Thanksgiving travel is underway as D.C., Maryland and Virginia residents rush to visit relatives in far corners of the United States. AAA estimates over 1.3 million people will travel 50 miles or more away from their homes in the D.C. area this Thanksgiving.
Most of those travelers are expected to drive to their destinations. The best way to beat traffic, AAA says, is to avoid leaving on Wednesday and plan to depart on Tuesday or early Thursday.
“Either leave late on Wednesday night or even better get up super early on Thanksgiving morning and hit the road 6 a.m., 7 a.m.,” AAA spokesperson Aixa Diaz said. “The roads are much clearer on Thanksgiving Day itself and you’ll make it there in time for turkey.”
The worst time to travel on the roads is Tuesday and Wednesday between 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. While airports are expected to be busiest on Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of the holiday.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Mike Whitaker said at a press conference Monday they are working to make sure flyers get to their destinations. They plan to implement the Holiday Airspace Release Program, which allocates additional airspace to commercial flights along the East Coast, Whitaker said.
“The skies will be extremely busy this Thanksgiving period – eclipsing last year. We are expecting 49,600 flights on Wednesday,” @FAA_Mike tweeted. “The FAA will be working around the clock to make sure passengers get to their destinations safely.”
Thanksgiving travel in Virginia
In Virginia, many highway work zones will be suspended and lane closures on most major roads will be lifted starting noon on Wednesday, Nov. 22 until noon on Monday, Nov. 27, according to a release from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
Heavy traffic is likely Tuesday mid-morning to evening and throughout the day on Wednesday and Sunday, VDOT said. Roads near shopping destinations are expected to experience congestion on Saturday.
On Thanksgiving Day, rush-hour tolls will be lifted on Interstate 66 Express Lanes inside the Beltway. For more lane directional schedules visit here.
VDOT has an interactive travel-trends map so you can check peak congestion periods on specific Virginia interstates. You can also download VDOT’s free mobile 511 app to get information on construction, traffic and congestion.
Ahead of a busy travel season, gas prices are lower than usual. News4’s Derrick Ward explains the price drop.
Thanksgiving travel weather forecast
A heavy rain will soak the area Tuesday just in time for the Thanksgiving travel rush, Storm Team4 Meteorologist Chuck Bell said. About 1” to 2” of rain is expected between 4 p.m. Tuesday to 4 a.m. Wednesday.
Drivers and flyers should be prepared for delays. Rain will impact nearly every area East of the Mississippi River, according to Bell.
“I’m cautiously optimistic the rain will be ending relatively early on Wednesday morning. So, Wednesday afternoon and evening travelers the later you’re leaving in the day Wednesday, the less likely you are going to have anything in the way of a rain chance,” Bell said.
The sun will return Wednesday afternoon with temps in the low-50s. It will be a windy day in the D.C. area with gusts near 40 mph. Lingering flight delays from the Tuesday storm are possible, Bell said.
Thanksgiving Day will be in the low-50s with dry weather and sunshine.
Thanksgiving travel in Maryland
Thanksgiving travel information in Maryland will be updated as available. Visit Maryland’s 511 page for travel alerts and updates.