Thanksgiving travel myths you need to stop believing

  • The Wednesday before Thanksgiving isn’t the busiest travel day of the year – it’s usually in the summer or after Thanksgiving.
  • More delays happen in December and January than during Thanksgiving week.
  • Gas prices don’t increase around Thanksgiving, they usually decrease.

Travelling on Thanksgiving might not be as bad as you think.

If you expect holiday travel to be full of delays, crowds, and hiked up prices, data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and AAA shows otherwise.

We spoke to a Bureau of Transportation spokesperson who debunked four common myths for us.

Keep scrolling to see what Thanksgiving travel rumours you should stop believing.


Myth: The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest air travel day of the year.

Many people choose to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with family, which often requires cross-country travel. Airports feel more crowded than ever – but are there actually more people travelling than any other time of the year?


Reality: The busiest air travel day of 2017 was July 14.

According to data sent to INSIDER by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the busiest air travel day of 2017 was not around Thanksgiving or the winter holidays at all – it was the peak of summer, July 14.

And in the two preceding years, 2015 and 2016, the Sunday after Thanksgiving was the busiest air travel day.

Airports are certainly crowded in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, but more people seem to fly during the summer and on return flights after the holiday.


Myth: If you fly during Thanksgiving week, your flight will probably be delayed.

While winter weather seems to be the cause of most travel delays, travelling in the week leading up to Thanksgiving sounds exhausting.


Reality: Travel around Thanksgiving is generally more efficient.

ileela/ShutterstockThere aren’t as many delays.

When it comes to domestic flights, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics found that the percentages of on-time arrivals are higher around Thanksgiving compared to the rest of the year.

In 2017, 89% of flights for Thanksgiving arrived on time compared to 80% of flights during the entire year.


Myth: There are more airport delays during Thanksgiving week than the rest of the year.

Scott Eisen/Getty ImagesDelayed and canceled flights.

Do the increased travel numbers around Thanksgiving cause congestion and more delayed flights?


Reality: There are more delays in December and January.

According to data provided by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the air travel days with the lowest on-time arrival percentages every year on domestic flights are usually in December or January.

In 2017, January 7 had the most delays with just 45.36% of flights arriving on time. In 2016, December 17 saw just 36.61% of flights arrive on time.

The last time a day in November had one of the 10 lowest on-time arrival percentages of the year was in 2008, when Sunday, November 30, ranked fourth with 45.88% on-time arrivals. The worst delays that year were on December 21 with 39.88% of flights arriving on time. [link]

The spike in delays during winter months is likely due to snowy weather conditions.


Myth: Gas prices increase around the holidays.

Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesFilling up with gas.

According to AAA, 46 million Americans travelled at least 50 miles from home by car for Thanksgiving. But does the increase in traffic drive gas prices up?


Reality: Gas prices have been decreasing around Thanksgiving week since 2014.

AAA reports that gas prices have declined by one to five cents around the week leading into Thanksgiving since 2014. In 2017, gas cost less than $US2.50 per gallon at 55% of gas stations across the US.

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