Thanksgiving travel ramping up today with busiest times this afternoon

BOSTON — Thanksgiving traditions are back for many people and one big one is sitting in traffic on the way to visit family. AAA has projected more than a million people hitting the roads in Massachusetts.

What day is best is the big guessing game.

Back in the day, you would pack up and take off the day before Thanksgiving and then come back Sunday. But after a pandemic, and the full introduction to remote working, people do have some more flexibility.

AAA Northeast Spokesperson Mary Maguire said they have been tracking the projected travel numbers, and this year is going to be busy.

“We’re actually within about 5% of pre-pandemic 2019 levels in terms of travel levels,” Maguire said.

According to MassDOT’s 2019 numbers, these are some of the locations and times you will be sitting in traffic the longest:

  • I‐90 Westbound between I‐84 and I‐495 Wednesday, or Saturday from 1-4 p.m.
  • I‐90 Westbound between I‐495 and I‐93 Tuesday, 3-7 p.m.
  • I‐495 Northbound between US 3 and I‐90 around 8 p.m. Tuesday
  • I‐93 Northbound between US 1 and the NH State Line Tuesday & Wednesday from 2-5 p.m.

AAA said Tuesday and Wednesday together have the biggest volume of travelers. But they are seeing some people spread out their departures because of work flexibility coming off the pandemic.

“Because people have more flexibility in their jobs and where they work, it is possible that the departures for Thanksgiving would be more staggered, and some people are already at their Thanksgiving destinations because of that flexibility,” Maguire said.

Some travelers we ran into told us they have a strategy to enjoy the holidays without getting caught in the rush.

“We will fly back on Friday to beat the traffic going back,” said one traveler.

“Just travel safe, go from A to B and get home safe as you can and as fast as you can,” another traveler said.

AAA said, like in those big past travel years, the real big headache is Sunday when most people try to venture back pretty much on the same day.