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Best and Worst Times for Thanksgiving Travel

If you're traveling by car this Thanksgiving in Northern Virginia, try to drive very early in the morning.

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.

You can check historic congestion along your planned route here.

Coming Home

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. 

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