Thanksgiving eve, from late morning till night, remains the worst time to make a break for Grandma’s house, but travelers have spread out their long-distance getaway times, with many leaving Tuesday evening. The morning of Thanksgiving Day is a better choice, though you still may encounter knots of traffic as more drivers fall back on such last-minute trips.
If you plan a quick retreat from the relatives, Friday is good for highway travel, except for the congestion around interchanges near malls. Sunday afternoon and evening are the big periods for returning traffic, which will stretch into Monday morning.
Some highlights for this year: If you have to swing around the Capital Beltway at a peak travel time, your trips could be a bit better this holiday season. Consider using the west side and getting in the 495 Express Lanes, scheduled to open next weekend. You’ll need an E-ZPass to pay the variable toll. If the regular lanes are jammed, it may be worth it.
But Virginia drivers heading north also can catch a break on the east side of the Beltway, because the Wilson Bridge project eliminated the bottleneck near Telegraph Road.
Drivers heading north on Interstate 95 will find the Maryland House in Aberdeen closed for renovations.
Those leaving the driving to others should note that the D.C. intercity bus terminal has moved into the Union Station garage. If you’re taking Metro to the bus, get off at Union Station rather than NoMa-Gallaudet U station.
Here are more details about the long-distance routes.
I-95 to I-295, across the Delaware Memorial Bridge to the New Jersey Turnpike to northern New Jersey and the approaches to New York (about
227 miles), and perhaps on to New England.
Route 50 across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, follow Route 301 to Route 896 (Churchtown/Boyds Corner roads) to Route 1 (toll) or Route 13. From there, drivers can reach I-295 and the Delaware Memorial Bridge, which connects with the New Jersey Turnpike north to the New York area. This route avoids the Delaware toll plaza and includes some nice Eastern Shore scenery.
Baltimore-Washington Parkway or I-95 to I-695 (Baltimore Beltway) around the west side of Baltimore to I-83 north to I-81 north, just east of Harrisburg, Pa. Follow I-81 north, then take I-78 east into New Jersey. There, drivers can take I-287 and cross the Hudson River at the Tappan Zee Bridge. Or they can take the New Jersey Turnpike north to the George Washington Bridge, or stay on I-78 east to reach the Holland Tunnel. Other drivers like to head west before heading northeast. They take I-270 westbound, then pick up Route 15 in Frederick and drive north to the Harrisburg area, where they can link to I-81 and I-78. This route avoids Delaware and southern New Jersey.