Airport Booking Strategy

10 Airports to Avoid for Thanksgiving Travel

Air travel and Thanksgiving. Three words that strike fear in the hearts of even the most intrepid flyers. But choosing the right airport can make a big difference.

Air travel and Thanksgiving. Three words that strike fear in the hearts of even the most intrepid flyers.

But the truth is that flying over the Thanksgiving holiday can be better or worse, depending on a number of variables. The day and time of travel, for example, can make all the difference. Flying on Thanksgiving day is almost always a refreshingly stress-free experience, a lull in the travel storm, as the day is devoted to dining and connecting with friends and family. It’s not a day to be sitting on a plane, or in an airport.

And those airports? They’re yet another crucial factor in the quality of a Thanksgiving trip. Some airports are a headache in the best of times, and a nightmare during peak holiday travel periods. Others much less so.

So, which are which? According to a newly released Orbitz study, based on the online travel agency’s own bookings, the following will be the 10 busiest airports this Thanksgiving:

  1. Los Angeles International – Los Angeles, Calif.
  2. Chicago O’Hare International – Chicago, Ill.
  3. San Francisco International – San Francisco, Calif.
  4. Denver International – Denver, Colo.
  5. Boston Logan International – Boston, Mass.
  6. John F. Kennedy International – New York, N.Y.
  7. Orlando International – Orlando, Fla.
  8. Newark Liberty International – Newark, N.J.
  9. Dallas-Fort Worth International – Dallas, Texas
  10. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International – Atlanta, Ga.

And, as a reminder that, at least in some cases, there are alternatives to the busiest airports, Orbitz forecasts that these will be the 10 least congested airports over the holiday weekend:

  1. Eppley Airfield – Omaha, Neb.
  2. Kahului Airport – Maui, Hawaii
  3. Mineta San Jose International – San Jose, Calif.
  4. Jacksonville International – Jacksonville, Fla.
  5. Palm Beach International – West Palm Beach, Fla.
  6. Nashville International – Nashville, Tenn.
  7. General Mitchell International – Milwaukee, Wis.
  8. John Wayne Airport – Orange County, Calif.
  9. Port Columbus International – Columbus, Ohio
  10. Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International – Cincinnati, Ohio

If you’re committed to traveling via one of the busiest airports, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or the Sunday following—the two busiest days—there’s little you can do to mitigate the long lines and full flights. But at the very least, do this: Allow plenty of extra time to arrive at your departure gate.

Thanksgiving travel is stressful enough without missing your flight.

Reader Reality Check

Thankfully, my Thanksgiving travel plans are limited to a car trip across town. You?

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This article originally appeared on

By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.