In general, the holidays are usually the busy and most lucrative time for drivers to be on the road. With inflation on the rise and the fears of a recession in 2023, will the good times continue to roll? Senior RSG contributor Chonce Maddox-Rhea provides us an updated look at what drivers can expect this year during the busiest time of the year for Uber drivers.

    Will you be out driving this year? We want to know! Share your opinion below.

    Quick summary:

    • Demand depends on where you live and the season you’re in. If you want to hit the road, sign up with Uber and get ready for a busy season
    • The majority of events and parties have rebounded since COVID, but inflation worries are causing some people to sign up for gig work and flood the market
    • Prefer quiet food to chatty passengers? You can sign up for DoorDash or Instacart instead!

    Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years

    With the majority of the major holidays happening in a short period of time, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for the busiest ‘rideshare’ time of the year. It’s coming up fast — starting with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the week from Christmas through New Year’s. In this article, I’m going to tackle the ups and downs of working on the holidays and other big events as well as how to make finding your passengers easier and more efficient.

    Tips and Strategies for Rideshare Drivers During the Busiest Time of the Year

    Holiday driving is sometimes a hit or miss situation. We asked drivers on Facebook if they would be out working for the holidays and received a mixed response.

    Normally it’s a tough decision to drive during the busiest time of the year, partly because you want to be at home with your family, but you’d also like to bank in on last-minute shoppers and party-goers. Unfortunately, there isn’t a set formula for knowing if Christmas Eve is going to be that hit or if it’s going to be a big old miss.

    I would certainly think that the day before and after Christmas can be busier than the actual holiday, but it varies by the area, of course. Families usually get in the day before the holiday and need a ride to the holiday party. Some people leave out the day after, but some even decide to stay until New Year. 

    On an Uber forum, the question of driving on Christmas Eve has been asked repeatedly. And the answer has varied from person to person. Some claim that it’s always a dud and they haven’t made more than $100 for an entire day’s worth of work. Others say that they get longer rides and bank more because their passengers are traveling far to get to family for the holiday festivities.

    One driver gave the advice that I’ll give to you: give it a try. Turn on your app from home and see what happens. If you get a hit and keep busy, great! You won the lottery. If not, at least you’re not wasting your time and gas wandering the city hoping for that big payout.

    Another thing to know around the holidays is the schedule of big festivities in the area. Do they have a big tree lighting ceremony? A tour of homes for Christmas lights? Is the ballet in town doing the Nutcracker? Stay up-to-date with which events are going on and how long they’ll last. 

    That way, you’ll know when the event is over and when you can expect an uptick in ride requests. 

    busiest time of year for uber drivers

    There are a few different ways drivers can find these events. Most cities are good with updating local events, especially around the holidays. Eventbrite is also a great site to find affordable events in your area. If you have a local radio or news station look into them as well. 

    If you don’t want to drive on the actual holidays, try boosting your referrals. Recommend Rakuten (help your passengers save money on that holiday shopping!), Upside and other cash back apps that your passengers will appreciate. They’ll earn cash back as they shop for holiday items or fill up their gas tanks and you’ll earn a bonus when they do. People love saving money, so if you recommend for them a way to get cash back during the most expensive holidays, they’ll probably jump on it.

    Travel is also a big factor in the holidays. People fly away for vacations or come home to see family. Get to know your airport schedule and you can get ride after ride for people coming home for the holidays. You might even get to bank on the re-match option within Uber and Lyft where you can skip the queue and pick up a passenger at the airport right after dropping someone else off.

    In 2019 numbers showed that 200 airports across the world make Rematch available with 50 of those airports being in the US. This feature helps account for 75% of the pickup volume at these 50 airports.  

    One thing that could be hit or miss, depending on your market, is people returning gifts the day after Christmas. It might be worthwhile hanging out at your local malls or outlet centers to pick up people who just unloaded their least favorite presents from the day before. This might not be the greatest way to earn more this holiday season, but it might be worth a shot if you live near a large shopping center. 

    In 2021 the return rate hit 18% or 158 billion for US retailers. So the returns will be there, despite roughly 60% of those retailers saying they were making changes to return policies. With those changes and factoring in if people ordered gifts in person or online, there could be a boom of requests the days after the holidays.  

    Thanksgiving and Black Friday 

    Thanksgiving and Black Friday can also be two great days to be out driving. Like Christmas, Thanksgiving is a day to spend time with friends and family. You have to mention friends because even though it’s hard to pinpoint an exact date of its origin, Friendsgiving has become a popular term in the last decade plus. Gathering days for Friendsgiving vary but they are usually around Thanksgiving. 

