Most people look forward to getaways and get-togethers with family and friends, yet traveling over holiday seasons can be a stressful nuisance. Traveling during these times usually means more expensive airfare, longer lines at the airport and more traffic on the roads. Keeping an eye on the busiest travel days can help you coordinate your itinerary to make traveling easier, less stressful and more affordable so you can enjoy both the holiday and your trip.
Christmas and New Year's
The Christmas and New Year's holiday season is an extremely busy time to travel -- in 2012, AAA projected that over 93 million people traveled during that time of the year. During this 10- to 17-day holiday period, traveling spikes up by 23 percent compared to the rest of the year. Christmas and New Year's fall on different days of the week each year, but traveling tends to be concentrated around the weekends, regardless.
Thanksgiving week is one of the busiest travel holidays during the year. In 2012, AAA estimated that nearly 44 million people traveled during this long holiday weekend -- 90 percent traveled by car, while the other 10 percent traveled by air, train or bus. Despite what many people believe, Thanksgiving Day is actually a heavier travel day than the Wednesday that precedes it; traveling is also evenly spread out during the six-day holiday span, from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through the Sunday that follows the holiday. However, airports tend to be more crowded on the Wednesday and Sunday of this holiday weekend.
Fourth of July
Fourth of July, the biggest blockbuster summer holiday, is also one of the busiest traveling times of the year. In 2012, AAA estimated that more than 42 million people traveled during this holiday -- the road assistance agency considers the holiday period falling roughly from July 4 through July 8 -- which was almost a 5 percent increase from 2011. During Fourth of July, the majority of people drive, while several million more people travel by air.
Memorial Day Weekend
Memorial Day Weekend is often perceived as the weekend that kicks off the summer. In 2012, AAA stated that over 34 million Americans would be traveling during this time, with approximately 31 million of them driving. To avoid hours of gridlock traffic when heading to your destination, the rule of thumb is simple: Leave town early in the morning -- even as early as 4 a.m. As one traveler told ABC News in 2012, "If you're gong to avoid the traffic, that's when you have to go."
Labor Day Weekend
If Memorial Day Weekend kicks off the summer, Labor Day weekend marks the last big holiday of the summer. In 2012, AAA estimated that about 33 million Americans will be traveling during the long weekend, which was up by nearly 3 percent from the previous year. As with many of the major holidays, most people travel by hitting the road, so if you leave later during the day, be ready for gridlock traffic on your way out of town.