Thanksgiving travel 2023: Best, worst times to drive

Ready to hit the road this Thanksgiving holiday? You won’t be alone. 

About 55.4 million travelers will travel 50 miles or more over the holiday travel period, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), and most of them – 49.1 million — will drive to their destinations. 

The estimated number of people traveling for the holidays this year is AAA’s third-highest forecast ever. 

"For many Americans, Thanksgiving and travel go hand in hand, and this holiday, we expect more people on the roads, skies, and seas compared to 2022," said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. "Travel demand has been strong all year, and AAA’s Thanksgiving forecast reflects that continued desire to get away and spend time with loved ones." 


FILE - Traffic travels eastbound on Interstate 80 in Emeryville, California, U.S., on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on the roadways – and this year is no different. 

Data predictions said Wednesday, Nov. 22, will be the busiest day on the roads during the travel period, with average travel times as high as 80% over normal in some metro areas, according to INRIX, a company that collects and analyzes transportation data. 

For the most part, drivers should leave early in the morning if possible – or after 6 p.m. local time – to avoid the heaviest areas of congestion.

Overall Busiest Day to Drive

  • Wednesday, Nov 22: Peak traffic between 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Best and Worst Times to Drive

  • Wednesday, Nov 22: Worst 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.; best before 11 a.m.
  • Thursday, Nov 23: Worst 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.; best before 10 a.m., after 5 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov 24: Worst 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.; best before 11 a.m., after 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov 25: Worst 3 p.m. – 5 p.m; best before 12 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov 26: Worst 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.; best before 12 p.m.

One bright spot - travelers can expect to pay less for gas this Thanksgiving. This year, the national average per gallon sits at $3.28 compared to $3.58 at the same time last year. 

RELATED: Rain, snow and wind spark Thanksgiving travel troubles on airports' busiest day of year 

FOX 5 DC contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.