The holidays are approaching, a time for many of us to gather around a table with loved ones, eat delicious food, and feel grateful. But first — we have to get to that table, wherever it may be. And, as anyone who has tried to fly home for the holidays can tell you, that can be a hassle.
That’s where we come in. We’ve pored over Lyft’s data to discover some tips for a stress-free holiday season. Don’t want to face stand-still traffic on the way to your flight? We’ll tell you the best times to reserve that ride. Want to minimize drop-off stress? We know what days you’re most likely to speed to the curb. And if you can’t avoid some holiday traffic, we’ll tell you how much longer you can expect your ride to take, so you can plan accordingly.
We can’t remove all the stress from the holidays, but we can help make the airport ride one less thing to worry about.
When to Fly Home for the Holidays
OK, listen: If avoiding airport traffic is your most important consideration, then you should fly on Thanksgiving, when the number of airport drop-offs falls by about 50%. But if you’re worried about missing the Turkey Trot (or the turkey!), book your flight the Saturday or Sunday before, when those airport curbs are likely to be much less crowded than Monday, Tuesday, or — especially — Wednesday, which accounts for 20% of all Thanksgiving-week airport drop-offs.
If you’re flying for Christmas, try to get out the week before. Last year, the busiest days were the 21st and 22nd; they were roughly four times busier than the average day in December. (Keep in mind that Christmas falls on a different day of the week this year, which may change things a bit.)
Of course, the figures above are national numbers. The situation may change based on which airport you’re going to. As the graph below shows, Las Vegans tend to get a ride to the airport earlier in the week (especially Sunday), leaving Tuesday and Wednesday relatively quiet. LaGuardia and LAX are the opposite — relatively few drop-offs on Saturday, with an increase in activity every subsequent day until Thanksgiving.
We see the same pattern around Christmas. Once again, last year, Las Vegans front-loaded their airport trips with the largest share of their rides the Sunday or Monday before the holiday. Most other cities peaked around Wednesday or Thursday.
OK, you may not be able to base your travel days around airport traffic. But maybe you can pick the best time to travel? If you’re hoping to beat the rush with a 6 a.m. drop-off, we’re sorry to tell you that you weren’t the only one to have that thought. As the chart below shows, the absolute busiest time for drop-offs is 6 a.m. the day before Turkey Day. Maybe take a late ride the night before? Things get pretty quiet around midnight!
Christmas travel showed a similar pattern, although the peak comes a little later (around 7:20 a.m.). There’s also a sharper drop-off, meaning things should be much quieter by 7 p.m.
By Traffic Expectations
There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in traffic on the way to the airport — but it’s also a drag to order your car too early. How much extra time should you expect that airport ride to take? The graph below shows the average time it takes to get to the airport for each day of the week (in blue) compared with the average prior to Thanksgiving (in red). Those traveling on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving should expect airport travel times to be two and a half minutes — or roughly 10% — longer than usual. Meanwhile, Sunday traffic stays the same, and Thanksgiving traffic is seemingly nonexistent.
By Traffic, by City
Once again, every city is different, so your travel schedule may depend on where you’re located. For instance, airport rides in the Northeast (BOS, EWR, JFK, LGA) take roughly 7% longer during the holidays, while San Francisco and Las Vegas rides barely change. But beware: Rides to LAX and ATL take about 10% longer (that’s about three minutes, on average) the week before Thanksgiving.