In normal times, the week of Thanksgiving is usually the busiest travel week of the year. Last year, the TSA screened a record 26 million passengers and crew between the Friday before Thanksgiving and the Monday following the holiday. This included the busiest day in the agency’s history when 2.8 million travelers were screened on Sunday, December 1, 2019.
Enter 2020, where the coronavirus pandemic has devastated travel demand and there has only been one day with over 1 million travelers screened since March. Airports around the country will seem like a ghost town compared to last year, but expect some days to be busier than others.
When to Fly for Thanksgiving 2020
Amidst the surging COVID-19 virus, the question is more if you should travel at all rather than when. While many states are discouraging travel with either suggested or mandatory quarantines, there isn’t an outright ban on domestic flights. Each individual should do a risk assessment and stay up-to-date on state and CDC guidelines to determine whether or not to travel for Thanksgiving.
If you do decide to fly, you’ll find that airfares are cheaper than in previous years — even for last-minute purchases. According to Hopper, domestic airfare will fall 41% this year. With quarantine measures to take into consideration, it’s best to fly earlier so you can have time to isolate upon arrival and get tested before meeting with friends and family.
What Are the Worst Days to Fly for Thanksgiving 2020?
Even though there will be fewer travelers this year overall, the busiest days will still be the typical Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving. While there isn’t as much fluctuation in pricing on surrounding dates compared to years past, these are still generally the most expensive days to fly in 2020.
· Wednesday, November 25th
· Sunday, November 29th
It’s typically cheapest to fly on Thanksgiving Day itself, however, pricing does not vary much this year and I’ve even found that flying on Thanksgiving Day to be more expensive than other days of the week on a few popular routes. Plus, it’s not ideal to fly on the actual holiday and have no time to isolate before you celebrate. It’s also estimated that the Saturday before Thanksgiving will be a busier travel date this year, which makes these dates the next in line for the worst dates to travel.
· Thursday, November 26th
· Saturday, November 21st
What are the Best Days to Fly for Thanksgiving 2020?
Travelers may have more flexibility this year due to working remotely or kids attending school online. If you’re able to shift travel dates around, these are the best days to fly for fewer crowds at the airport and cheaper fares overall.
· Sunday, November 22nd
· Monday, November 23rd
· Tuesday, November 24th
· Friday, November 27th
· Saturday, November 28th
· Monday, November 30th
· Tuesday, December 1st, or later
Thanksgiving Travel Deals
In past years, it’s usually recommended to purchase holiday travel well in advance to avoid skyrocketing prices within a few weeks of travel. Prices will generally still rise the longer you wait, but this year we’re not seeing prices increase more than they typically would for a last-minute purchase any other time of year.
For the best fares, make sure to purchase your ticket at least 3 days before departure and, if time still allows, prices usually drop even more if you can purchase your return flight a week or more in advance.
Most airlines are currently waiving change fees on new and existing bookings, so if your plans change or you no longer feel comfortable traveling, you’ll be able to postpone your trip to a later date without an extra fee.