Nov 23, 2023 - Business

Americans extend their holiday travel in remote work era

Illustration of an airplane against a sunset sky with an extraordinarily long tail section.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Americans are taking advantage of a longer travel window for Thanksgiving — leaving earlier and returning later to beat traffic and spend more time with family and friends.

The big picture: As telework becomes a more permanent part of American life, it’s changing the way we celebrate holidays.

By the numbers: TSA screened 2.7 million passengers on Friday, compared with 2 million on the Friday before Thanksgiving in 2019.

  • In 2022, the Friday before Thanksgiving was a more popular travel day than that Wednesday, according to Skyscanner data reported by the New York Times.

Zoom out: Remote work has demonstrated its staying power, around 70% of people who can do their jobs remotely still choose to do so some or all days of the week, The New York Times reports.

  • That gives many the flexibility to extend holiday travel and dodge traffic or inclement weather.

Reality check: Most Americans still work in person, and most schools are open during the first part of Thanksgiving week.

  • As a result, the busiest travel days remain the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after, according to AAA.

But those who can are increasingly choosing to start the festivities early, or stick around once the holiday is over.

"[M]y family lives in Georgia, so I appreciate any extra minutes I'm able to spend with them," says May Melton Geiger, who works in marketing and left New York City for holiday travel over the weekend.

  • "Remote work gives me the ability to spend precious evenings with my family and take my, normally solo, lunchtime walks with my loved ones."

Some are stretching Thanksgiving even further.

  • "I'm taking advantage of this flexibility by extending my Thanksgiving travel for about one month to spend time with my parents on the west coast", says Shradha Menghrajani, who works in finance in New York and is in the Bay Area for the season.
  • "I think during the pandemic remote work policies became closely associated with the 'nomad life' … but to me remote work is what allows me to stay connected with loved ones who might be in different parts of the country or world."

“This family time can be really beneficial,” says Brad Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia.

  • 83% of American adults say they get a great deal or quite a bit of meaning and fulfillment from spending time with family, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

“Obviously there are stresses associated with bringing family members with a range of schedules and priorities and personalities together,” Wilcox notes.

  • “But more time spent with family gives people a sense there are folks in their life with them and for them.”
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