First you have to get to the airport by driving or taking public transportation. If it’s the former, you will need to find parking, the latter, good luck with your luggage. Once you arrive at the airport (assuming you are traveling) there is check-in, checking your luggage and then security. Any one of these can produce lines longer than Hands Across America. Eventually you make it to your gate where you wait and then get into another line to board. Once on your flight you can relax. Well, at least you can sit. The delays don’t stop here; now you have to deal with scheduled “push off” times, runway traffic and air-traffic control (who can do whatever they want). Once you land don’t expect your gate to be ready, and if you are in the back of the plane waiting for 80 other passengers to de-plane, you may want to jam a pencil into your ear. Traveling is the worst.
Traveling around the holidays or other high traffic times is even worse. Taking a trip for pleasure is supposed to be about spending time with family. Often more time is spent together during the actual commute than the destination itself. The whole experience can be exhausting. Add in children or delays and your “holiday” can quickly turn into a nightmare. Sitting in traffic or being stuck in an airport is uncomfortable and a waste of our lives. Don’t get me started on the lies airline pilots tell us. “It’s just going to be a couple minutes…” That’s a lie.
This list looks at the worst of the worst times to travel. Some are annoying while others may be deadly. When is the absolutely worst time to be driving on the road? We’ve got that covered. Don’t expect Mardi Gras or Carnival on this list, both are too specific and let’s face it, if you are traveling to Mardi Gras or Carnival there is a chance you will not even remember the trip. We all have to travel at some point, but here are 15 travel times you should avoid if possible.
15. Summer Fridays
I’ve got an idea, let’s take off early on Friday and beat the traffic! Great idea, unfortunately everyone else has the same idea. Head to the beach on a Friday afternoon and you will see more license plates than water. Head up to the cottage and prepare to experience the great outdoors from the comfort of behind your steering wheel. There is almost nowhere you can go on a Friday in the summer without some kind of traffic-related delay. Make sure you have plenty of gas and food if you want to avoid service stops. Unless of course you want stale coffee, a bag of meth and food poisoning from KFC; then by all means be sure to stop.
14. New Year’s Eve
Flying on New Year’s Eve is very hit or miss and the big problem is timing. If you get delayed you may not make it to your party, event or Times Square before midnight. If driving it’s best to stay off the road after midnight, unless of course you have been drinking as well. Good to keep a level playing field out there. Just kidding, New Years Eve is the worst possible time to drink and drive (not that there’s ever a good time, people) as police are out in full swing operating DUI checkpoints. All in all, the odds of getting into a car accident are much higher on this one particular night of the year.
13. Monday Mornings
If you like to sit with the suits and hear about “status reports” and “escalation processes” then Monday mornings are the best time to travel. If not, it’s best to stay away from the commuting crowd. These consultants are airport professionals that think their travel experience makes them superior. They snobbishly lift their nose every chance they get. Fail to follow even the most trivial of airport protocols and one of these walking suits will have something to say about it. Plus, Monday mornings are bad enough, being in an airport isn’t going to make life better. Why put yourself through that?
12. Valentines Day
If you are single or alone this is the worst. Just swarms of people boarding planes with flowers and chocolates in one hand while they blow kisses into their phone with the other. The flipside is if you do have a significant other and are trying to meet them, then traveling on V-Day can have a certain aura of excitement. However, even that has a dark side. Like New Year’s Eve, time is of the essence and if you miss Valentines Day you will pay for it the rest of the year. That is the rule. You can’t win traveling on Valentine’s Day. Just don’t do it.
11. Global Conflict
This one may seem obvious, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Anytime there is a new war, bombing or terror alert, you can expect beefed up airport security. There is always an increase in guys with machine guns and additional pat downs and security checkpoints to keep everything safe in the skies. In theory this is very good, but it also creates more delays as well as more anxiety among travelers. Why does an increase in machine guns create more stress? Oh, right, because they are machine guns. Better not get caught with a full-size can of shaving cream in your carry-on.
10. January (Midwest)
This really isn’t exclusive to just January; it’s really anytime from December through February. The Midwest gets about 10 feet of snow each winter (note: just an estimate) and the temperatures stay below freezing for most of the season. Anyone flying into Chicago’s O’Hare airport should always pack a pillow and an extra pair of socks, portable heater, maybe some happy pills, stove, fridge etc… You can never be too prepared when faced with a 72-hour delay in the middle of a blizzard. You may be willing to take the risk, but if you do get caught in this daunting scenario, you’ll wish you had waited till spring to visit your parents.
