Thanksgiving Day may be two months away, but for many people traveling this holiday season, the time is approaching to start looking for the best plane ticket deals. Once you’ve scored a reasonably priced trip and maybe even managed to reserve a window seat, you’ll want to get caught up on Thanksgiving Day travel times to and from the airport. Even if you won’t be flying to your Turkey Day destination—opting to drive instead—you’ll still appreciate being informed about the best and worst times to get a move on.
Last year, the American Automobile Association (AAA) projected that 54.3 million Americans would travel 50 or more miles from home—the most since 2005 and up 4.8 percent from the previous year. Although this year’s AAA report has yet to be released, here’s a quick overview of what 2018 patterns looked like. Make sure to check back here in the coming weeks when we’ll learn more about the best Thanksgiving travel times for 2019!
Transport analyst at INRIX, Trevor Reed, shared with AAA that, not surprisingly, Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips every year. Because of this, if you're planning to drive, your best bet is to leave on Thanksgiving Day. Reed suggests taking alternate routes to avoid driving through major cities and risk getting stuck. And when it comes to returning home, Sunday is not going to be your friend, since millions of people will be driving home then. Therefore, your best return options are Black Friday or Saturday.
Worst Day For Travel: Wednesday
Worst Time For Travel: 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Worst Hotspot: I-5 S, exit 79 to 54B
Delay: up to twice as long as usual
Worst Day For Travel: Tuesday
Worst Time For Travel: 5:00-7:00 p.m.
Worst Hotspot: Capital Beltway Clockwise
Delay: up to 2.5 times as long
When going to the airport, you’re either one of two people: You arrive to your gate hours before the flight is set to depart or you resort to running through the airport because you didn’t leave early enough (again!). It goes without saying that it's better to leave as early as possible, especially during the holiday season. Not only will there be more cars on the road making their way to the airport, aka causing traffic, but the security lines are also longer than usual, and unless you’ve signed up for TSA Pre✓, you’ll be forced to wait your turn. It’s even more important to plan extra buffer time if you’re traveling to these airports:
Airport Route: Downtown to DFW via TX-183 W
Worst Time For Travel: Monday, 5:00-7:00 p.m.
Travel Time At Peak: 30 minutes
Airport Route: Downtown to JFK via Long Island Expressway East
Worst Time For Travel: Tuesday, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Travel Time At Peak: 1 hour, 19 minutes
Don't worry, though! In the end, all that wine, pie, and stuffing will be worth it. Of course, it will taste a little yummier warm, so try not to be late.
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