Driving This Thanksgiving? Here are AAA’s Tips to Avoid the Traffic Jam
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Driving This Thanksgiving? Here are AAA’s Tips to Avoid the Traffic Jam

The weather is getting cooler and the kids are getting some well-deserved days off to spend time with family and friends. For many, my family and I included, this means getting in the card and doing a little driving to visit the grandparents and our extended family. Thanksgiving is a time for family gatherings, delicious feasts, and giving thanks. If you’re like us, it also means hitting the road to reach loved ones’ homes or embarking on a road trip adventure. With millions of Americans expected to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday period, it’s crucial to plan your journey wisely to avoid traffic hassles and ensure a stress-free holiday. AAA has just released its annual Thanksgiving travel forecast, offering valuable insights into the best and worst times to drive during this busy period. In this article, we’ll explore some expert tips to help you prepare for your Thanksgiving road trip and steer clear of traffic bottlenecks.

AAA’s Thanksgiving Travel Forecast:
The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts that over 49 million people will be traveling more than 50 miles from home during the Thanksgiving holiday period. This travel period spans from Wednesday, November 22, to Sunday, November 26. While air travel is also expected to be bustling, with an estimated 4.7 million people taking to the skies, road trips remain a popular choice for many families.

Key Insights from AAA’s Forecast:
1. Busiest Travel Day: Wednesday, November 22, is expected to be the overall busiest day to drive, particularly between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., when traffic is projected to be nearly 11.5% higher than usual. If possible, avoid hitting the road during these peak hours.

2. Optimal Travel Times: To minimize congestion, consider planning your journey during the early morning or evening. AAA suggests that driving outside the typical rush hours can significantly improve your travel experience.

3. Day-Specific Advice:
– Wednesday, November 22:
– Best time to drive: Before 11 a.m.
– Worst time to drive: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
– Thursday, November 23:
– Best time to drive: Before 10 a.m. or after 5 p.m.
– Worst time to drive: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
– Friday, November 24:
– Best time to drive: Before 11 a.m. or after 7 p.m.
– Worst time to drive: 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
– Saturday, November 25:
– Best time to drive: Before 12 p.m.
– Worst time to drive: 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
– Sunday, November 26:
– Best time to drive: Before 12 p.m.
– Worst time to drive: 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

4. Metro Areas and Routes: AAA also provides insights into peak congestion times for major metro areas and specific routes. Keep an eye on these predictions, as they can vary widely depending on your location. For example, Atlanta may see a 54% increase in traffic on I-20 E on Friday around 5 p.m., while I-5 N in Los Angeles is expected to be busiest (88% above normal) around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Expert Tips for a Smooth Thanksgiving Road Trip:
Now that you’re armed with AAA’s valuable insights, here are some of my tips to help you make the most of your Thanksgiving road trip:

1. Plan Ahead:
– Create a detailed travel itinerary, including your route, rest stops, and estimated travel times.
– Ensure your vehicle is in good working condition, and don’t forget to check the tire pressure, tire condition, and fluid levels (including windshield wiper fluid).

2. Pack Wisely:
– Roadtrip packing is so important. It can be the difference between misery and a fun adventure. Pack essential items like snacks, water, first-aid supplies, an extra set of clothes, a pillow, a light blanket and of course a first aid kit and any necessary medications.
– Bring entertainment options, such as audiobooks, playlists, download movies, or travel games, to keep passengers entertained.

3. Stay Informed:
– Use real-time navigation apps and GPS devices to monitor traffic conditions and receive route updates. Download your Google maps before you leave home just incase you lose signal, you still have a map to help you get to where you need to go.
– Consider subscribing to traffic alert services that provide real-time information on road conditions and accidents. We also use Twitter/X for sudden collisions or roadside updates.

4. Take Breaks:
– Plan regular rest breaks to stretch your legs and recharge. We like to map out a destination on the way. Maybe a national park or a fun diner or ice cream shop, or just a clean rest stop. It’s good for the driver and definitely good for the passengers too. Fatigue can be a significant safety concern during long drives. Consider booking a hotel or stay overnight for every 6-7 hours of driving at most so everyone can be rested and travel in daylight hours.

5. Be Patient and Courteous:
– Remember that many others are on the road, too, so patience is so key. Keep calm and drive one. Stay safe and courteous when it comes to driving habits to ensure a smooth journey.

Thanksgiving is such an important time for families. It’s a time to cherish with your family and loved ones, and a bit of smart planning can really help you make the most of this time. By listening to AAA’s insights and following these travel tips, you can avoid traffic headaches and ensure a safe, enjoyable Thanksgiving road trip. Whether you’re visiting family or embarking on a memorable adventure, may your journey be filled with gratitude and happiness. Safe travels!