Estimates says 47.5 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines globally over Christmas and New Year's. It's the most wonderful time of the year—well, everywhere but at the airport.
Chaotic holiday travel is rapidly descending upon us, and if the record-breaking 26 million travelers that took to the sky during Thanksgiving week this year are any indication, it's time to calculate a game plan for navigating airport terminals, securing your overhead bin space, and getting through the crush of humanity in the security line. The best way to do that? Know the busiest travel days in advance.
While some holiday travel patterns can be quite consistent, some of this year's peak travel days have shifted, given that December 25 falls on a Wednesday.
No matter what days you plan to fly during the holiday rush, follow the standard advice of arriving at the airport earlier than usual (at least two hours before departure for a domestic flight, especially if you are checking bags). Another way to streamline your holiday airport experience: remove any food from carry-ons along with standard items like toiletries and laptops to help the Travel Security Administration officers get a clearer look at your bag, which will keep you moving to the gate faster.
And of course, enrolling in known traveler programs like TSA PreCheck or Clear is especially valuable during the peak holiday season, as you'll be able to take fewer items out of your bag and zoom by some of the worst security wait times. (P.S., Clear doesn't require an appointment like TSA PreCheck, so you can breeze through enrollment in about five minutes at the airport.)
Here are all the days to avoid travel, some key statistics, and the best days to avoid airport pandemonium and keep your holiday cheer in tact.