Hitting the road for Thanksgiving? Here are some tips to avoid traffic

Late evening rush hour traffic in the Thomas P. " Tip" O'Neill Jr. Tunnel.
Late evening rush hour traffic in the Thomas P. " Tip" O'Neill Jr. Tunnel. David L Ryan/Globe staff/Globe Staff

If you’re hitting the road this week, you’ll have plenty of company: AAA predicts nearly 50 million people will drive 50 miles or more from home for Thanksgiving.

All those trips are sure to add to Boston’s notoriously clogged roads, but to try to quantify it, Google measured how much traffic increased the Wednesday before Thanksgiving compared to a typical Wednesday, using 2018 data.

Here are some travel tips based on what the search giant found.

The worst time to hit the road

If you’re leaving Wednesday, you should avoid driving at 3 p.m., according the data, which showed traffic peaking in the 3 p.m. hour before trailing off sharply, returning to normal levels by the evening.


After the Thanksgiving holiday, Google suggests avoiding traveling around Boston at 3 p.m. Friday, when it predicts the worst of the post-holiday traffic will be.

To try to ease traffic on jammed roadways, MassDOT announced it will expand the HOV lane hours on Interstate 93 in Boston and Quincy. The lane will be open from 2 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and 1 to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

The best time to hit the road

Unsurprisingly, the overnight hours are the most lightly traveled on Boston-area roads, so the absolute best time to leave is 2 a.m. Wednesday, according to the data.

If you don’t intend to show up to your destination in the middle of the night, Google suggests waiting until closer to dawn and leaving at 6 a.m. But, don’t wait too long, because the data show a spike in traffic in the 7 to 9 a.m. range as the morning rush ramps up.

On the return trip, those traveling at 6 a.m. Sunday are predicted to have the easiest time on the roadways.

The weather forecast

Another reason to hit the road early? The weather. After staying dry and mild through Wednesday morning, there’s a possibility of wind and rain hitting the region late in the day on Wednesday, though the exact timing is still uncertain, according to the National Weather Service.


Forecasters say rain could continue into the early morning hours of Thanksgiving, and wind is expected to remain gusty through Thanksgiving into Friday.


According to the Associated Press, airlines have been adding hundreds of extra flights compared to the same period last year to keep up with increasing demand.

The TSA says it is expecting to screen more than 2.7 million people on Wednesday alone. Here are tips for dealing with the crowds.

Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.