Thanksgiving Travel Anti-Calendar: Worst Drive and Fly Times in the USA

Nov 18, 2017

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When’s the best time to travel during Thanksgiving break? Answer: When everyone else isn’t.

With that in mind, we aggregated data from multiple sources to show you the absolute worst day and time to fly and drive in 10 major metropolitan areas. Think that the “worst times” must be the same for everyone everywhere in the United States — as in the days before and after Thanksgiving? Not really.

If you look at the busiest times to be in an airport, according to airfare-prediction app Hopper, you’ll see that in Atlanta, regardless of day, the worst time is always 8:40am. And yet in Houston, it’s 2:00pm. And for New York City it’s 5:30pm. Quite a difference. 

A similar lack of consistency appears when you look at the worst times to be driving on the road according to AAA. While there are no bad morning times, things get hairy from 3:15 to 6:00pm on Wednesday in Los Angeles, but the window of awfulness is shorter in San Francisco, where worst drive time is between 4 and 5:45pm on Tuesday.

Now, we know that most people have already purchased their flight home or arranged a carpool, so it may be difficult to change plans. But crowds can be avoided — and 2017 will be one for the record books. The folks at AAA say that this will be the busiest travel time in the last 12 years, with nearly 51 million Americans transiting throughout the country. Congested airports usually mean delays, so make sure you’re equipped with a credit card that covers flight or baggage delaysIf nothing else, you can consult the chart below just to see how screwed you may be.

City Worst Airport Time Worst Drive Day and Time
Atlanta (ATL) 8:40 AM Wednesday 3:00 — 5:15 PM
Los Angeles (LAX) 9:00 AM Tuesday 3:15 — 6:00 PM
Chicago (ORD) 8:00 AM Tuesday 5:00 — 6:00 PM
New York City (JFK) 5:30 PM Tuesday 5:30 — 6:30 PM
San Francisco (SFO) 9:40 AM Tuesday 4:00 — 5:45 PM
Boston (BOS)  6:00 AM Tuesday 5:15 — 7:15 PM
Washington DC (DCA)  4:10  PM Tuesday 4:45 — 6:00 PM
Seattle (SEA)  10:40 AM Tuesday 3:45 — 5:30 PM
Houston (IAH) 2:00 PM Wednesday 5:45 — 7:00 PM
Detroit (DTW)  6:50 PM Tuesday 3:00 — 5:30 PM

Featured image by Paul J. Richards/Getty Images.

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