The Busiest Travel Days for Fourth of July

For folks planning July Fourth vacations, prepare for crowds. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened a record number of passengers in 2023, and those records are likely to be broken in 2024. In fact, in the first two months of 2024, travel volumes were roughly 6% higher than the same period in 2023, according to the TSA.

With the expected big crowds in mind, are some days better for air travel than others?

In 2024, July Fourth falls on a Thursday, which puts a wrench in predicting travel crowds. Will folks take the Friday after off to enjoy the long weekend? Or will they decide their vacation time is best used for another holiday?

Here’s some guidance around booking July Fourth weekend air travel in 2024, how you might be able to avoid the crowds — and potentially save money on airfare.

The best and worst days to fly July Fourth weekend

Are airports busy on July Fourth? NerdWallet analyzed TSA data showing the number of passengers screened at its U.S. checkpoints over the past three years, homing in on the seven days before and after July Fourth, to find the busiest days to fly.

The worst days to fly: To avoid crowds, don’t fly the Friday before July Fourth. In each of the past three years, the Friday before July Fourth was the busiest travel day before the Fourth of July weekend.

For post-holiday travel, the Sunday after ranks as the busiest day to fly.

The best days to fly: Typically, July Fourth is the least busy day to fly. On July Fourth of last year, airport crowds averaged just 70% of what they were relative to the busiest travel day, which was the Friday before July Fourth (June 30, 2023).

But if you’d rather spend July Fourth celebrating — and not in an airport — turn to Tuesday. The Tuesdays before and after the holiday rank among the least busy days to fly during July Fourth week.

The rankings of best and worst days to fly for July Fourth follow year-round travel patterns. No matter when you’re traveling, Fridays are, on average, the busiest day to fly, and Tuesdays are, on average, the least busy days to fly.

How this year’s Thursday holiday might impact long weekends

July Fourth falls on a Thursday, so people intending to travel for the holiday will likely take the next day, Friday, off and make it a long weekend. But given how few people are willing to travel on Independence Day, when will people actually fly?

The last time July Fourth fell on a Thursday was in 2019. Here’s a look at travel crowds by day in 2019, ranked from most to least crowded:

  1. Sunday after, July 7 (most crowded).

  2. Thursday before, June 27.

  3. Wednesday before, July 3.

  4. Wednesday after, July 10.

  5. Saturday before, June 29.

  6. Thursday, July Fourth (least crowded).

In 2019, the July Fourth holiday was the least busy day to fly. Meanwhile, July 5, the day after the holiday, wasn’t busy either. That bucks the usual trend of Friday being the busiest travel day of the week. When it comes to July Fourth weekend travel, most people are already set in their locations by Friday.

But there’s one day that people are definitely crowding airports, and that’s the Sunday after July Fourth. Flying this day will cost you, too. According to travel booking app Hopper’s 2024 Travel Booking Hacks report, Sunday is the most expensive day to fly in the U.S., with airfares averaging 15% more than midweek departures.

The smarter, cheaper Fourth of July travel itinerary in 2024

Following typical July Fourth holiday travel patterns could mean costs in terms of airfare and time spent waiting in line at the airport. Deviate from that schedule to find lighter crowds and perhaps better July Fourth flight deals, too. Try these travel days instead:

Fly on July Fourth

If you don’t mind traveling on the holiday, you’re looking at the single emptiest air travel day of the period analyzed.

Do one better by flying early on the holiday. Hopper’s spring 2023 Flight Disruption Outlook found that flights that depart from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. are half as likely to be delayed as flights with scheduled departure times after 9 a.m.

Plus, a morning flight improves your odds of catching the fireworks at your final destination.

Embrace Saturday travel

Rather than rush out from work on the Friday afternoon before the holiday to jump on a flight, relax at home that evening and depart Saturday morning before instead. Simply shifting your trip by one day could likely result in going from one of the busiest to lightest travel days of the July Fourth travel period.

The same goes for returning home. While it can be tempting to extend your trip as long as possible before you have to get back to work on Monday, skip the Sunday flight and fly home on Saturday instead. Bonus: You’ll have a day at home to rest and recover before the new workweek. How responsible of you.

Fly on July 5

Though Friday is typically one of the most expensive days to fly year-round, that’s unlikely to be the case this particular week.

So another option is to fly home on July 5. This allows you to still spend the holiday in your destination of choice. By returning on Friday, you’ll still have the full weekend at home to take a vacation from your vacation before Monday.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024, including those best for: