The best and worst times to hit the road during the holidays, according to AAA

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

Charles Krupa
A previous traffic jam on Route 93 South in Boston. Charles Krupa

Nearly 104 million people will hit the road this holiday season, and drivers in major metro areas may experience nearly double the typical delays, AAA reported.

115.2 million travelers will venture 50 miles or more from home over the holiday travel period, a 2.2 percent increase over last year’s numbers and the second highest year-end travel forecast since 2000, according to AAA.

Nationwide this holiday season, drivers could see travel times up to 20 percent longer, according to transportation analytics company INRIX.

“Traffic volumes and the number of travelers on public transportation are anticipated to be higher than normal,” wrote the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) in a holiday travel advisory.


Boston drivers will find the worst traffic from Boston to Portsmouth, N.H. on I-95 N, according to INRIX. Drivers can expect peak congestion on Saturday, Dec. 23 at 4:15 p.m., when the drive time will take 1 hour and 41 minutes and traffic on that corridor will be 55 percent over typical volume.

MassDOT will shut down scheduled road construction from Dec. 22 at 5 a.m. to Dec. 26 at 5 a.m. and from Dec. 29 at 5 a.m. to Jan. 2, 2024 at 5 a.m. The Sumner Tunnel will not close during the weekends of Dec. 22 and Dec. 29 due to “anticipated high traffic volume on roadways nearby,” wrote MassDOT. The swing lane will close on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, 2024.

For those looking to travel in the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane on I-93 between Boston and Quincy, it  will open at 2 p.m. on Dec. 21 and at 1 p.m. on Dec. 22, as well as at 2 p.m. on Dec. 28 and at 1 p.m. on Dec. 29. The HOV lane will be closed on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.  

“Motorists and public transportation customers should check websites for real-time travel information on major statewide roads, MBTA schedule information and the weather forecast before leaving home,” wrote MassDOT.

Minimal traffic is expected on Dec. 24, 25, and 31 and Jan. 1, noted the AAA report.


In general, the worst time to travel during the holiday season is between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Dec. 23; between 1 and 5 p.m. on Dec. 26; between 1 and 7 p.m. on Dec. 27; between 2 and 8 p.m. on Dec. 28 and 29; and between 5 and 7 p.m. on Dec. 30, according to the report.

The best time to travel, AAA reported, is before 10 a.m. on Dec. 23 and before noon on Dec. 26-30.

“MassDOT strongly urges all drivers to minimize distractions by turning off or putting away cellphones, traveling the posted speed limit, driving sober and devoting full attention to what is ahead on the road,” wrote Mass DOT.  “MassDOT encourages travelers to make an extra effort to be courteous on the roads and report to law enforcement any reckless driving.”