After a holiday season during which many of us stayed close to home (ahem, 2020), Thanksgiving 2021 is expected to be busy for travel of all kinds. That means highways and airports are likely to be more crowded than at any time in recent memory, and delays and disruptions are inevitable.
If you’re driving and have some flexibility in your travel plans, though, you may be able to avoid the worst of the traffic by hitting the road at off-peak times. Here are the worst times to travel this holiday weekend, according to AAA:
- Wednesday: 12:00–8:00 pm
- Thursday: 12:00–3:00 pm
- Friday: 1:00–4:00 pm
- Saturday: 2:00–7:00 pm
- Sunday: 1:00–7:00 pm
Extrapolating from there, your best best is to get your driving done late Wednesday evening (after 9 pm, AAA says) and wrap it up by 11 am or noon on other days.
AAA’s travel predictions also include peak congestion times for major metropolitan areas, where traffic could be anywhere from about 200% to nearly 500% over normal. The worst of the worst is expected on Wednesday afternoon, likely as people try to reach their destinations ahead of the actual holiday.
If you plan on hitting any of the following traffic corridors (see AAA’s data for specific sections of each interstate), set your expectations low.
- Atlanta (I-85 S): Wednesday 1:30–3:30 pm
- Boston (I-93 N): Wednesday 1:00–3:00 pm
- Chicago (I-290 W): Wednesday 2:45–4:45 pm
- Detroit (I-96 W): Wednesday 2:00–4:00 pm
- Houston (I-10 W): Wednesday 3:15–5:15 pm
- Los Angeles (I-5 S): Wednesday 3:45–5:45 pm
- New York (I-495 E): Wednesday 2:30–4:30 pm
- San Francisco (I-80 E): Wednesday 4:00–6:00 pm
- Seattle (I-5 S): Wednesday 4:00–6:00 pm
- Washington, DC (I-95 S): Wednesday 2:00–4:00 pm
In addition to seemingly endless traffic jams, Thanksgiving weekend also brings higher risk for accidents and fatalities on the road. Congestion may play a role, but so does drunk driving. If you can, choose quieter times to travel, and try to avoid getting back into the car once you’re safely at your destination.