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The holiday getaway spreads out

WTOP's Bob Marbourg, who is celebrating 30 years of guiding Washingtonians through traffic, was on the air Monday afternoon talking about the holiday getaway. It used to be that everyone left on Wednesday, he said, but "that ended about 10 years ago."

Yes, while Wednesday will be very troublesome, particularly from noon to 8 p.m., some people have taken the whole week. Long-distance travelers were mixing with our rush-hour travelers last Thursday and Friday, Marbourg says. Travelers will leave as early as families can be assembled. An important factor is the timing of school closings, and another, of course, is the end of the work day. [Visit our Taken for a Ride discussion group and tell me your ideal getaway day and time.]

Many others will clear out today. And some will make their sprint on Thanksgiving Day. Many have accepted the need to diversify into odd hours. They either are already on the road, or are waiting for nightfall.

Marbourg offers this sensible advice to those who are stuck here till the last minute: "There is nothing to be gained by leaving for a long trip and running into rush hour. Time and energy are lost getting nowhere. Unless weather is a concern, have dinner take a nap and leave later when the volume of traffic is lighter."

For those who will wait till the holiday itself, he warns that not all service area restaurants stay open on Thanksgiving, because the traffic is so light. Bring some snacks for the trip. (And by the way, remember that the service area on I-95 in Delaware is closed till summer 2010. The nearest service areas northbound on 95 are the Chesapeake House and then, on the New Jersey Turnpike, the John Fenwick.)

Here are a few online sources to help your planning:
-- For Virginia, look at
-- For Maryland, look at
-- For regional traffic conditions, look at our Traffic page or at, which has more traffic cameras.
-- Our Capital Weather Gang will keep you up to date on the forecast.
-- This is The Weather Channel's page for forecasts along the Interstates.
-- The Federal Highway Administration also has a page of Traffic and Road Closure information nationwide.
-- The I-95 Corridor Coalition has developed a site containing current traffic information and estimated drive times for major roadways along the East Coast:

By Robert Thomson  |  November 24, 2009; 9:01 AM ET
Categories:  Getaway , holiday travel  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Thanksgiving, travel tips  
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