Best and Worst Driving Hours for Thanksgiving According to AAA

After the holiday season, during which many of us stayed close to home (ahem, 2020), Thanksgiving 2021 is expected to be busy with travel of all kinds . This means there will likely be more people on highways and airports than ever before, and delays and disruptions are inevitable.

However, if you are driving and have some flexibility in your travel plans, you can avoid the worst traffic congestion by hitting the road at off-peak times. Here’s the worst time to travel this holiday weekend, according to AAA :

  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 20:00
  • Thursday: 12: 00-15: 00
  • Friday: 13: 00-16: 00
  • Saturday: 02:00 pm – 07:00 pm
  • Sunday: 13:00 – 19:00

Based on this, it is best to end driving late Wednesday night (after 9pm, according to AAA), and on other days, be done by 11pm or noon.

AAA travel forecasts also include peak congestion times in major metropolitan areas, where traffic can range from 200% to nearly 500% above normal. The worst of the worst is expected on Wednesday afternoon, probably because people will try to get to their destination before the holiday itself.

If you plan to enter any of the following transport corridors ( see AAA Segment Specific Data for Each Interstate Service), set expectations low.

  • Atlanta (I-85 S): Wednesday 13: 30-15: 30
  • Boston (I-93 N): Wed, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm.
  • Chicago (I-290 W): Wednesday 14: 45-16: 45
  • Detroit (I-96 W): Wednesday 14: 00-16: 00.
  • Houston (I-10 Tue): Wednesday 15: 15-17: 15
  • Los Angeles (I-5 S): Wednesday 15: 45-17: 45
  • New York (I-495 E): Wednesday 14: 30-16: 30
  • San Francisco (I-80 E): Wednesday 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
  • Seattle (I-5 S): Wednesday 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
  • Washington, DC (I-95 S): Wednesday 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

Thanksgiving weekends not only seem like endless traffic jams, but they also increase the risk of accidents and fatalities on the roads. Traffic jams can make a difference, but drunk driving is just as important . Choose a quieter driving time if possible and try not to get back in your car once you are safely at your destination.


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