9. Sunday from Las Vegas
Nothing better than taking a trip to Vegas, especially on a Thursday or Friday, regardless of the time or delays, because you are going to Vegas! The other side of this coin is leaving Las Vegas. A group of exhausted, hung-over losers, faced with the task of going back to reality, worried about how they are going to pay next month’s rent or buy food or explain the credit charge to Top 10 Escorts. It’s super depressing and only made worse when that one “winner” is on your flight, planning his next trip back. Take solace in knowing that eventually the house always wins.
8. July 4th
In the U.S. the deadliest day to be on the road is July 4th, the second is July 3rd. This is when everyone drives. Saturdays are the most deadly day of the week on the highways and 3-6pm is the most fatal time to be driving. So if July 4th falls on a Saturday, do yourself a favor and limit the driving, especially during the early evening when there are 2-1 odds you could get into an accident. Also, this time of the year is full of construction and disabled vehicles for onlookers to slow down and watch. If death isn’t a deterrent, then maybe rubber necking is.
7. New York City Friday Evenings
After a long day of traveling and an hour waiting for your bags at JFK you are greeted with a 5 mile long line at the taxi stand. Don’t worry though, because that will feel like heaven once you hit Friday evening traffic on the BQE or FDR. Believe it or not, it’s even worse if you land in Newark; then you have to deal with tunnel traffic which means add another two hours. While there may never be a “great” time to fly to New York City as far as long waits are concerned, Friday evenings are definitely the worst time.
6. Anytime You Have a Layover in LaGuardia
New York City’s LaGuardia airport is a dump, and worse, it’s a dump that has been under construction forever. It’s too small with too much daily volume, no places to eat or relax and not enough bathrooms. If I was a rat (an actual rat, not mob informant) living in New York City, I would live in LaGuardia airport. There is so much filth and so many unsanitary areas it would be a dreamland, if I was a rat. The message: avoid LaGuardia whenever possible.
5. St. Patrick’s Day
In general it’s a good idea to just sleep through this holiday, but if you have to venture out, stay off the roads in the early morning the day after. Technically, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a bad travel day, it’s the morning after when drunk driving is at an all-time high. How can you spot someone who has drank one too many pints on St. Patty’s day? Easy, just look for the green flag flying from their windows. Seriously, if someone is so drunk they have one of these flags in their window, drive off the road immediately, it’s the safe option.
4. Spring Break
The problem with Spring Break is that each year it’s a different time, and even then, there may be multiple weeks that are “spring break” for different groups of students across the country. Unfortunately you won’t know it’s happening until you roll up to the gate with your family of five and see it in action. The sweat pants, age 21 or under energy and beer bongs hanging out of backpacks. And that’s just the pre-party scene. All you can do is avoid eye contact and scream NOOO! Also, keep out of the state of Florida during spring break season.
3. Christmas Eve
The holidays are stressful enough, add travel and children (they are everywhere during this time of the year) and you have placed yourself in one of the seven levels of hell. Christmas Eve may be the worst night of the holidays to travel, but flying is difficult all the way through the New Year. Good luck to those who need to check large gifts along with their luggage. Also, beware of the guy wearing a Santa hat (he’s not going to be your friend) and get ready for travel delays. Airlines love to have passengers stranded during the holidays – it’s free advertising on CNN.
2. Super Bowl Sunday
Watching the Super Bowl in an airport is awful, just a group of people standing around a television while holding their luggage and waiting for an update on their delayed flight. However, being on a plane during the game is even worse. Sure the pilot usually gives you the score at the end of each quarter, but that’s no way to live. The Super Bowl is meant to be enjoyed at home with nachos and good beer, not airline Heineken. And for non-football fans? Feel free to travel on this day. Unless of course you’re dragging a poor NFL fan with you. That’s cruel and unusual punishment.
1. Day Before or Sunday After Thanksgiving
We have all seen the Steve Martin/John Candy movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles and that sums it up pretty well. Whether you are flying, driving or taking a train to spend Thanksgiving with family or friends, expect to lose. The Wednesday before is one of the worst airport travel days of the year and the Sunday after isn’t much better. Thanksgiving is already winter in the Midwest so there are environmental factors to consider as well as airlines overbooking tickets, air traffic control and plenty of shower ring salesmen ready to spoil your vacation. Do yourself a favor and leave a few days before, or have your family come to you instead!