Nov 16, 2023 - News

How to avoid Thanksgiving travel headaches in the D.C. area

Vehicle traffic in McLean, Va.

Photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

If you're leaving the DMV for Turkey Day, plan ahead: 55.4 million people are expected to travel — be it via car, plane, or train — this Thanksgiving season, says AAA.

Why it matters: AAA is forecasting its highest number of Thanksgiving travelers since Covid, and the third-highest in the group's tracking history.

Be smart: Whether you're flying or driving, there are some steps you can take to avoid the worst of the traffic and expedite your journey:

✈️ For fliers: Travelers should arrive at the airport two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights, says the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

  • You can book parking in advance at Dulles and DCA — which means you're guaranteed a spot even if the lot signs say they're full. While you can't reserve spots at BWI, you can check in advance to see how full each garage is.
  • If you're dropping someone off at DCA's Terminal Two, you can use the Express Passenger Drop-Off.
  • You can also check security wait times via DCA and BWI's sites, as well as on the TSA app.

🚗 For drivers: AAA predicts the DMV will see peak congestion Wednesday at 2pm on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway heading out of D.C.

  • VDOT will hit pause on many highway work zones and lane closures from noon on Nov. 22 to noon on Nov. 27, and there will be no rush-hour tolls on I-66 express lanes inside the Beltway on Thanksgiving Day, says a representative.
  • VDOT also has an interactive travel trends map showing anticipated congestion periods on Virginia interstates, and you can check out its 511 app for info on traffic and construction.
  • Maryland Transportation Authority has yet to release Thanksgiving travel alerts, but travelers can stay updated via its X account. For those taking the Bay Bridge, head to its site for updated traffic patterns and a live feed.

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