic-related journey restrictions.)

Here’s a breakdown of the variety of folks flying on Thanksgiving Day versus the Sunday after Thanksgiving in three current years:

For each 100 individuals who had been flying on Thanksgiving Day 2022, there have been 183 folks flying on the Sunday after.

The smarter, cheaper Thanksgiving weekend itinerary

If you’re employed a normal Monday-Friday workweek, with two days off for the vacation, then leaving Wednesday after work and flying residence Sunday night time may make sense. That’s the schedule most individuals comply with to keep away from taking further time without work, and when you take part, then you definitely’ll pay — each when it comes to value and crowds.

Beyond crowds, count on to pay huge this 12 months. Sure, common airfares are literally cheaper this 12 months versus final (and are even cheaper this 12 months versus pre-pandemic), with common airfares for the primary six months of 2023 down 7.2% versus the identical interval in 2022, in accordance with a NerdWallet evaluation of client worth index information launched by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

But airfares can nonetheless really feel extremely excessive. That’s for a number of causes, together with that primary financial system seats have lowered general costs. But for folk who find yourself paying a la carte for advantages that had been usually included up to now (e.g., checked baggage or the flexibility to pick your seat), the full value can find yourself generally dearer given all these ancillary charges.

So how are you going to select a greater Thanksgiving journey itinerary to economize? Avoid the Wednesday-Sunday itinerary and check out these journey days as an alternative.

Travel on Thanksgiving Day

Across journey days for the week earlier than and after Thanksgiving, the vacation was the lowest-traffic day yearly over the previous three years. Book the primary flight out for the day — a observe NerdWallet recommends anyway to scale back your odds of a flight delay — and also you may even land in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Stay longer

If you possibly can prolong your journey, the Wednesday after Thanksgiving is, on common, the second-emptiest day to journey. Especially you probably have the choice of distant work, you may be capable of keep away from taking trip days, regardless of the longer journey.

Fly on Black Friday

If you have to journey in the course of the weekend, contemplate having Thanksgiving dinner at your individual residence, then flying someplace on Black Friday, which is the third-least crowded day to fly on common.

Look at it as an effective way to not solely keep away from airport crowds but in addition retail crowds because you received’t be out buying.

The customary guidelines round the perfect (and worst) days to fly don’t essentially apply. Coupling that with standard knowledge round saving cash on flights, flying for Thanksgiving may not be as painful a proposition as you as soon as thought.