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Holiday Travel 2022: What You Need to Know

Things have changed a lot when it comes to airfare, hotel prices and, really, everything about travel for the upcoming holiday season.

After travel bans and stay at home orders from the covid-19 pandemic, everyone is itching to get out and travel. The entire travel industry was crippled by the pandemic as public transportation was at a standstill. 

Airlines were hit hard by the lack of passengers, furloughed travel industry employees were forced to find other means to get by, not knowing when their jobs would return.

The return of travel is still coming along, albeit at a snail’s pace. While passengers are rearing to go, the airlines haven’t been able to staff all the demands for travel. Either through staff unable to work due to covid positive testing, exposure, quarantine, etc. airlines have been plagued by cancellations and delays beyond measure.

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What’s Changed Since the Pandemic Ended?

Roughly 50% of families need to travel to be with their loved ones during the holidays, and 30% of those planning air travel as their way to get to their destination. That’s a lot of travelers. The expected travel numbers are still below what they were in 2019, but they are definitely going to be up from 2020 and 2021 figures.

Staffing shortages are still looming as inflation hits every industry. Airlines are feeling the sting of low staffing going into their peak season, while passengers are feeling the sting of higher prices for their travel plans all around. It’s not just airline tickets that cost more, it’s everything. 

The best time to book any air travel for the holidays is at least before the week of Oct 9. This is 6-7 weeks before Thanksgiving. Consider flexible dates, if you can. To get the best deal on flights, consider flying to your Thanksgiving destination on Monday, Tuesday and even Thanksgiving, if you are daring enough. Majority of people want to travel on Wednesday, so this date will be the most expensive and the hardest to get flights. The best time to fly back are Black Friday, followed by Cyber Monday and Tuesday after Thanksgiving. 

The best time to book for Christmas varies. The further out you can book your departure the better, ideally Dec 18-20. If you can't and you don't have to attend any events on Christmas Eve or are flexible on Christmas Day, arriving on either one of those dates is a good time to travel. 

The best dates to return home after the Christmas holiday is a couple days after, not the two days immediately following the holiday. If available wait until Dec 28 or 29 for returning flights. When it comes to carrying gifts, consider sending the packages out via UPS  (UPS) - Get Free Report or FedEx  (FEDEX)  instead of trying to get them onto your airline as carry on or checked baggage. 

Don't Do This

Worst departure date for Thanksgiving is historically on Wednesday. While this itinerary allows for ample worktime before the trip and keeps a majority of travelers from having to use any time off from work, the excess in travel fees may outweigh the use of PTO. 

The worst dates to fly back from your holiday meal is Saturday and Sunday. Weekends are notorious for being more expensive before adding in the Thanksgiving holiday travel demands.

The worst day to travel before Christmas doesn't change. It's always Dec. 23, largely due to holiday festivities beginning on Christmas Eve. For the 2022 holiday season, the other worst day to travel is Thursday, Dec. 22. This day may change depending on which day of the week the holiday falls on each year. The worst dates to return home after the holiday are Monday, Dec. 26 and Tuesday, Dec. 27. 

With the staffing shortages, prepare for cancelled flights. Fly with carry-on luggage only, when possible. Ship gifts out over a week in advance, so packages are likely to arrive before needed. Airlines will be overwhelmed and understaffed, trying to have the airline get your gifts to your destination is just not a great idea.