The best and worst times to travel by car during the holidays, according to AAA

Also, find out when and where Boston traffic will be the worst.

Traffic on the Zakim Bridge into Boston. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Travel levels will be close to pre-pandemic numbers this holiday season, and drivers in major metro areas could see double the typical delays, AAA reported on Monday.

About 112.7 million people will travel 50 miles or more between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, a 3.6 million increase over 2021, according to the agency. Nearly 102 million people will travel by car, 2 million more than in 2021.

“This year, travel time will be extended due to Christmas Day and New Year’s Day falling on Sundays,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of travel for AAA, in a statement. “With hybrid work schedules, we are seeing more people take long weekends to travel because they can work remotely at their destination and be more flexible with the days they depart and return.”


Drivers should plan ahead before hitting the road this holiday season by checking the weather forecast for the entire route and using technology for notifications of scheduled construction and traffic incidents, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) told in an email.

Boston drivers will find the worst traffic on I-93 S, Albany Street to MA-24, according to transportation analytics company INRIX. Drivers can expect peak congestion on Wednesday, Dec. 28, from 3 to 5 p.m., when traffic on that corridor will be 47 percent over typical volume.

INRIX predicts 56% over typical traffic on I-290 W, Exit 29B to Exit 16, on Dec. 24; a 32% increase on I-93 N, Exit 23 to Exit 34, on Dec. 27; a 17% increase on I-95 S, Exit 20B to Exit 10, and a 17% increase on I-90 W, Exit 20 to Exit 11A, on Dec. 28; and a 75% increase on I-290 E, Exit 17 to Exit 29B, on Dec. 27.

MassDOT recommends downloading its GoTime mobile app, where travelers can view real-time traffic conditions before the trip. Drivers can also dial 511 before a trip and select a route to hear real-time conditions. Travelers can subscribe to text and email alerts for traffic conditions, find real-time traffic and incident advisory information, and get access to traffic cameras on Also, MassDOT’s Twitter account, @MassDOT, provides regular updates on road and traffic conditions.


“With pre-pandemic levels of travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays in and around major metro areas, with Tuesday, December 27 expected to be the nation’s worst day to travel,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, in a statement. “Our advice is to avoid traveling during peak commuting hours. If schedules allow, leave bright and early or after the afternoon commute.”

Minimal traffic is expected on Dec. 25, Dec. 31, and Jan. 1, noted the report.

In general, the worst time to travel during the holiday season is between 4 and 7 p.m. on Dec. 23; between noon and 6 p.m. on Dec. 24; between 2 and 6 p.m. on Dec. 26; between 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 27-30; and between 4 and 7 p.m. on Jan. 2, according to the report.

The best time to travel during the holiday season, AAA reported, is before 2 p.m. and after 8 p.m. on Dec. 23; before 11 a.m. and after 7 p.m. on Dec. 24; before noon and after 7 p.m. on Dec. 26; before 2 p.m. and after 8 p.m. Dec. 27-30; and before 3 p.m. and after 8 p.m. on Jan. 2.


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