Plan ahead with Google Maps to avoid Thanksgiving traffic

Get to your turkey faster.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
2 min read

Eating turkey and sitting in traffic are two Thanksgiving traditions. One is delicious and covered in gravy, and the other is not. If you are hosting, then you can use these brining and roasting tips for better turkey results, and if you are traveling this Thanksgiving, then you can use data from Google Maps to get to your turkey (and family) faster.

Google has mapped Thanksgiving. It analyzed historical Google Maps traffic data in 25 major metro areas to determine the best and worst times to be on the road this holiday weekend, from Wednesday through Sunday.


The first bit of news should come as no surprise: Lots of people are on the road the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The biggest bump in traffic is in Cleveland, Philadelphia and Detroit. Traffic is also a bit heavier than normal on the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, so if you are taking Wednesday off of work, it might make sense to leave Wednesday morning rather than Tuesday night. AAA confirms this traffic forecast by reporting that late afternoon/early evening on Tuesday is the worst time to travel in many metro areas. It also projects that more people will travel for Thanksgiving this year than we've seen since 2005; road travel will be up 4.8 percent and air travel by 5.4 percent.

You'll find it easier heading home. Traffic doesn't spike as high after Thanksgiving as it does the day before the big day. Saturday is a better travel day than Sunday, a fact you can use if you have had enough family time by the time you've finished your first turkey sandwich on Friday afternoon. Washington DC has the highest bump in traffic over the weekend, and Charlotte and St. Louis buck the trend of Saturday being a better travel day than Sunday, with both cities showing the biggest post-Thanksgiving traffic increase on Saturday afternoon.

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In addition to the helpful traffic chart, Google will also tell you the best and worst times to leave before and after Thanksgiving. The best times to leave are generally at the crack of dawn, and the worst times are in the late afternoon. For Cleveland, for example, the best times to leave are 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday before Thanksgiving and 4:00 a.m. the Friday after. The worst times to leave are 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday before Thanksgiving and 4:00 p.m. the Sunday after.

Originally published on Nov. 21, 2017.
Update, Nov. 19, 2018: Added information about AAA's Thanksgiving forecast.

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