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Google Maps releases data to help you avoid Thanksgiving traffic

Not sure when to hit the road to head home for Thanksgiving? Google Maps released data to help your trip go smoothly.
When should you hit the road to head to your Thanksgiving festivities? Check out this Google Maps data to find out the best and worst times. Getty Images

Thanksgiving is almost here, but before you can sit down at the dinner table and enjoy tons of turkey and wine, you have to head home during one of the year’s busiest travel times.

Last year, AAA predicted that nearly 49 million Americans would travel at least 50 miles in order to make it to their Thanksgiving dinners (and to be home for the long weekend). That’s a jump of nearly 1 million travelers from the year before.

So how do you know when exactly you should leave to be in the lightest traffic? Well, what better resource to ask than internet giant Google Maps.

Google Maps recently released its traffic data and trends to help keep commuters informed ahead of their treks home.

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When is the best time to travel for Thanksgiving?

Across the country, pretty much wherever you’re headed or coming from, late afternoon on Wednesday is the worst time to be on the road, according to the data from Google Maps.

Specifically for those leaving from or venturing to the New York City area, the best time to leave is on Thanksgiving day itself at 6 a.m., according to Google Maps. The worst day, unsurprisingly, is the day before Thanksgiving — Wednesday at 4 p.m., specifically.

The best and worst times to come home from your Thanksgiving trip vary by city, though in general, Google suggests avoiding the roads on the late afternoons of Friday or Saturday to miss as much traffic as you can.

To make coming home easier, you may cut your long weekend with the family a day short. For the New York City area, the best day to return from your trip is the Saturday after Thanksgiving at 6 a.m., and the worst day to return is Sunday at 3 p.m.

You can see more about how traffic changes and when you should leave, depending on where you’re coming from or going to, by exploring the Google Maps data here.

Aside from traffic and travel times, Google Maps collected some other tidbits about search data around Thanksgiving. Though the holiday is food-focused, it also precedes Black Friday, and the most commonly searched-for topic nationwide around Thanksgiving is department stores, according to Google.

But that’s a common search year-round, the site says. A search that sees a significant spike during the holiday, more so than at other times, is the search for ham shops.

New Yorkers themselves, however, are searching mostly for bakeries on Thanksgiving Day, according to the data, and for the city staple of bagel shops around the holiday overall. 

 
 
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