How to Avoid Thanksgiving Traffic Jams: When is the Best Time to Travel and Other Tips

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Travelling on the road during the holiday season can get really stressful really quickly. Traffic, just like turkey and stuffing, has now become part and parcel of every Thanksgiving. It seems like it’s getting worse year after year, and data from the American Automobile Association (AAA) backs that up. According to AAA, around 48.5 million people took to America’s roads, rails, and skies and went on a Thanksgiving trip longer than 50 miles in 2018. That number is projected to go up to 54.3 million people in 2019, an increase of about 4.8% compared to the previous year. That is the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005.

What this means is that you can expect your travel time to be longer now than it has ever been. The good news is there are some things you can do to avoid traffic jams this Thanksgiving 2019. Here are some tips and tricks to help you steer clear of the worst traffic this holiday season.

1. Schedule Your Departure Times

Like everyone else, you probably want to get home or wherever your destination is before Thanksgiving day itself. However, you don’t want to travel at the same time everyone else does. This is why it’s important for you to plan your departure day and time. But how do you figure out the perfect time to leave? You enlist the help of Google. The company analyzed Thanksgiving traffic patterns from Google maps traffic data it collected during the holiday season in 2018 and came up with the ideal time for you to travel.

According to the data Google gathered, the best time to travel is actually at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving day itself. It may sound like a bummer to drive on Thanksgiving but it sure beats being stuck in traffic for hours.

A lot of people want to get a headstart on spending time with their loved ones for the holidays, so a lot of them travel on the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which is actually the worst time to travel. Heading out on Thanksgiving morning means you’ve let the worst of the holiday traffic pass.

What about heading back? Google says the best time to leave is at 6 a.m. on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Basically, leave as early as you can as traffic just gets worse and pretty much gets to a standstill by the afternoon.

Map apps give you traffic conditions in real-time and show you the best route to take on your drive.

2. Map Out Possible Routes and Use Map Apps

While the departure times suggested above are based on historical data, they can’t account for what’s currently happening out on the roads. This is where map apps on your smartphone come in. Map apps give you traffic conditions in real-time and show you the best route to take on your drive. There are several apps you can use, but Google maps is still far and away the best option. The app gives you real-time traffic conditions, road closure information, and the best route to take to your destination based on all of that information.

Waze is another option and is also really useful, thanks to its crowd-sourced traffic information. It constantly looks for the best route as you travel based on the information it receives from its users. Apple maps is also a viable option now, thanks to some updates the company made over the past year.

Of course, do take note of the actual conditions on the road and take a good look around you, especially if you’re not familiar with the route that the app gave to you. Don’t just blindly follow the app’s directions.

3. Plan Your Holiday Errands

Celebrating Thanksgiving entails a lot of preparation, which means you’ll have a lot of stuff to do and places to go to before you can get your party started. Going out to the bakery for your pie or to the grocery store for all your other needs usually won’t take you long, but not during the holiday season. This is why you need to plan your errands right now.

The same Google study that predicted the best times to travel also included the best times to go out and do your holiday tasks. According to Google’s data, the best time to get your pumpkin pie from the bakery is at 7 p.m. on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Basically, get your pie early before everyone else crowds your favorite bake shop.

As for grocery shopping, Google’s data says that you should go to the store at 9 p.m. also on Tuesday. Again, the idea is to go out and finish your tasks before the rush.

A visit to the liquor store is also a must for most people during the holidays, and if it is for you, then you should go at 10 p.m. on Tuesday. If you have other errands you need to accomplish before Thanksgiving, then you should probably finish them all on the Tuesday before or earlier if possible.

According to Google, if you want to avoid the rush and get ahead of everyone else, you should leave for the big box stores by 7 a.m on Black Friday.

4. Plot Your Shopping Schedule

While it’s much easier to just shop online, nothing beats the feeling of shopping in-store and holding your bargain finds in your hands instantly. There are also a lot of great Black Friday deals you just can’t pass up, so chances are you’ll be out shopping on that day. If you want to avoid the rush and get ahead of everyone else, you should leave for the big box stores by 7 a.m on Black Friday. Waiting until the afternoon to go out will most likely keep you stuck in traffic for a long time.

Yes, Thanksgiving traffic is most probably going to be bad, but there are ways to go around it or completely avoid it. Make sure to plan your trip carefully. Figure out the best time to leave for your destination, use the map app of your choice to find the best route, keep yourself updated with real-time traffic information, and finish your holiday errands early. Oh, and don’t forget to celebrate and find time to list down everything you have to be thankful for for the past year. Happy Thanksgiving!

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In the Garage with is an online blog dedicated to bringing DIYers and devoted car enthusiasts up to date with topical automotive news and lifestyle content. Our writers live and breathe automotive, taking the guess work out of car repairs with how-to content that helps owners get back on the road and keep driving.

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