About 43.6 million people are planning to travel 50 miles or more for their Thanksgiving meal this year, according to AAA—and 90 percent of those people are traveling by car.
While Northern Virginia is traffic-heavy throughout the holiday period, the day before Thanksgiving is the heaviest travel day.
To help you plan your travel, the Virginia Department of Transportation created this set of maps showing Thanksgiving traffic congestion from Wednesday, Nov. 23 through Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011.
Unlike last year, the Beltway Express Lanes will be open for Thanksgiving, which may alleviate some of the Thanksgiving travel congestion on Wednesday.
The 2011 maps show the heaviest travel in Northern Virginia last year, particularly around the Beltway and on I-95 south of Burke, was between 1–4 p.m. Wednesday.
Tip: Try to leave Tuesday or very early Wednesday if you can. There are fewer people on the roads early in the morning.
Debating about whether to go home Saturday or Sunday from your Thanksgiving trip? According to data from 2011, the earlier you leave either day, the better. On I-95 south of the Beltway, it gets quite congested both Saturday and Sunday by about 10 a.m.
You can always check current traffic congestion along major Northern Virginia roadways here on Patch’s transportation page. That page also provides information on the cheapest gas stations in the area.
Traveling by Air?
If you are flying home for the holidays, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has also offered some tips on smoothing out Thanksgiving travel.
At Reagan National Airport in Arlington, the peak travel times are typically during the early morning from 5:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and late afternoon from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., the airport authority said.
The airports authority offers the following advice for travelers:
- Confirm the status of your flight directly with your airline before coming to the airport. Weather here or in other parts of the country can affect airline schedules across the route network.
- Print out your boarding pass before in advance. Some airlines also offer electronic boarding passes.
- Bring government-issued photo ID to the airport for all adult passengers.
- The busiest days will include the Friday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving. Expect full flights and full luggage bins onboard.
- Pack wisely – no prohibited items in carry-on luggage; and no valuable items in checked luggage. Label your luggage so your name is plainly visible.
- Reagan National customers check parking availability online at www.mwaa.com/reagan or at 703-417-PARK. Economy tends to fill over holiday periods.