The best time to travel is coming up soon!


It’s getting to be my favorite time of the year in the US for flying! Planes will be empty, fares will be cheap, airports will be a breeze to get to and around in. I’ve already booked a flight, and am looking forward to traveling.

If you think I’ve lost my mind and am living in an alternate reality, I assure you I’m fine.

Read on to see why this is my favorite time of the year to fly.

Painful holidays

We all know that Thanksgiving in America is a train wreck (plane wreck?) for travel. There basically is no good way to do it. With the lack of ability for people to take time off work, people can often leave as late as the Wednesday before, on Thanksgiving itself, on Black Friday, or the weekend after, all of which are about equally as bad.

It speaks to either the power of family connections or the sting of family guilt, depending on whether you’re a romantic or a cynic.

Either way, that’s clearly not the time to travel.

Christmas is also hellish for the same reasons. It’s like the worst kind of rush hour traffic imaginable: everyone in the entire country is going somewhere else at approximately the same time!

(It’s probably a good time to recall that great quote by Douglas Adams about wishing that people would just once and for all work out where the hell they want to be.)

In my high school, we had a few different periods when people ate lunch. The whole school didn’t crowd into the cafeteria at the same time, because that would have been inefficient and crazy. Why we seem to think this is okay when dealing with our suffering long-distance transportation system, I have no idea.

Anyway, Christmas isn’t the time to travel either.

The best time to travel

The best time to travel in the US is directly in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Specifically, the first or second weeks in December. Flights are often cheap, and availability is usually wide open

The reasons for this seem to be directly due to the above: everyone is traveling on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and so are less likely to be traveling in between. It’s like the eye of the holiday travel hurricane.

I’ve seen this happen first hand in my travels, where I’ve been in airports going “where is everyone?” It helps that I’m not totally in tune with the holiday schedule (I like to celebrate my holidays when I want to).

But don’t take my word for it. I pulled up some airfares a few days ago to illustrate my point. I used Alaska, as that is my preferred carrier these days:

First, here’s Portland to Philadelphia. A whopping $265 round trip.

Or if that’s too specific, let’s try New York to LA. How’s $342 round trip sound?

These are great prices any time of year, but they are especially notable being so close to the holidays.

Notice how the prices change over time. Want to travel right around Christmas? It could be upwards of $1,000. Why do that if you don’t have to?

I do wonder why more families don’t decide to celebrate a December holiday that’s in between Christmas and Thanksgiving (Thanksmas? Christgiving?) I can understand the religious angle for Christmas, but it just seems a bit too technical to prevent a celebration unless it’s happening the same time as others are. Does it really matter?

Imagine a holiday travel period that wasn’t stressful or expensive. Maybe then the epic family dramas that always seem to unfold during this time wouldn’t be so prominent. Maybe we could all just get along. Now that’s a reason to celebrate.

But enough about me. Do you travel in the eye of the holiday storm?

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