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Best travel days around Thanksgiving? Tips to avoid holiday traffic mayhem


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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and millions of Americans are packing their bags.

This year’s holiday is forecast to be the third busiest since 2000, according to AAA, with over 55 million travelers forecasted to travel.  

“For many Americans, Thanksgiving and travel go hand in hand, and this holiday, we expect more people on the roads, skies, and seas compared to 2022,” said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel. “Travel demand has been strong all year, and AAA’s Thanksgiving forecast reflects that continued desire to get away and spend time with loved ones.”

The primary mode of transportation this Thanksgiving will be by car, which is good news since gas prices are predicted to be lower than last year. 

Here’s everything you need to know about traveling this Thanksgiving.

More: Book your holiday travel now or maybe skip it this year: What you need to know

What are the busiest days to fly during Thanksgiving weekend?

Not only are the Tuesday, Nov. 21, and Wednesday, Nov. 22, before Thanksgiving the most expensive to fly, but those will also be the busiest, according to AAA. 

After the holiday, most people will travel home on Sunday, Nov. 26, or Monday, Nov. 27, so expect large crowds at the airport.

What are the busiest airports likely going to be for Thanksgiving?

The most popular domestic destinations are New York, Las Vegas, Orlando and Miami, so you can expect major airports like Los Angeles International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport to be packed, Laura Lindsay, a Global Travel Trends expert at Skyscanner, told USA TODAY. Airports that see many connections such as Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will also be congested, she added. 

If you do have to fly on the busy days of the holiday weekend, book an early flight, Lindsay recommended. “Flights back up throughout the day (so there’s) higher probability of disruption during the day,” she said.

If you have flexibility, look into traveling to a smaller, nearby airport such as to Long Beach Airport instead of Los Angeles International Airport, Lindsay suggested. “It could be cheaper and more convenient,” she said. 

What are the best and worst times for driving?

“The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on our roadways,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, in a statement. 

The roads are forecasted to be most crowded between 2 and 6 p.m. on this day, according to INRIX data. Consider leaving before 11 a.m. instead. 

Roads will be busiest on Thanksgiving day between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Opt to travel before 10 a.m. or after 5 p.m. 

On Friday, avoid the road between noon and 4 p.m. Travel before 11 a.m. or after 7 p.m. instead. 

Many people will hit the road on Saturday and Sunday between 3 and 5 p.m. Early birds who travel before noon will avoid the traffic. 

Worst travel times in major US cities

“Travelers should be prepared for long delays, especially in and around major metros,” Pishue said. 

Atlanta

◾ Worst route: Birmingham to Atlanta via Interstate 20 East.

◾ Worst day: Friday.

◾ Worst time: 5 p.m. 

◾ Estimated travel time: 4 hours, 2 minutes.

Boston

◾ Worst route: Boston to Hyannis via Pilgrim Highway South.

◾ Worst day: Thursday.

◾ Worst time: 3:30 p.m. 

◾ Estimated travel time: 1 hour, 58 minutes.

Los Angeles

◾ Worst route: Los Angeles to Bakersfield via Interstate 5 North.

◾ Worst day: Wednesday.

◾ Worst time: 4:30 p.m. 

◾ Estimated travel time: 2 hours, 59 minutes.

New York

◾ Worst route: Jersey Shore to New York vis Garden State Parkway North.

◾ Worst day: Sunday.

◾ Worst time: 11:15 a.m.

◾ Estimated travel time: 1 hour, 51 minutes.

San Francisco

◾ Worst route: Monterey to San Francisco via Santa Cruz Highway North.

◾ Worst day: Sunday.

◾ Worst time: 7 p.m.

◾ Estimated travel time: 3 hours, 10 minutes.

Washington

◾ Worst route: Washington to Baltimore via Baltimore/Washington Parkway North.

◾ Worst day: Wednesday. 

◾ Worst time: 2 p.m.

◾ Estimated travel time: 1 hour, 13 minutes.

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at kwong@ .com.



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