In general, the holidays are usually the busy and most lucrative time for drivers to be on the road. Will that hold up in the age of the COVID pandemic? 2020 showed us that people definitely went out for parties, events, and more. But should you stick to food delivery instead anyway? 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.

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    Quick summary:

    • We thought Halloween 2020 would be a bust, but it wasn’t! If you want to hit the road, sign up with Uber and get ready for a busy season
    • Make sure to follow local news and events closely – some events will be canceled due to COVID surges
    • Not ready to drive around people yet? 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, followed by Thanksgiving, and the whole 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. This is not a surprise since the decisions is harder to make now with COVID-19 making such a big impact here in the United States and across the world. 

    Uber has added some safety measures to make the drive more comfortable for both drivers or passengers. Both parties are still required to wear a mask, although there are no vaccine mandates for passengers or drivers. 

    Everyone wants to be safe so they have to try and find a traveling alternative that makes better sense for them.  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 families, 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.

    On an Uber forum, the question of driving on Christmas Eve has been asked time and time again. 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.

    Something to keep in mind for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day itself are families heading to the movies. It’s a tradition that several families I know hold up year after year. The only surefire way to bank on this is to know the schedules of your local theaters.

    Wait near the theater or in their lot for pickups after a big movie lets out. Hopefully the family you’re escorting lives more than just a few miles away. Some people travel some ways to get to their favorite theater with the big cushy armchairs, so you could be in luck.

    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 driversThere 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 go 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!), Freebird, GetUpside 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.

    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. 

    This is another area where COVID-19 might make things tough. Rideshare might not be popular even for returning gifts. On the other hand, this time of year for delivery services like Doordash and Instacart may be extremely busy. 

    People need food around the holidays whether it’s from the grocery store or a ready-to-eat meal from a restaurant. They may not want to go out due to the weather or might simply just prefer to stay indoors and relax. This is where you can come in and make money delivering food orders for apps like Postmates, DoorDash, and even Instacart for groceries.

    How Much Can Drivers Earn During This Time of Year?

    Since Halloween is the first big holiday coming up, here’s my take on it. Halloween 2021 falls on a Sunday, meaning there will be parties that Friday (the 29th) and Saturday – the Halloween ‘weekend’ is pretty clear cut this year!

    Update for Halloween 2020: We expected Halloween 2020 (in the time of COVID!) to be slower than normal for people… but readers reached out to us and shared that it was one of their busiest days yet!

    Apparently, people in 2020 still went out to parties, bars, and gatherings. This Reddit thread for Halloween 2020 shows many drivers did well, which corroborates what drivers who emailed us said, too.

    It’s something to keep in mind when you’re considering going out to drive for the rest of 2021 events – they may be busier as well. Just remember to wear your mask!

    Personally, I avoid driving on actual Halloween afternoon/early evening, as there are typically many kids out during this time and not as much ride demand. I would aim for driving after dark in your city, as more people will probably be out and about (and fewer children). All that said…

    While the CDC has said it’s ok to trick-or-treat this year, many cities are canceling or scaling down their holiday festivities. Be sure to pay attention to Facebook Events, Eventbrite and your local news to know what’s going on for sure in your city. I’d like to give you a friendly reminder that you should have your personal protective equipment ready to go in case you need it. 

    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.

    Again, things may be canceled or scaled down in 2021 depending on what COVID is doing around the country. Pay attention to the local news, Eventbrite, and Facebook Events to be sure about any major events going on in your city.

    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. 

    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.

    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.

    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 last 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 2022 Super Bowl will be taking place, but the word is not yet out if the stadium will be completely full or at capped attendance. The biggest football game of the year will be taking place on February 6, 2022 in Inglewood, California

    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?

    Deliver Food With Doordash!

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    Get started as a gig worker today! Learn more:
    - Is driving for Doordash worth it?
    - Postmates Driver Pay
    - Instacart Shopper Pay
    - Uber Eats Driver Review
    - Best food delivery service to work for
    - Rideshare insurance

    -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.