    So Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving together can make for some busy nights for Uber drivers taking passengers to whoever is hosting the event. Nobody wants to miss out on eating great meals with loved ones.

    After a recent trend of Black Friday sales beginning on Thanksgiving some retailers have decided to trim back on that a bit. 

    Regardless of when the sales are you’ll be able to drive plenty of people heading to their favorite mall or stores to begin holiday shopping for their loved ones. 

    We recently asked drivers about their thoughts about driving on Thanksgiving and here are a few of their responses. 

    Nope. Spending this time with my family. The money isn’t going anywhere, it’ll still be there after the holidays…but time missed with family can never be recovered.

    Family comes first. I’ll be back on-line with UBER on December 1st.

    I’ll drive. Thanksgiving evening is good for the bars, and Black Friday for the shoppers who don’t want to mess with parking.

    I never drive on holidays.. but the Friday after Thanksgiving is usually one of the best days all year to work.

    So mixed reviews on whether to drive on the holidays, have you done it? How did you do?

    How Much Can Drivers Earn During This Time of Year?

    Since 2020, Halloween has rebounded in a big way and it’s still a typically lucrative time of the year to drive. Several drivers on the Uber Reddit driver thread said they made $500+ during 2022’s Halloween weekend, with one making $1440 from Thursday – Saturday.

    While many drivers talked about how the Halloween weekend in 2022 was the best ever, some noted they didn’t receive any boosts at all and earnings were overall lackluster. There are several factors that make earning more on Halloween more likely, including:

    • Time of year – if Halloween falls on a weekend, you’re more likely to make more since everyone knows that’s party weekend
    • Good weather – if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow or worse, it helps if the weather is mild during Halloween!
    • Proximity to bars – if you live in a city that’s known for its nightlife, or in a college town, chances are more likely you’ll have more demand

    What Are the Most Lucrative Days to Drive?

    How do you know which events and holidays are worth driving for? Part of the answer has to be that you need to know your city. For example, St. Paul has Lucky Palooza every year around St. Patrick’s Day, and it is a city-wide event that everyone goes to. If you don’t know about it, you might unwittingly head toward Minneapolis to drive and come up with nothing. Serious, Minneapolis is like a ghost town during Lucky Palooza and on the actual St. Patrick’s Day holiday.

    What events happen around your city that is a must-go for visitors and locals alike? Here are the results of my last two St. Patrick’s Days:

    St. Patrick’s Day 2017
    St. Patrick’s Day Earnings 2018

    Some drivers like to work under the assumption that it’s not worth it to be out driving unless there’s a surge or promotion or both, which might work well for them. But for us average Joe’s who are trying to pay the bills and make a living, there’s one thing to live by on the holidays — just like on every other day of the year — get out and drive.

    Keeping with your regular routine is a great way to go. In most cases, I haven’t found it to be financially lucrative to abandon family/friends on the actual holiday days themselves, with the exception of New Year’s Eve (more on that soon). The days and weeks leading up to the holidays, however, tend to be better than average.

    And don’t underestimate the day after any holiday. People who decided to drive to their destination and then got too drunk to drive home will need a ride back to their cars the next morning.

    If you live in a college town, check out when their holidays start. A lot of colleges will have midterms up until a day or two before Christmas Eve, meaning you’re likely to get stressed out college kids wanting a night out away from their books.

    That also means that from Christmas through after New Year’s, it is likely to be a ghost-town, especially if the college makes up the majority of the population in your town. Plan ahead for that possible lull. Many drivers seem to agree that although drunk college kids aren’t their favorite people to drive around, business does keep hopping when college is in session.

    New Year’s Eve

    One of the biggest holidays to drive is New Year’s Eve — and the morning after. It’s a holiday that has no religious context to it, making it the perfect holiday for everyone to celebrate. It’s a time for fresh starts and drinking away the pains of the previous year. There are parties and celebrations all over every city — perfect conditions for a busy night as a rideshare driver.

    New Years’ Eve 2022 will be the first year in a few that bars and events will be back open at full capacity. This was definitely one of the holidays that was affected pretty heavily due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. We would suggest looking into returning to the road this year if your schedule allows.

