Best Times to Travel for Thanksgiving

We’ll be on the road this Thanksgiving. We’re driving from Orlando to Jacksonville to celebrate God’s goodness with our son and his little family.

Cue the music.

“Over the river (St. John’s) and through the woods, from Grandmother’s (and Grandfather’s) house we go. The car knows the way…” Well. Enough of that.

I found some helpful searches to share with you for the best times to travel by car. You might find information for your neck of the woods in this post. Tweak my searches to fit your situation. If you’re driving further or traveling through the Northeast Megalopolis, that makes a big difference for you compared to our decisions. (See NOTES.)

Check the notes for more ideas for flying, for other holidays, and for other locations.

Best Times to Travel by Car

Thanksgiving is the worst time of the year for traveling.

I searched first for articles about holiday traffic. I found articles for November 2021.

A simple Google search will tell you the best times to travel. See what information you can glean on a search page. That may be enough for you to decide what you’ll do.

We’re flexible for our arrival and departure days. The search suggested we leave the Sunday before or at 6 AM on Thursday. Nope. Mike suggested Wednesday morning, so I opened some of the links.

The most helpful article was “Mapping Thanksgiving,” which used Google search trends. I scrolled through the graphs and stopped when I saw this one. No way are we ever driving on a Wednesday! We don’t have to, so I’m thinking we’ll leave Tuesday night. Saturday looks a little better than Sunday for heading home for most travelers.

(I had to smile at the blip that shows up after Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade for New York, but also for Boston and Philadelphia.)

Underneath this graph is a dropdown for specific cities. I picked “Orlando” and “Saturday.”

Saturday and Sunday were very similar for Orlando. (We would be driving TO Orlando, not FROM Orlando.) An evening drive should be okay, but it will be darker after the time change this weekend.

AAA offers Thanksgiving Travel predictions. This link is for 2021. This year will be about the same.

Google Maps Departure Days and Times

After this, I opened Google Maps.

  • I put in our address and our son’s address and clicked for directions.
  • Next, I clicked the dropdown arrow for “Leave now.” I chose Wednesday before Thanksgiving at 10:30 A.M. for this screenshot. That’s actually the start of the heavier traffic. It would take us about three hours instead of two.
  • Some of the articles I read suggested taking bypass routes. We’ll know if that’s a good option when we actually set out.

We’re still mulling this over (HINT: another holiday “joke.”)

I hope these sites help you with your planning. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Pin this post, please.

The Currier and Ives print, “American Homestead Winter,” is in the public domain and is available on Wikimedia Commons.



  • Try searching for other holidays and for flying.
  • US Interstates have exit guides and specific Thanksgiving advice. Here are guidelines for your state or city or for a particular Interstate.
    • I-5 site: Look across the menu along the top for gas prices and weather information. The “traffic” option is very useful.  It has real-time information about various delays and also views from traffic cameras.
    • I-95 site: Look across the menu along the top for gas prices and weather information. The “traffic” option is very useful.  It has real-time information about various delays and also views from traffic cameras.
    • Use an Internet search to find your major highway’s guide.
  • The Northeast Megalopolis is from northern Virginia to southern New Hampshire. I saw only a little bit written about navigating this area. This old post seemed to indicate Monday to Monday would be the best days to avoid the holiday traffic.

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