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Best and Worst Times to Travel During the Holiday Week

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If you’re planning on hitting the road for Christmas, you might be wondering exactly how crowded routes are expected to be this year.

According to AAA, 107.3 million Americans will be transporting themselves to their loved ones’ houses sometime between December 23rd through January 1st. Vehicles will compose the majority of this traffic; AAA estimates that 97.4 million people will be driving during this period, which is a 3% increase from last year’s total.

As, Dr. Graham Cookson, chief economist & head of research at INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, recommends: “With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays in major metros. Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak times altogether or consider alternative routes.”

In general, the most popular travel time nationwide will be December 22nd from 3-5pm, according to the app Waze. So, consider planning your road trip before or after this severely-congested time frame.

If you want more specific guidelines, however, here are the most busy travel times for the following urban hot spots in the next two days, according to AAA.


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traffic winter

Photo: KGW News

Busiest Travel Times for Major Cities

  • Houston, TX
    Wednesday, Dec. 20 5:30 – 7:30 PM
  • New York, NY
    Wednesday, Dec. 20 3:30 – 5:30 PM
  • Detroit, MI
    Thursday, Dec. 21 3:00 – 5:30 PM
  • Chicago, IL
    Thursday, Dec. 21 4:00 – 6:00 PM
  • San Francisco, CA
    Wednesday, Dec. 20 3:00 – 5:30 PM
  • Seattle, WA
    Wednesday, Dec. 20 4:00 – 6:00 PM
  • Atlanta, GA
    Thursday, Dec. 21 4:30 – 6:30 PM
  • Los Angeles, CA
    Wednesday, Dec. 20 3:30 – 6:00 PM
  • Washington, DC
    Thursday, Dec. 21 3:00 – 6:00 PM
  • Boston, MA
    Thursday, Dec. 21 2:30 – 4:30 PM

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Strategies for Surviving Holiday Traffic

You might not be able to avoid Christmas traffic entirely, but there are ways to make your trip a bit more enjoyable.

  • Pack snacks and water. If possible, plan your departure after a meal so you’ll be less likely to get hangry.
  • Bring earplugs and/or take earbuds and an MP3, to help tune out noisy passengers, road noise, and any other distractions.
  • A few days before the trip, fill your MP3 with a variety of new playlists so you can mentally transport yourself elsewhere when stuck in traffic.
  • Play road trip games, like count all of the cars with reindeer antler or wreath decorations.
  • Listen to an engaging Christmas-themed podcast. For even more suggestions, check out the ones here.

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News Sources: USA Today, AAA