    Personally, I like to celebrate New Year’s Eve with friends or family or whoever is around, so I didn’t drive in the evening, but even with my first trip starting at 11:30 in the morning and only driving for about 3 hours, I made a decent amount (last year):

    New Year’s Eve earnings

    I can only imagine how much that number would have been if I’d stuck it out for the rest of the day or even decided to drive the late shift with surges galore soon after midnight. And just like I mentioned earlier, the day after New Year’s Eve is often filled with people looking for a ride back to their cars or back to their home, so get out there in the morning if you can.

    Also, keep your eye out during the day to see which restaurants will be open for food delivery opportunities. I can say with certainty that people will likely be ordering meals. This could allow you to make more money delivering earlier than possibly spend time with family in the evening if most events are canceled this year. 

    Delivery services have certainly become a nice way to earn an income. People who aren’t cooking their own food for holiday parties need to provide something so this is when the food delivery platforms can come in. 

    We’ve heard stories of drivers having pretty good earnings on New Year’s Eve. During New Year’s Eve 2020 we had a Dasher get a tip of $20.20 to help celebrate the end of the year. The order was for pizzas, and the driver was even able to bring 3 of those pizzas home to their family. You’ll run into nice people like that on days like New Year’s Eve. 

    Related: Is it Worth it to Drive on New Year’s Eve?

    How to Find Your Passengers During Busy Events

    Now with big events like NYE, sporting events and concerts where the main attraction ends at a specific time and the majority of people are leaving at the same time, it can be tricky finding your passenger in the flood of people. Of course, it’s always helpful when the passenger does their best to find you since they have the most information on hand. But, in a big crowd, it can be difficult for them to find you, too.

    One way to make things a little easier is to send the passenger a quick message (if it’s safe for you to do so) describing something unique about you or your vehicle that might help you stand out, whether that’s a bumper sticker, a flashing light or something else that will distinguish you from the other hundreds of cars in the area.

    I often call my passenger as I’m getting closer to help describe the vehicles around me to help them find me and to confirm where they are standing, so I know where to go. If it’s possible for you to pull over and park somewhere for a bit, it will make it easier overall so you’re not a moving target looking for a moving target.

    Once parked, I’ll describe what landmarks and other vehicles or roads I am on or near to help the passenger out. The key to all of this is patience. I know it can be frustrating finding a speck in a sea of people, but they will be eternally grateful if you don’t give up, cancel the ride and drive away — which would be a waste of your time in the first place since you’d still be stuck in traffic trying to get away from the event.

    The Lyft Amp is helpful in these situations, but also can hinder you because of the number of other Lyft drivers in the area. There are only a limited number of colors available on the Amp and you might have the same color as half of the other drivers. So, use it if you have it to help at least narrow your passenger(s) options down.

    An Amp also helps by greeting a passenger by name when you start a trip, and even gives a special message to them during holidays and certain events.  It’s nice for drivers also because it notifies you when a ride request is incoming and also gives you an ETA as you are on the way to a passengers destination. It can be a benefit for passengers seeing this bright light especially during the dark of night. The distribution of the Lyft Amp is currently paused in many US regions though. If and when they are rerelased in eligible drivers regions they will be notified. Some requirements for this are complete at least 175-250 trips within the last 90 days. 

    When I’m dropping off passengers at events like these, I do encourage them to either hang around for a little bit afterward to let the crowds thin before requesting or else to walk a few blocks outside of the hectic zone to request the ride in hopes of making it easier for them and their future driver.

    A major thing to look out for is passengers who are not yours but try to get into your vehicle. This has happened to me as both a driver and passenger. I had remembered the last 4 digits of the license plate and it was a similar vehicle. So, my family and I climbed in and the driver started driving without confirming the name on the account or the destination. Luckily we realized it before he went further than a block, so we exited and got a new driver — my real driver had canceled by this point.

    As a driver — most especially at big events — always, always, ALWAYS check to make sure it’s the correct person getting into your vehicle. It’s a quick and easy way to ensure everyone is getting the ride they think they are. Never ask a passenger if their name is Paula for example, but instead, ask, ‘What is your name?’.

    And if the destination doesn’t match what they are saying, ask them to update it within the app before you start driving them. This is another layer of safety to ensure you have the correct people. If it doesn’t update, you have the wrong passenger in your vehicle. Apologize for the mixup, but ask them to leave your vehicle as you have a different passenger waiting for their ride and they have a different driver looking for them.

    Safety should be your number one priority and this is a step you should always take definitely during busy events and holidays. 

