Thanksgiving travel can be a nightmare — here’s what time you should leave for the holiday to avoid traffic, according to Google data

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  • Thanksgiving travel can be a headache – but the earlier you get on the road, the better, according to Google data.
  • Using Maps data from last year, Google engineers deciphered the optimum time to leave in dozens of major US cities.
  • The downside: most of the optimum times are very, very early in the morning.

More than 54 million Americans will hit the road this week to celebrate the Thanksgiving with friends and family this year, according to AAA.

And as anyone who’s traveled in the days surrounding the holiday knows, all those cars on the road will only lead to one thing: traffic.

Engineers at Google took baseline data from Google Maps to find out the best times to leave in order to avoid bottlenecks – but some of the options might be even less appealing than sitting in a freeway-turned-parking lot.

In New York, for example, the best time to leave is 4 a.m. on Wednesday. The best time to return is even worse: Friday at 4 a.m.

Google traffic thanksgiving data


Traffic tends to peak at about the same time on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, in the late afternoon. There’s also a slight bump near 7 a.m. as the early birds hit the road.

Read more: This image of gridlock traffic in LA makes Uber’s plans for flying cars seem like a great idea

“For determining traffic conditions, we considered the ‘Thanksgiving Holiday Period’ to start the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and end the Sunday after Thanksgiving,” the team writes. “We analyzed the total number of cars on the road at a given time, as determined by the speed and location of Android phones that have location services enabled. All traffic information is anonymous and taken in aggregate for 25 US cities and nationally.”

You can use Google’s interactive tool to see the best times for your city. But be warned, most of the best times are extremely early in the morning, just like New York.

Luckily, there’s an option for daytime-only travel. But even then, your best off departing right at 6 a.m.

Check out the handy interactive tool here.