This Is When Boston Traffic Is the Worst during Thanksgiving

Google Maps data indicates when you should and shouldn't drive during the holiday weekend.

The long road ahead: I-93 South at rush hour.

Photograph by Bob O’Connor

Thanksgiving is a sport, and not just because of the action on the football field.

The holiday’s varsity athletes go into the day with multi-pronged strategies to optimize eating (the rolls are not worth the stomach real estate), small talk (have a few canned stories to keep your aunts from veering into uncharted territory about your life), and of course, transportation. Traffic in Boston can be a bear on a normal day, but during Thanksgiving weekend, you better believe it’ll be wilder than those lawn turkeys in Brookline.

Luckily, Google has done some of the legwork—or car work, in this case—for you, analyzing map data to find the best time to get out of Dodge during the holiday weekend. The good news is that avoiding the rush is possible; the bad news is that a smooth highway cruise will require you to depart at 3 a.m. on Wednesday. If you’re traffic-averse but find a 3 a.m. wake up absurd, leaving at the slightly more reasonable hour of 6 a.m. on Thursday is another safe bet. On the back end of the weekend, try to head out at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. on Sunday to have the best shot at a quick ride.

If Thanksgiving feels more like a chore than a holiday, consider leaving the house at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the worst time for traffic in the Boston area. Every second spent in gridlock staring at the bumper in front of you is one less second you’ll get stuck nodding uncomfortably as your estranged cousin tells a story about his ill-fated trip to the Grand Canyon. Truly something to be thankful for! At the end of the weekend, the worst time to leave is Friday at 3 p.m., which will give you ample time to catch up on the podcast episodes you’ve been meaning to listen to for the last three years.

Traffic will likely be pretty gnarly for all of Thanksgiving weekend, particularly around noon on Thursday, and 3 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. But if the thought of gridlock has you down, perhaps the promise of sweet potatoes, stuffing, and that ooey-gooey thing called love will get you through to the turkey table.