With more than 1.25 million Massachusetts residents expected to be traveling for Thanksgiving — and almost 88% or 1.1 million of them driving — this could be a record-setting year, according to AAA.
Nationwide, this year is predicted to be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume — the highest being 2005 — since AAA started tracking this data in 2000. More than 55 million people nationwide are expected to travel 50 miles or more away from home anytime between Wednesday and Sunday. Overall, the total number of people traveling is a 2.9% increase compared to last year, or an additional 1.6 million people.
The worst time to travel in Greater Boston will be between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. today, Nov. 27, “when it’s predicted we will see almost 3 1/2 times the normal traffic on the roadways,” said Mary Maguire, AAA Northeast director of public and legislative affairs.
AAA’s prediction contrasts with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which predicted the latter part of Tuesday as the heaviest traffic time.
“I can say, having done holiday travel forecasts in this area for more than 10 years now, Tuesday is historically a very busy night on the roadways and in particular, on the Mass Pike,” Maguire said.
Still, she said heavy volume will continue into Wednesday, especially in the afternoon and evening. AAA’s predictions are formed in partnership with INRIX, a global transportation analytics company.
In the forecast for the Eastern Essex County region, National Weather Service meteorologist William Babcock said there will be mostly cloudy skies with a 50% chance of rain showers Thursday.
“We have a cold front coming through Wednesday night, which is going to produce a lot of showers,” he said. “But for Thanksgiving, most of that is lifting off to the north and northeast, so mostly just leftover clouds, maybe a few showers.”
“Temperatures will start the day around 40, and they’re not going very far” Babcock said, adding that the high will be around 45.
Ahead of the holiday, Maguire advises travelers to use the many weather and traffic apps available to them. She also suggests checking a vehicle’s tires, battery life and coolant level before hitting the road, and keeping an emergency kit on hand.
“Especially if you’re traveling with children, you want to make sure you have a kit containing jumper cables, blankets, water, snacks, de-icer, and a car charger,” Maguire said.
All 18 MassDOT service plazas will be serving free coffee from 10 p.m. on Thursday to 5 a.m. on Friday.
“Thanksgiving is an incredibly busy time for travel, whether on the roads, in the skies, or on public transit,” wrote Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack, in a statement.
“The get-away rush will be starting Tuesday and we encourage everyone to think ahead, have a plan and exercise patience with each other.”
David Procopio, a spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police, said there will be more troopers than usual on the highways and around the state.
“We obviously expect heavy traffic congestion, a lot of people on the roads and a lot of people on the road Thursday evening after dinner or celebrations,” he said.
“We remind people not to drive if they have consumed alcohol and it’s best to designate a driver who will be sober.”
With increased congestion, Procopio suggests people leave early and respect others on the road.
“If you consume something that makes you feel different, you are going to be driving differently,” he said. “So, we will be on the lookout for anyone who is impaired or committing any other kind of dangerous driving behavior.”
Staff writer Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.