By Sarah Waffle Gavin, on August 18, 2016

The lowdown on Labor Day travel

This time of summer always is bittersweet for me. The bad news: My kids go back to school, which means I see a lot less of them around the house. The good news: Labor Day weekend is approaching, and that’s my favorite travel weekend of the year.

I’m not alone; after counting more than 35 million Americans traveling during Labor Day last year, AAA expects that even more will travel for the holiday this year.

Knowing Labor Day can get so super-busy, we here at Expedia deployed our travel analytics team to study booking patterns and determine the best options for travelers over the weekend. Among the findings we released today: The worst day to travel for Labor Day is expected to be Friday, September 2; and the most crowded airport likely will be Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Oh, our team tabbed some hot deals, too—including great package prices to London and Paris.

General findings

Timing is everything on Labor Day weekend. At least, that was one of the biggest findings from scouring our data.

Our analytics gurus said heading out early for Labor Day will help people avoid the busiest travel day, the Friday before Labor Day. The data indicate that traveling on either of the two days before Sept. 2–on Wednesday, August 31 or Thursday, September 1—may yield both savings and peace of mind.

Another fascinating finding from the data analysis: Some airports are better than others over the holiday weekend. With this in mind, the No. 1 airport to avoid for Labor Day travel based on the number of flights passing through it is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

In order, our data people tell me the 10 busiest U.S. airports on Labor Day weekend likely will be:

  1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  2. Los Angeles International Airport
  3. Chicago O’Hare International Airport
  4. John F. Kennedy International Airport (New York)
  5. Dallas/Fort Worth International Air
  6. San Francisco International Airport
  7. Denver International Airport
  8. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
  9. McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas)
  10. Charlotte Douglas International Airport

(Side note: I’m not sure whether I’m happy or scared to see my home airport, Seattle-Tacoma, on this list.)

One more interesting tidbit: Expedia’s crack travel analysts have spotted a spike in Labor Day weekend rental car demand, which is up nearly 20 percent this year over last. This means that in some cities rental car prices are going up. Our advice: Check before you book.

Viewfinder Tip: Before you book, remember that booking hotel and flight (and car) together can save BIG BUCKS.

Last-minute hotel deals

The recent data analysis also produced some helpful information about how we travelers can save money booking Labor Day travel between now and the big weekend.

First, after looking at standalone hotel bookings between May 30 and Aug. 7, our analysts tried to see which cities offer the best rates for last-minute bookings. Their findings? Phoenix and Austin, Texas came in first at last-minute deals of up to 30 percent off, while New Orleans, Detroit, Cape Cod, and Chicago all showed savings between 20 and 25 percent.

Also on the list: Dallas, Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando—all of which came in right around 20 percent off.

We’re big into bundling at Expedia and our data gurus looked at package deals, too. The findings: London and Paris both were showing particularly strong package savings for Labor Day travel, with savings of just more than US$1,350 for package bookings. The current dollar-to-pound exchange rate also makes the UK in particular a prime destination for savvy travelers. Thank you, Brexit.

Other destinations showing deep savings for package deals over Labor Day include: Hawaii, with package savings to Maui in excess of US$1,200 and package savings to Oahu around US$1,100; Mexico, where travelers can save up to US$1,000; and Punta Cana, with package savings of US$750.

The bottom line: A little planning ahead can save you lots of money—and heartburn—this Labor Day. So get out there and celebrate the end of summer in style. I know I will.

Where are you traveling this Labor Day and why?