Here Are the Best — and Worst — Times To Drive for Thanksgiving

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Car driving in autumn
PatrickLauzon photographe /

Americans will hit the roads in big numbers this Thanksgiving, according to AAA.

An estimated 49.1 million people are expected to travel by car at least 50 miles from home for the holiday. That is up 1.7% from last year.

If you plan to join the throng, you might wonder about the best and worst times to drive during Thanksgiving week.

INRIX — which provides transportation data and insights — says that overall, roads are likely to be busiest on Wednesday, Nov. 22. Average travel times could stretch to 80% more than usual in some places during that day.

Here are the best and worst times to be on the road on Thanksgiving Day and each of the days surrounding the holiday, according to INRIX:

  • Wednesday: Best time to drive is before 11 a.m. Worst time is 2 to 6 p.m.
  • Thursday: Best time to drive is before 10 a.m. or after 5 p.m. Worst time is 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Friday: Best time to drive is before 11 am. or after 7 p.m. Worst time is noon to 4 p.m.
  • Saturday and Sunday: Best time to drive is before noon. Worst time is 3 to 5 p.m.

Exactly how much traffic you will encounter largely depends on where you live and where Thanksgiving plans are taking you.

For example, the Los Angeles metro area is expected to have congestion levels that are 88% higher than normal. Traffic is also likely to be heavy in parts of the District of Columbia and Seattle (71% more than usual), New York City (64%) and San Francisco (63%).

By contrast, congestion levels will be just 15% higher than normal in Minneapolis, and 18% higher in Chicago.

For more last-minute Thanksgiving preparation tips, check out “10 of the Best Ways To Save on Thanksgiving Dinner in 2023.”

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