Thanksgiving travel: tips for a stress-free and budget-friendly holiday

Thanksgiving travel is officially in full swing! The date traditionally kicks off the holiday season in the United States and, in fact, more people in the US celebrate Thanksgiving than Christmas.

However, the journey home can be a daunting experience. Airport horror stories are as much a staple of Thanksgiving dinner as turkey and stuffing. With millions of people taking this time to go home and enjoy the time off with their families, airports are often overpacked and tend to be blunt; AWFUL.  

According to AAA, more than 55 million Americans travel over 50 miles during the Thanksgiving holiday. Of these Americans, more than 4.5 million are anticipated to fly to their Thanksgiving destination. 

In 2022, post-Thanksgiving Sunday saw over 7,000 flights delayed and 695 canceled, painting a grim picture of airport congestion and frustrations. The Sunday after Thanksgiving stands out as one of the busiest travel dates of the year, with airports in Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Denver, Miami, O’Hare/Chicago, Orlando, Las Vegas, JFK/NYC, and Phoenix experiencing the highest footfall.

The good news is it’s not too late to consider an alternative for your Thanksgiving Holiday. For short trips, taking the bus is the smarter way to travel, and here’s why:

6 reasons to take the bus this holiday season

1 – Faster and more convenient

For some routes, taking the bus for Thanksgiving travel just makes sense. Many popular routes will save more than an hour in time when traveling by bus. This includes routes from the busiest U.S. airports such as LA to San Diego, Denver to Colorado Springs, NYC to Albany, and Phoenix to Tucson.

The same is true even in the largest US airports. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson is the busiest airport during Thanksgiving travel. Travelers from Atlanta to Montgomery can save nearly a third of their time traveling by bus instead of flying. And, travelers going from Atlanta to Birmingham can save more than a quarter of their time when traveling by bus instead of flying. 

These are our top picks:

busbud thanksgiving 2023

2 – The most affordable travel option: 

Thanksgiving can be a costly holiday. Traveling by bus can result in significant savings as in some routes such as NYC to Albany see large savings, with a reduction of 93% of the total cost compared to flying.

Taking the bus instead of flying from the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, LAX, Denver, NYC’s JFK, and Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airports all had more than 80% in savings. All bus routes have at least 12% in savings compared to flying, making the bus your most wallet-friendly option.

3 – Safety first

Driving can be exhausting, especially with the additional traffic on the roads for the holiday. According to the AA, 2.4 percent of fatal crashes leading are caused by fatigued drivers. Also, Thanksgiving is the second most dangerous holiday for drunk driving-related fatalities ahead of New Year’s Eve and Independence Day, with a risk higher than 55% compared standard rates.
Taking the bus means relaxing and enjoying the ride without worrying about the road. 

4 – More seats are available

Hoping for a spot to clear up on the last-minute flight? That might be wishful thinking! The Air Transport Association (ATA) warned travelers to expect full flights during Thanksgiving due to a reduced number of seats available. On the other hand, bus operators add additional motorcoaches, especially to better serve the northeast routes, making it easy to find a way to get where you need to go. 

5 – Choose sustainability this holiday season

According to, traveling by bus reduces your carbon footprint by at least 83% on all highlighted popular routes. This makes traveling by bus the most efficient way to travel in the US. 

Inter-city buses can get a whopping 180 passenger miles per gallon (pMPG). At the same time, Amtrak trains only get 59 pMPG and an average plane’s efficiency is around 40 pMPG. Buses, which can often carry 50+ passengers at a time, also reduce the number of cars on the road. That results in a lot less traffic, and a lot less fuel consumption.

6 – Increased comfort

Recently, bus operators have undergone massive changes, making the bus more appealing to users. Coupled with modern conveniences and updates like WiFi accessibility, bus travel is a comfortable and customer-friendly option for your travels. In the US, buses are usually equipped with these amenities to make the trip more enjoyable, and there are plenty of bus companies to choose from, each with its own advantages.

Read also: Who are the major bus companies in the US and how they compare

As you gear up for the holiday season, make a savvy move for your Thanksgiving travel. Say goodbye to airport hassles and stressful delays—choose the bus for a smoother, more economical, and eco-friendly journey.

Use Busbud to compare prices and bus companies and find the ticket that best fits your travel needs. It’s easy, safe and fast. 


*Methodology: All prices and travel times were determined as if traveling one-way on Wednesday, November 22nd. All prices and travel times were researched as if booking on October 30th. Travel times include travel to and from the city center as well as airline-recommended early arrival. Greentripper ( was used to calculate emission comparisons. Statista data was used to determine the busiest airports. 

19 thoughts on “Thanksgiving travel: tips for a stress-free and budget-friendly holiday

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  15. Airport horror stories are as much a staple of Thanksgiving dinner as turkey and stuffing. With millions of people taking this time to go home and enjoy the time off with their families, airports are often overpacked and tend to be blunt; AWFUL. But it’s not too late to consider an alternative. Thank youu.

  16. As you embark on Thanksgiving travel, ensure a stress-free journey with essential items for your little one. Pack baby essentials such as diapers, wipes, and comforting toys to make the trip comfortable. Traveling with ease allows the whole family to enjoy the holiday festivities without any fuss

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