If you don’t like traveling through crowded airports, sitting on packed airplanes or paying expensive airfares, raise your hand. Both of mine are up, too. RELATED: 10 Airport Security Hacks Every Traveler Needs to Know

Those who traveled over the first year of the pandemic got spoiled since airports and planes weren’t crowded and airfares were crazy cheap. I’m talking fares like Los Angeles to Miami for $30 each way on an American Airlines 777; see screenshot below:

But since travel has fully recovered to pre-pandemic numbers, cheap flights and empty airports and airplanes sound too good to be true. But they’re not necessarily. 

I’ve found, when watching travel segments on the news, everyone only seems to talk about how Thanksgiving brings about two of the busiest travel days of the year: the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after. However, no one seems to mention that Thanksgiving Day itself is the slowest travel day of the year, making it the best day to fly since airports aren’t crowded, especially after 1pm local time.

RELATED: 10 Ways to Find Cheap Thanksgiving Flights

I know what you’re thinking: But then you’re going to miss your big family Thanksgiving dinner. Well, if you can celebrate Thanksgiving on the weekend or even the day before (like I did two years ago), then you won’t miss anything except high prices and packed planes. And depending on where you’re flying to and from and the length of the flight, you can still fly on the Thursday and make it in time for Thanksgiving dinner. 

RELATED: 12 Tips to Make Thanksgiving Travel Smoother and Safer

In 2021 on Thanksgiving Day, I flew Los Angeles to New York on JetBlue to go see my dad in Connecticut and do a mileage run. When I originally told my wife what I was thinking about doing, she thought I was joking. But once I showed her how much money I would save and the empty seat chart, she agreed immediately and said she’d cook our Thanksgiving dinner for the Wednesday night.

I knew my wife would be down with it for a number of reasons:

1. She’s cool.
2. She’s Canadian and they celebrate their Thanksgiving the second Monday in October so we had already had a Thanksgiving celebration.
3. She loves the perks of my elite status including the fact that I, and everyone on my reservation, can get up to 70lbs per bag instead of the usual 50lbs (and when you’re traveling with two little kids, that’s extremely helpful.) And we each get three bags, though we rarely check more than one.
4. She appreciates empty airplanes and empty airports.
5. She likes to save money too.

I’m not alone either. After I posted a deserted photo of LAX’s Terminal 5 to Twitter, I received multiple replies, including one from @ReDressTheGlobe stating, “@JohnnyJet I have flown LAX on thanksgiving many times & it’s honestly been one of the best times to fly! ?”

The following day (Friday) is also a good day to fly since most Thanksgiving travelers want to spend the whole weekend with their families and come back on either Sunday or Monday. The screenshot below shows how much cheaper it is to fly LAX to JFK nonstop on November 23 and 24, 2023.

And here’s a screenshot (below) that shows how much cheaper it is to fly LAX to Chicago (ORD) nonstop on a major carrier November 23, 2023. As you can see it’s also cheaper to fly the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after Thanksgiving. 

Let’s look at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint numbers, which show how many passengers passed through US security checkpoints in 2019, 2020 and 2021. See screenshot below:

As you can see the from the highlighted numbers, which represent Thanksgiving Day for the last four years, they’re significantly lower than any of the surrounding dates.

2022: 1,400,490
2021: 1,382,230
2020: 560,902
2019 (pre-pandemic): 1,591,158

Hopefully this Thanksgiving, we will all have a lot to be thankful for: family, friends, health, food, shelter, jobs … and for those who are traveling, cheap airfares and airports and flights that are not packed.


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3 Comments On "The Best Day of the Year to Fly is Coming Up: Do You Know When It Is?"
  1. sally|

    still keeping up with you and Nat; when are you headed to east to see dad? Have not gone lately? The life of kids keeps you home based, I bet. nonetheless your past years keep you going on knowing all info for your great job!

  2. Kla|

    For those of us who have to work all those days before, after and during thanksgiving, thank you so much for trying to jam up the one day we may have to have a potluck at work and take a few extra minute break to enjoy it.

  3. Mike Reynolds|

    Might as well fly on Thanksgiving. All of the Walmart stores will be closed that day in order to give self-checkers the day off.

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