Thanksgiving getaway traffic and transit tips

Thanksgiving week is one of the busiest travel periods of the year, so whether hitting the road, hopping on a train, or jumping on a plane, expect big crowds and add lots of extra time.

No matter how you travel, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday the week of Thanksgiving typically have the biggest crowds.

On the roads, major ongoing work at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge continues to create extra traffic jams to or from the Eastern Shore. There will be no two-way traffic on the westbound span.

From Wednesday, Nov. 27 through Saturday, Nov. 30, the Maryland Transportation Authority will not have any cash toll collectors at the bridge.

Drivers can pay with E-ZPass or will get a bill in the mail. Rental car drivers without their own E-ZPass will face extra fees from rental companies.

The MDTA recommends traveling extremely early in the morning or late at night to reduce the amount of time you are stuck in traffic.

MDTA also suggests traveling very early in the morning or late at night to avoid major delays expected on Interstate 95 through and beyond Baltimore.

Maryland’s tolled bridges, in general, are expected to see their peak traffic on Wednesday.

The Virginia Department of Transportation projects the busiest times on its roads will be:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 26: 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on I-95 and I-66 in Northern Virginia
  • Wednesday, Nov. 27: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on I-66 westbound from the Capital Beltway to Prince William Parkway and 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on I-95 northbound between Richmond and Fredericksburg
  • Thursday, Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving): 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on I-95 southbound near Fredericksburg
  • Friday, Nov. 29: 12 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on I-95 northbound in Northern Virginia
  • Sunday, Dec. 1: The very worst of a bad day for driving is projected to be on I-81 between 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

HOV or tolling rules on I-66 inside the Beltway do not apply on Thanksgiving Day. HOV or toll rules always apply on the I-495, I-395 and I-95 Express Lanes.

On Thanksgiving Day, Metro will run on a Sunday schedule on rail and bus with trains only running between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. Parking at Metro lots is free and the agency charges off-peak fares.

The day after Thanksgiving, Metro runs a regular weekday schedule with normal fares and parking rules.

MetroAccess subscription trips are canceled both days.

Riders trying to get to Baltimore–Washington International Airport from the D.C. area using public transit must take MARC on the Saturday or Sunday after Thanksgiving. Metro has cut back B30 bus service from Greenbelt to only run Monday through Friday when the transit agency is running a regular weekday schedule.

MARC does not run on Thanksgiving Day. The Friday after Thanksgiving, MARC only runs the Penn Line and only on an “R” schedule.

To Dulles International Airport, Metrobus Route 5A runs between L’Enfant Plaza, Rosslyn, Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride and the airport. On the way out, riders can also instead take the Silver Line to Wiehle-Reston East where Fairfax Connector 981 and 983 go to the airport, or an airport express bus is also available.

Wiehle-Reston East is scheduled to be closed again through Saturday and Sunday as part of the multi-month weekend closures for tie-in work.

Dulles, BWI and Reagan National Airport are each offering 60 minutes of free parking in certain garages for drop-off and pickup during Thanksgiving travel as part of efforts to limit traffic jams.

Reagan National construction lane closures could cause more backups than usual though, including delays that stretch back onto the George Washington Parkway and Route 1. Metro’s Blue and Yellow Lines are scheduled to be running normally at the airport.

MTA Maryland Commuter bus does not run Thanksgiving Day or the day after, except Route 201 between Gaithersburg and BWI.

The day before Thanksgiving, most commuter bus systems run modified schedules to provide options for people leaving work early.

VRE does not run on Thanksgiving Day, and runs a reduced “S” schedule the day after Thanksgiving.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2019 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up