When I was a child, on most Thanksgivings, my parents and my brother and I would get in our car very early on Thanksgiving morning to make the three-and-a-half hour drive from our house in Kent, Ohio, to Clarksburg, West Virginia, to see family. The roads were always empty, which I took as I sign that we were doing something wrong. In fact, we were doing something very right.
That’s because driving to wherever you are going on Thanksgiving morning has always clearly been the best option, even before we had Google data to prove as much. Let’s run through that Google data, though, quickly. Look above for a chart Google made showing traffic patterns in 25 major cities across the U.S..
As you can see, it lists traffic spikes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2016 ranked by the biggest spikes (Cleveland taking the top spot) and the smallest spikes (for some reason Dallas isn’t too bad.)
What this chart also shows is that there were no traffic spikes early Thanksgiving morning, or all day Thanksgiving really, unless you count the afternoon when people are presumably shuttling between locations or going out for beer or something. Or the evening, when everyone’s heading home.
So, yes, the data clearly shows that Thanksgiving morning is the thinking driver’s pick, but also consider, aside from that, going on Thanksgiving morning means less time with your crappy family, or at least a more manageable amount of time with your crappy family. Arriving on Thursday, you are the bright new thing, a breath of fresh air for a group of people who spent the entirety of the prior night talking and thus are already tired of each other.
This means that people will want to hear all about you, and when that well runs dry you can you divert the subject to all of the hottest family goss you haven’t heard about yet. The point of this being to run out the clock, lest you risk someone bringing up Trump or something. The ideal timeline: You arrive late morning, pretend to help out in the kitchen, eat for awhile, fall asleep watching football, and then explain that you’re leaving to go to the bar to catch up with high school friends that you “haven’t seen in years.”
When should you drive home? According to Google, traffic is worst on Sunday afternoons and evenings, as people return to their holes, though, if you look at the data, it doesn’t really matter.
My suggestion? Leave Saturday morning. You’ll have spent two days and two nights with your family, which is enough, and you’ll still have a day left over in the weekend with which you can do whatever you want.
According to AAA, 45.5 million people will take to the roads for Thanksgiving this year, which is up 3.2 percent from last year. That’s a lot of people! If for some reason you are one of those people and you find yourself in Clarksburg, West Virginia, I recommend getting some pepperoni rolls at Tomaro’s Bakery while in town. Top-shelf stuff.