3 Things You Should Know About Thanksgiving Travel

What time to hit the road, the best and worst cities for traffic, and more advice to keep in mind as you set out on your Turkey Day journey.

traffic-jam
Photo by Image Source/Getty Images

Before you can feast with family and friends on Thanksgiving Day, you’ll have to get there first—and who doesn’t dread Turkey Day traffic? Instead of sitting in your car hoping there will still be some pumpkin pie left, Google Maps has released a whole wealth of traffic data so you can strategize about your driving plans this year and (hopefully) arrive at your destination on time.

By analyzing the speed and location of Android phones anonymously (these phones had their Location Services enabled), the team at Google Maps looked at the total number of cars on the road in 21 major cities at certain times throughout 2014. See below for some key facts to keep in mind this year:

  1. When to Travel

    It’s a well-known fact that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the worst day to hit the road for most cities—except for Boston, Honolulu, Providence, and San Francisco. If you have no choice but to depart on Wednesday, leave before 2 p.m. or after 7 p.m. to avoid peak traffic. After Wednesday, the second-highest traffic days are Tuesday and Saturday. But if you want a relatively stress-free travel day, Thanksgiving Day is your best option, just avoid driving between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.

  2. When to Go Home

    If you want to prolong your family time, this is good news (but apologies if your family is driving you nuts). When it comes time to head back home, traffic can be 40% worse on Saturday than on Sunday.
  3. The Best and Worst Cities for Travel

    We'll get to the good news first: you’re in luck if you're driving in Philadelphia, Austin, Miami, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, or Honolulu, because Thanksgiving traffic has actually decreased in those cities between 2012 and 2014. On the flip side, Los Angeles, D.C., and San Francisco are the worst places for traffic. In addition, D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, and Denver's Thanksgiving congestion has gotten increasingly worse over the past couple of years.