    Some events have learned from previous experiences that having a dedicated Uber/Lyft pickup section is a good way to stay organized. It can obviously still be crowded, but at least you’ll be able to pinpoint where your passengers will be a little better. Just be aware if this is the case and some places might make it easy for you and have signs around the area that passengers are being picked up. 

    And, finally, promotions, bonuses, quests and more. Throughout the week you’ll notice different promotions offering varying levels of compensation for getting out and driving. Personally, the weekly ones don’t often apply to me because I don’t drive nearly enough throughout the week to meet even the low 12 rides for $24 promotion that I am offered weekly by Uber. On the weekends, I look at both Uber and Lyft and determine which promotion is worth my time and effort as well as achievable.

    More often than not I default to Uber because I can do 12 rides in one day without pushing myself harder than I’m willing to. I don’t avoid Lyft per se, but if I have a request coming through from both at the same time, I will take the Uber just so I can get that much closer to reaching my quest since that equals free money.

    A Special Note on the Super Bowl

    Millions of people flood one city every year during the Super Bowl, so you can see the dollar signs, right? Wrong. Well, at least it wasn’t the most lucrative endeavor for me in a recent year when it was hosted in Minneapolis.

    I work a regular job throughout the week so I didn’t bank on driving throughout the week leading up to it, but my husband did. He saw lower than average fares, and one of the reasons this might be is because Uber and Lyft (most especially Uber) was offering a promotion for new drivers that no one would be able to pass up. It was something along the lines of a guaranteed $1,025 with giving so many rides. Heck yeah I’d sign up for this if that was the kind of money I’d be offered.

    Up here in Minneapolis/St. Paul, we don’t see promos like that. To give you an idea of just how good of a deal this is for us, currently, the new driver promotion for this area is a guaranteed $175 after giving your first 25 trips within 90 days.

    So, what happened — due in part to the great promotion mentioned above — was an influx in drivers, and with the weather being disgustingly cold, no one was flooding the city until the weekend. So the week before was no good.

    What DID work for me was driving the Monday after Super Bowl because everyone was leaving town at the same time. It is estimated that about 68,000 people went through security at MSP airport that Monday after the Super Bowl. That’s about double the highest total previous to then. It was well worth my time taking the day off of my regular job to drive people to the airport all day.

    My earnings for the entire day
    My husband’s earnings for the entire day.

    I averaged 2 trips an hour and about $19 an hour. My husband averaged about the same. We kept steady all day. The only downside was there were no surges because everyone wasn’t leaving at the exact same time from the same place.

    The 2023 Super Bowl will be in Glendale, Arizona, where it has been hosted in the past. This stadium is large and has dedicated pickup/dropoff spots for rideshare. Previously when the Super Bowl was held in Arizona, drivers complained of long wait times and long traffic jams. Unfortunately, the stadium is pretty isolated – if you can get your passengers to cross the street into other, slightly less busy areas, that will save you a lot of sitting time.

    How to Prepare for the Busiest Rideshare Time of the Year

    With the busiest months for Uber/Lyft happening now (October) through the end of the year, now is when you need to come up with a solid game plan for getting the most out of your earnings. If you’re new to rideshare driving, ask around to see what holidays were a bust or were booming for fellow drivers in your area.

    If you drove last year, what do you remember working well for you? Was there anything you’d do differently? No matter what, get to know your city as far as city-wide events or concerts that are sure to get you high surges and to keep you hopping all day or night.

    Play to your strengths — do you prefer night driving or day driving — to reach your highest earning potential while not burning out. And, most importantly, just get out there and drive!

    COVID will change many things for drivers this year, although we can all expect for some people to still want to go out and do things. Remember to always wear your mask and consider investing in a driver shieldPassengers are also required to wear face masks, and don’t feel bad for kicking them out if they’re not wearing them.

    Finally, maybe this is the year you try a food delivery app! Food delivery apps have been busy this year, with plenty of companies like Instacart and Shipt hiring hundreds and thousands of new drivers. Our favorite food delivery apps?

    Readers, did you drive last year during the holidays? How did it go for you and what strategies are you implementing this year?

    -Chonce @ RSG with additional reporting from Paula Gibbins

    Chonce Maddox Rhea

    Chonce Maddox Rhea

    Choncé is a freelance writer who’s obsessed with living well on a budget and loves encouraging people to make extra money so they can meet their financial goals. She is happily married to one of the best Uber drivers in the Chicago metro area, who currently has 2,800+ trips under his belt.