Thanksgiving travel 2018: Best and worst times to leave Boston
MassDOT is preparing for an onslaught of travelers around the holiday, so here's what you need to know to navigate the roads.
Everyone knows that Thanksgiving travel is hectic, and for Thanksgiving 2018, the roads may be even worse, officials warn, as AAA predicts the most New England travelers for the holiday in more than a decade.
Nationwide, more than 54.3 million Americans are expected to hit the roads, rails or air for 2018 Thanksgiving travel, according to AAA, all journeying 50 miles or more from home for the holiday. That’s a 4.8 increase in travelers compared to last year.
Boston drivers will see some of the worst delays during their Thanksgiving travel, according to the association, with nearly quadruple normal drive times due to traffic.
But when exactly will Thanksgiving travel be the worst (or best) for Boston drivers? Here’s a look.
Data company INRIX worked with AAA to crunch the numbers around the worst Thanksgiving travel times across the country, based on historical data from the automobile association and recent travel trends.
For Boston, the worst time to start your Thanksgiving travel, per AAA, is Tuesday, Nov. 20, between 4 and 5 p.m. The organization predicts that the worst hotspot specifically for holiday traffic will be 1-495 South, exits 41 to 33. Thanksgiving travel for Boston drivers is expected to take 3.5 times longer than usual.
Google Maps also took a look at Thanksgiving travel and traffic trends, as well. According to their information, the worst time to leave is 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 21. The worst time to head back to Boston from your holiday is Friday, Nov. 23 at 3 p.m.
So when should you actually hit the road to ensure that your Thanksgiving travel is as easy as possible? Google says you should actually head out on Thanksgiving day, Thursday, Nov. 22 at 6 a.m.
When heading back after the holiday, give yourself a bit more time to digest all that turkey and head home on Sunday at 6 a.m., per Google.
These next few days ahead of Thanksgiving are going to be some of the busiest travel days of the year, said MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver at a Monday morning press conference, and so officials are stepping up to help make things easier for Thanksgiving travelers across the state.
With traffic volumes expected to increase as much as 15 to 20 percent across the state, Gulliver is encouraging residents to plan their trips ahead and use Mass511 to find the best route and time for their Thanksgiving travel.
Massachusetts weather could impact travel as well, with a wintry mix expected to hit Tuesday and over the weekend. There are resources to deal with that weather, Gulliver said, but drivers should still be extra-cautious as they hit the roads.
“More people drive over the holidays and that means more people crash over the holidays, and were concerned about that,” said Jeff Larason, director of Highway Safety. “There are several specific things that happen that we are focused on. Number one, phones — put them away, don’t drive with them. The other two things that are of concern on the roads are impairment and drowsiness.”
With recreational marijuana sales starting this week, Larason reminded Massachusetts drivers that marijuana does count as an impairment. Concerning drowsiness, MassDOT service plazas will offer free coffee from 10 p.m. Thursday through 5 a.m. Friday to help any tired drivers on their Thanksgiving travels. The HOV lane will be open early on Tuesday (2 p.m.) and Wednesday (1 p.m.) to accommodate more drivers, as well.