The travel industry continues to rebound, making this holiday a wild one on the roads. Here’s how to plan accordingly.

It’s Going to Be the Busiest Thanksgiving for Travel. Here’s Exactly When to Hit the Road.
Crowded cars near the kancamagus highway

The American Automobile Association (AAA) released their annual travel forecast for the Thanksgiving holiday, and they predict that 55.4 million people—2.3 percent more than last year—will venture more than 50 miles from home this season. This marks the third busiest year since the association started tracking this type of travel data in 2000. And given the punishing rain storms that are impacting much of the country currently, things could get messy. Thankfully, AAA also did an analysis of when the best times to leave the house are, particularly for those who are road tripping.

Perhaps unpredictably, the majority of Thanksgiving travelers will head to their destinations via car. AAA estimates that 49.1 million travelers will be on the road—a 1.7 percent spike from last year. This makes it essential to travel in off-peak hours if at all possible, with mornings before 10 a.m. and evenings after 7 p.m. being the sweet spots for most cities and on most days.

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, expects Wednesday, November 22, to be the busiest day on the roads during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, with average travel times as high as 80% over normal in some metro areas. They recommend leaving in the morning or after 6 p.m. to avoid the heaviest holiday congestion.

On Wednesday, the worst time to travel is between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 pm., where the best time is before 11 a.m. For those driving to their destination on Thursday, the worst time is between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and the best is before 11 a.m. and after 5 p.m.

“The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on our roadways. Travelers should be prepared for long delays, especially in and around major metros,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help minimize holiday traffic frustrations. We advise drivers to use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services for real-time updates.”

For an exact breakdown on when to leave, you can view the detailed AAA timetable on best hours to leave for public transit, air travel, and road trips here. Happy Thanksgiving, and safe travels!