The most important day to avoid for Thanksgiving travel

If you’re planning to fly for Thanksgiving, there is one piece of advice we can give that might outweigh all the others: try to avoid coming back on Sunday. Yes, the dreaded Sunday after Thanksgiving. Most of the time, it’s the busiest travel day of the year.

And it’s also the most expensive.

Thanksgiving Travel Calendar

If we look at the highest fares people are seeing for Thanksgiving flights, they all seem to have one thing in common: a Sunday return date. According to our data, for bookings today, the most expensive combination of dates you can pick are the Friday before Thanksgiving (November 22), returning the Sunday after (December 1). The second most expensive combination, not surprisingly, is to leave the Wednesday before (the 27th) and, again, come back on the 1st. Tuesday to Sunday is the third most expensive, Saturday to Sunday is the fourth most expensive and, well, you get the idea. In fact, the seven most expensive date combinations all have Sunday returns. Even leaving on Thanksgiving Day, a relatively cheap day to fly, doesn’t save you if you’re pairing it with a Sunday return.

Of course, if you can tolerate your family long enough and they can tolerate you, the best way to save money on your flight is to stay a little longer. You can avoid the crowds and the high prices altogether by returning Wednesday of the following week, or even later. Of course, things like school and work and life may make that impractical, so you can also consider a shorter trip, like coming back on Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving instead of Sunday.

To illustrate the difference it can make, if you want to depart on the Wednesday before the holiday, you’ll save $47 by coming back on Saturday, $90 by coming back on Monday, $122 by coming back on Friday and $161 by coming back on the following Tuesday. These are all average savings levels across all domestic markets, in comparison to a return date on Sunday.

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