Travel

The Best (and Worst) Times to Drive This Christmas

Published On 12/22/2015 Published On 12/22/2015

Considering the current state of holiday travel, it's any wonder nobody's given that old-time Christmas song "Over the River and Through the Woods" some more modern lyrics. Then again, “Into the Traffic and Through Airport Security” doesn't inspire a whole lot of holiday cheer. An estimated 98.6 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this year, according to AAA, and while most will leave for grandma's house when they finish work, some people actually have a little flexibility in their travel schedule.

And for those fortunate folks, traffic app Waze has figured out (or at least confirmed what we already suspected, really) the best times to hit the road so your dapple gray trots fastest. Using data from the same week last year, here are its predictions for this holiday:
 

The worst times to drive:

Wednesday, December 23rd
Make sure you’re on the road BEFORE 11am, as this is when the rush starts. And whatever you do, avoid driving between 3-6pm when rush hour meets holiday traffic for a literal nightmare before Christmas.
 
Thursday, December 24th
Your dad was right to rush you all out of the house before dawn on Christmas Eve day; the deluge of autos starts at noon and gets worse until around dinner time.
 
Sunday, December 27th
The Sunday after Christmas is statistically one of the WORST driving days of the year. In 2014, that day saw an 87.7% increase in traffic jams, a 13.7% increase in accidents, and a 23.2% increase in road hazards. So, you'll have to decide whether one more day with nana is worth the hassle.
 

The best times to drive:

Friday, December 25th
Also known as Christmas. Look, what do you really have to do after you eat breakfast and open presents anyway? Waze reports the 25th to be -- much like it is with air travel -- one of the lightest traffic days of the year.
 
Monday, December 28th
Light traffic in the morning with a slow buildup all day.
 

Other times to note:

Time you're most likely to get into an accident: Wednesday the 23rd. Last year, Waze users reported 19.78% more accidents on the 23rd, more than any other holiday travel day.

When the cops will be out: Sunday the 27th, when 32.69% more police are reported on the roads. And despite the fact that Monday is a great day to drive home, it also sees the second-most increase in cops, at 15.8%.

Most road hazards: Also Sunday, with 23.2% more hazards reported than normal, followed by Wednesday at 16.37%. Of course, your local weather might affect that too.

The absolute worst time to be on the road: Sunday between 2-6pm. The peak hours of the worst day. Just sit tight and enjoy some more leftovers.

And finally, if you were wondering about Saturday, December 26th, Waze reports it should be just like any other non-holiday Saturday. So that might be the time to head home. Just a thought.

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Matt Meltzer is a staff writer with Thrillist and will update you on all the South Florida traffic tie-ups: @ThrillistMiami.

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