Get ready for the busiest time of year for business travel

Summer vacations are in the rearview mirror and end-of-year business goals are looming. As a result, business travelers are hitting the road en masse. To skip long airport lines and overbooked flights this fall, we have a tip: avoid traveling on November 15 and 16. According to Concur data, these dates – the Wednesday and Thursday the week before Thanksgiving – are historically the busiest days for business travel.

By analyzing historical business travel data, Concur found:

  • Wednesday, November 16 and Thursday, November 17 were the busiest dates for business travel in 2016. This suggests Wednesday, November 15 and Thursday, November 16 will be the dates to avoid this year.
  • 58% more corporate travelers are traveling on these dates than the average weekday.
  • Infrequent travelers (those taking one to three trips a year) contribute significantly to this surge of business travel in the fall, whereas the number road warriors (>7 trips per year) was only slightly above average during October and November.

Methodology: For each day in 2016 we tallied the total number of travelers on a business trip. Each traveler was counted on the first and last day of their itinerary and all days in between. From these counts of traveler days we identified the busiest travel days during the year and examined how the volume of business travelers on the road changed throughout the year.

End-of-year travel creating crowds

In the chart below we summarize daily traveler counts by week and have plotted the percentage difference from the number of traveler-days in the median week during 2016.

In 2016, the week leading up to Thanksgiving not only includes the two busiest travel days of the year, but comes in as the overall winner as the busiest travel week of the year! And, on average, weekly traveler volumes were higher from September through November than during the rest of the year. The positive percentages show the busier traveler weeks than normal and vice versa. Holiday and summer months show an expected drop in business travel.

Infrequent travelers traveling more in Q4

We categorized every traveler into one of three groups based on number of trips taken in 2016:

  • Infrequent: one to three trips per year
  • Intermediate: four to six trips per year
  • Frequent: more than seven trips per year

In the chart below, percent difference from the monthly average number of travelers (split by trip frequency) was plotted for March, July, and the busiest travel months of October and November. The positive values indicate more travelers than an average month, while negative values indicate fewer travelers.

The infrequent travelers had a huge influence on the jump in travelers that makes October and November the busiest travel months of the year. However, for frequent travelers, the story is more status quo. They are consistently traveling throughout the year (with the exception of the summer months). The infrequent travelers are more than likely making their annual visits to customers or attending industry trade shows and this may be the only trip(s) they take all year.

Hotspots on the busiest business travel days

On these dates, a few routes are especially hot. The lists below show the busiest domestic and international routes last year.

Domestic U.S. Routes:

  1. Chicago – New York
  2. New York – Los Angeles
  3. Dallas – Chicago
  4. New York – San Francisco
  5. Boston – New York

International Routes:

  1. New York – London
  2. San Francisco – London
  3. Toronto – New York
  4. Toronto – Chicago
  5. Boston – London

More tips for fall business travelers

With the peak business travel season upon us, we have a few additional tips to help minimize the stress and last-minute scramble:

  • The earlier in November you travel, the better. So start planning your pre-holiday travel now.
  • If meetings and clients allow, shift your travel days to Mondays, Tuesdays or Fridays.
  • Consider alternate local airports beyond the traditional major hubs.
  • Avoid costly last-minute fares by booking between eight to 14 days in advance. After that, prices tend to jump 44%.

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