Updated March 26, 2019
Whether you’re planning a campus visit or arranging your student’s international travel for break, it’s important to keep in mind how the time of year could affect your plans.
There are, of course, non-negotiable travel dates, such as the beginning and end of a semester, or holiday weekends. However, when possible, you should aim to plan around the most and least popular travel times of the year to reduce your costs and stress. Keep the following dates in mind when planning travel to and from school:
Worst Days to Travel
Long Weekends – If you or your student are planning on driving or flying the day before a long weekend, you may be in for a rough time. When possible try to have your student start their travel as early as possible before a long weekend, and take care to plan for enough time for their return on the last day of the short break.
Thanksgiving (And Other Major Holidays) – We all know how logistically tough traveling around Thanksgiving can be. This is the perfect time to take advantage of your student’s course schedule if there is any wiggle room. For example: if your student has no Wednesday classes, it may be a good idea for them to start their travel as early as possible on the Tuesday before to avoid as much of the madness as possible.
Anytime Between Memorial Day and Labor Day – Often, your student won’t be at school during these times, (aside from the schools who start their classes before Labor Day) but it is important to keep in mind the higher cost of travel during the summer months when planning campus visits or travel for events such as orientation. When you can, try to travel on the less popular days of the week for a smoother experience.
Best Days to Travel
Off-Season and Non-Holiday Dates – It is, of course, sensible to opt to travel during unpopular days and times. Whenever you can avoid dates that are popular with tourists, you will save yourself time and money.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays – Generally, as long as neither of these days falls on a holiday, you’ll be in decent shape if your drive or flight is on either of these days. Because it is difficult for people to plan midweek travel, you’ll often find the roads and airports will be less congested on these days. (With the exception of rush hour traffic where applicable.)
Thursdays and Saturdays – While it may depend on your individual travel route or mode of transportation, Thursdays and Saturdays can be a good option as well. Because most people often like to depart on a Friday and come back on a Sunday, both Thursdays and Saturdays can be a better alternative if you’re ok with some crowds but would like to avoid the bulk of the crowds.
You should try to plan your trips at least 3-6 months in advance. This will allow you the time to price out some different options and take your pick of the best routes/times to travel. If you or your student are flying to or from home, having this extra time will allow for more flexibility and cheaper flights.
Find What Works Best for You
While there are plenty of articles online for each type of traveler to plan their trip around, your research will ultimately end up being the best resource. Take the time to set up fare alerts on sites such as Expedia Trend Tracker, Airfarewatchdog, and Kayak, and keep an eye on any email promotions that you receive from hotels and airlines. While these methods aren’t foolproof, gathering information that is relevant to you will end up being your most powerful tool.