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Best and worst times to hit the road for Thanksgiving travel

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and 55.4 million Americans are expected to travel via automobile or airplane, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). That forecasted number is up 2.3% from last year — the third-highest since 2000.

AAA says Thanksgiving travelers are anyone who will head more than 50 miles away from home for their holiday gathering. As usual, expect busier airports and traffic on roads in the upcoming days.

For those driving to see their loved ones, AAA released a report Monday of the best and worst times to hit the road if you’re coming from one of these United States metros, which includes San Francisco.

AAA: Overall Busiest Day to Drive

  • Wednesday, Nov. 22 between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
  • The time period has 11.44% more traffic than usual, according to AAA.

Best and Worst Times to Drive

Date Worst Travel Time Best Travel Time
Wednesday, 11/22 2-6 p.m.
Thursday, 11/23 🦃 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Before 10 a.m., after 5 p.m.
Friday, 11/24 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. Before 11 a.m., after 7 p.m.
Saturday, 11/25 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. Before 12 p.m.
Sunday, 11/26 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Before 12 p.m.
Source: AAA

Worst Times to Depart from San Francisco (All on Wednesday, Nov. 22)

Destination Time Difference compared to usual commute
Yosemite (I-205 E) 5:30 p.m. 7%
Sacramento (I-80 E) 5:30 p.m. 14%
Napa (I-80 E) 4:45 p.m. 1%
Santa Rosa (US-101 N) 2 p.m. 19%
Monterey (Santa Cruz Hwy S) 2 p.m. 61%
Source: AAA

Worst Times to Return to San Francisco*

Departing From Day Time Difference compared to usual commute
Santa Rosa (US-101 S) Sunday 4:15 p.m 42%
Yosemite (I-205 W) Sunday 4:45 p.m. 4%
Monterey (Santa Cruz Hwy N) Sunday 7 p.m. 63%
Sacramento (I-80 W) Sunday 4:45 p.m. 47%
Napa (I-80 W) Friday 2:30 p.m. 9%
Source: AAA

In the Bay Area, the peak traffic congestion time is on Sunday at 7 p.m. if you’re coming from Monterey to San Francisco. AAA says that the commute is expected to take 3 hours and 10 minutes compared to approximately a little over two hours when there’s no traffic on Santa Cruz Hwy.

For Bay Area travelers going down to Los Angeles for the holiday (or vice versa), here are the worst times to leave when traffic is the worst, according to AAA.

  • Los Angeles to Bakersfield on I-5 Northbound
    • Wednesday, Nov. 22 at 4:30 p.m.
  • Bakersfield to Los Angeles on I-5 Southbound
    • Friday, Nov. 24 at 5:45 p.m.

The Thanksgiving holiday travel is for five days from Wednesday, Nov. 22 to Sunday, Nov. 26, AAA says. The organization’s full report on the Thanksgiving travel forecast can be viewed here.

*Sunday, Nov. 26

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