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Easier Return After Thanksgiving

Post reporters Bill Brubaker and Ian Shapira talked to travelers and travel experts on Sunday who described the return traffic from Thanksgiving as surprisingly light for what is often the worst day of the year for long distance riders.

My own experience with the Wednesday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving, plus advice from readers and transportation experts, has led me avoid the roads on those days. We've certainly seen people spread out their departure days and times over the past few years. But the return trips still were squeezed into a much narrower window, as most people still lingered with family and friends until Sunday.

This year, I left Washington for Cape Cod on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and returned the Saturday after. On the return trip, we encountered 11 miles of heavy traffic getting through New Haven, Conn., and I thought it would remain so for the next 300 miles. But no, that was it. Along the way home, we saw signs of heavy shopping traffic in New York and New Jersey. But the later it got that Saturday night, the easier the travel was.

Some traditional bottlenecks along the northeast corridor were not problems: The point where the New Jersey Turnpike's auto and truck lanes merge, the Delaware Memorial Bridge toll and the Delaware Turnpike toll plaza presented no difficulties. (By the way, on the New Jersey Turnpike, we find the merge backup less severe if we're in the truck lanes rather than the auto lanes.)

Did you have any travel experiences during the past week that would help other travelers next year or -- more immediately -- during Christmas week this year? Dec. 25 is a Tuesday, so I'm sure many people are planning to make it a Thanksgiving-style four day weekend. The differences will be that the holiday is on the back end and that many people can take the entire week off thanks to school schedules.

By Robert Thomson  |  November 26, 2007; 7:44 AM ET
Categories:  Getaway  
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Can't comment on yesterday since I only went to Charlottesville for the weekend, but I definitely found that this morning's commute was substantially lighter than usual and it made me wonder if a lot of people were coming home today instead of yesterday due to all the media reports about traffic.

Posted by: Rich | November 26, 2007 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Hi Rich, and everyone. At 8 a.m. the roads weren't clogged as usual. I was surprised that my bus traveled from the Duke/236 395N entrance to the HOV ramp at Seminary road in under five minutes. This usually takes 10 minutes.

OTOH, the Metro was pretty crowded, especially on the Red Line. I'm guessing that more people decided to use pub. trans. this morning because of the high gas prices.

Posted by: YourStrawberry23 | November 26, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Instead of leaving on Tuesday evening, leave on Wednesday morning.

Late-morning traffic on Wednesday was very light. 70MPH on the outer loop and all of I-270 without any major delays.

Posted by: stuckman | November 26, 2007 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Stuckman is dead on... The "beat the rush" crowd leaving the night before big getaway days has become larger than the big getaway day itself. Note the monumental delays caused by 95 being shut down for three hours north of Baltimore on Tuesday evening didn't help either. Wednesday, on the other hand, was wide open almost all the way around.

Posted by: Joe in SS | November 26, 2007 8:24 PM | Report abuse

I left on Tuesday using 66 to 81, going to Atlanta, and other than the usual 66 afternoon traffic, it wasn't too bad. We came back Saturday on 85 to 95 and the only problem was the Fredericksburg to Springfield stretch of 95, which was awful. Seemed lighter than last time we went the same way about 4 years ago. I wonder if as many people drove as they were predicting?

Posted by: dkf747 | November 27, 2007 7:02 AM | Report abuse

Dear Dr. Gridlock: Some friends and I went from Arlington to Atlantic City the day before Thanksgiving and returned Friday. I had read your advice in Wednesday's paper about alternative routes to travel through the Northeast. Based on your recommendations, we opted to take US50 over the Bay Bridge and then up US301 into Delaware to link up with I95 past the Del. toll plaza. It worked great (except for a small slow stretch on 301 in Delaware just over the MD line). It only took about an extra 30 minutes compared to the usual route under ideal traffic conditions, and was far more pleasant. Except for the Bay Bridge, which always terrifies me to drive over. Thanks so much for the suggestion!

Posted by: courthouseguy | November 27, 2007 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I left on Wednesday morning to go to Syracuse and had no problems until mm 194 on 81 in Pennsylvania where they were just removing the barrels from some construction (a little late in my opinion). I came back on Saturday, coming all the way down 81 to 70 at Hagerstown, where I hit heavy traffic the rest of the way.

Posted by: Peej | November 27, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Flew out of Reagan on Wednesday afternoon headed to Florida on a non-stop flight.

I waited for 30 seconds to check my golf clubs and there was no wait to get to security. My flight landed early.

Same thing on the return although I got held up about 45min on the return flight -- not bad.

More people got on the Metro at Pentagon City with shopping bags on Sunday night than did at Natl Airport.

Posted by: CBGB | November 27, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

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