When to fly around Thanksgiving?
August 1, 2011 7:55 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be flying from Atlanta to DC around Thanksgiving, and I'm trying to figure out the least painful way to do it. Unusually, I don't actually care where I am on Thanksgiving day—I'm go to an event the following weekend. When will be less crazy at the airport?

I'd rather not fly Friday, since it's my boyfriend's birthday (and he's already being very nice to go on this trip), so that leaves the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving itself. I'm sure the Weds. before will be awful, but what will it be like on Thursday? Will there be anywhere in the airport open to eat? It seems like time of day might be very important on Thursday. I've never flown around Thanksgiving before, so I'm not sure what to expect.
posted by duien to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (7 answers total)
I've flown home or to my grandma's on Thanksgiving day the past couple of years - it's considerably calmer than flying out on Wednesday (From St. Louis or Columbus to either New Hampshire or North Carolina). Everything is still open on Thursday, and people are usually much friendlier. Plus sometimes, you get extra peanuts on the airplane because it's a holiday.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:05 PM on August 1, 2011

Do you have to fly? Amtrak leaves at 8:04pm on Wednesday evening from Atlanta and arrives at 9:53am at Union Station. Get a roomette and enjoy the ride.
posted by Frank Grimes at 8:18 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've flown to Atlanta on Wednesdays before Thanksgiving and the dreaded Wednesday --> Sunday trip and no big deal. In my experience, the Atlanta airport is so busy regardless that the Thanksgiving days don't affect much except airfare.

The real issue is weather. If you get one of the early east-coast winter storms, that's where you get screwed regardless of it being around Thanksgiving. If Atlanta gets storms, you're still screwed.
posted by jmd82 at 8:23 PM on August 1, 2011

Normally the day of is the cheapest and least-crowded, but I'm noticing that the fares aren't lower, at least for this segment, this year. It's true that Atlanta is the busiest airport, both in passengers and flights, in the world, so it's probably pretty full all the time.

Unless you are the "getting there is half the fun" type, I can't see the additional $246 over the nonstop flight being worth it for the train, though it's certain to be the more relaxed trip.
posted by wnissen at 8:46 PM on August 1, 2011

The airport is fully open on Thursday. It is much less busy than Wednesday.

That said, Atlanta hasn't been that bad in my experience even on the day before Thanksgiving.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:55 PM on August 1, 2011

Not sure how familiar you are with the DC area, but I'd fly to DCA (Reagan National Airport) if your final destination is in DC proper, or any Metro-accessible location.

Reagan tends to be a fairly calm airport, is close to the city, and has arguably the best access to (good) public transportation out of any US airport. You can board the Metro right across from the Baggage Claim, and be in Downtown DC in less than 10 minutes for about 2 bucks, with trains running every 5-20 minutes, depending on the time of day.

Dulles and BWI may have cheaper flights, but both are a huge pain to get to. (BWI's further, but has better transit options via Amtrak).

Oh, and Amtrak is a pleasant and relaxing journey that will drop you right off in the middle of DC. If you have AAA, you get a 15% discount. No idea if fares will go up/down as you get closer to the date of your trip.
posted by schmod at 6:31 AM on August 2, 2011

I grew up in DC and live in Atlanta now, so I'm pretty familiar with both cities (and all the DC airports). I'm definitely going to be flying into DCA, and it looks like there's not a lot of flights left so I guess I'd better go ahead and book.

Thanks for the advice on Wednesday vs. Thursday. I'll book the flight for Thursday.
posted by duien at 4:46 PM on August 2, 2011

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