Vacation travel is expected to be in full swing this year, approaching pre-pandemic levels. AAA predicts that more than 53 million people will travel on Thanksgiving, the biggest increase in travel in a single year since the Great Recession.
Of course, more travelers means more traffic: AAA says 90% of travelers will be hitting the road on Thanksgiving, so your best bet is to plan ahead and beat the vacation rush.
“Leave early in the morning on Wednesday,” AAA spokesman Andrew Gross said. “If you wait until the afternoon, you’ll be sitting in this old-fashioned traffic jam. Or wait until after 9 p.m. Wednesday night. It’ll be a little quieter. And if you’re just going to go visit family. [who are] relatively close, this early morning Thanksgiving trip is always recommended if you are going by car. “
The mantra “get there early” also holds true at airports. News4 Transportation reporter Adam Tuss discovered a traffic jam outside the Reagan National Airport pickup area on Tuesday evening.
Thanksgiving trip to Virginia
The busiest travel day in Virginia has always been Tuesday, with heavy traffic between noon and 8 p.m. and moderate congestion throughout the rest of the day, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said.
Heavy traffic is also likely on Wednesdays and Sundays between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on both days, and moderate congestion on Saturdays between those same times, VDOT said.
VDOT has an interactive travel trends map so you can check peak periods of congestion on specific Virginia highways. You can also download the free VDOT 511 mobile app for construction, traffic and congestion information.
The Thanksgiving travel rush is shifting into high gear, and some believe traveling this year will look a lot like it was before the pandemic. Transport reporter Adam Tuss kept an eye on the roads, the rails and the sky.
All HOV restrictions on Interstate 66 and rush hour tolls on I-66 Express Lanes inside the Capital Beltway will be lifted on Thanksgiving Day.
In addition, VDOT will suspend many road works zones and lift most lane closures on highways and other major roads between Wednesday November 24 at noon and Monday November 29 at noon.
Thanksgiving Traveling in Maryland
Maryland drivers should expect traffic jams by Sunday, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) said.
Before Thanksgiving, the busiest time on Maryland’s freeways is expected to be Wednesdays between noon and 6 p.m., especially between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. says MDOT.
The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) recommends driving during off-peak hours, such as Tuesday or Wednesday before 6 a.m. or after 11 p.m., and Thursday through Sunday before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
Those planning to cross the Bay Bridge should expect delays from Tuesday November 23 through Monday November 29, the MDOT said. See the best times to travel, whether you’re heading east or west, online here.
Major lane closures for non-urgent road works will be suspended from Wednesday, November 24 at 5 a.m. to Monday, November 29 at 9 a.m.
You can sign up for MDOT’s email / text traffic alerts online here. Stranded drivers can dial # 77 on a mobile device for roadside assistance.
News4’s Melissa Mollet speaks with a travel agent for advice on planning a family vacation as travel bounces back.
Your weather forecast for the Thanksgiving trip
Wednesday and Thursday will be days of calm weather, said Chuck Bell, meteorologist for Storm Team4. Sunny skies will prevail for several hundred miles in any direction from DC, providing easy travel weather. Afternoon highs will stay in the 40s and overnight lows will be near freezing.
Our dry weather will last until Thanksgiving Day, which could be our hottest day of the week with highs in the 50s. Clouds will intensify throughout Thursday afternoon causing a chance of rain late Thursday evening until early Friday morning.
Even that chance for rain won’t last long, and the sun should be back on Friday afternoon and on the weekend.