Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer. By the time that weekend ends, all schools are usually back in session. Many families also see Labor Day weekend as a last hurrah for a vacation.
But how popular is Labor Day travel, exactly? According to a recent survey by The Vacationer, nearly 60% of Americans have plans to travel over the holiday weekend. In real numbers, that’s 148 million people hitting the roads or the skies for Labor Day weekend.
If you’re looking to travel during this busy time, it’s best to have a plan and know the best and worst times to drive over the long weekend.
To avoid getting stuck in traffic jams, travelers should set an alarm and hit the road early if venturing out on Labor Day weekend. However, if that’s not possible, consider night driving.
“The best times to travel by car over Labor Day weekend are early in the morning or in the evening,” Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX, told AAA. “If you must travel during heavy traffic, navigation apps and local departments of transportation can help steer drivers around long delays.”
The data INRIX shared with AAA shows the best and worst days and times to drive, starting as early as Wednesday, Aug. 30.
What Are the Best Days to Drive?
Overall, the best day to travel between Aug. 30 and Sept. 4 is Sunday, Sept. 3. INRIX’s data shows that “minimal traffic is expected that day,” likely because most people are waiting until the Monday holiday to return home.
On average, travelers should consider driving before 7 a.m. during the early part of the holiday travel window (Wednesday through Friday). By the weekend’s arrival, the best driving time shifts to after 6 p.m. If you’re going to wait to drive home until Monday, make it a late departure time. The data shows after 7 p.m. is the best time to hit the road.
What Are the Worst Times To Drive?
Peak traffic times are similar throughout the six days leading up to Labor Day. The roads will have heavier traffic between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. most of those days. The exception is Saturday, Sept. 2, when INRIX’s data shows 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the most cars on the road.
AAA recommends looking at your travel routes in advance, having your GPS smartphone apps ready to go (and your phone charged!) and packing some extra patience when traveling on Labor Day weekend.
With a little advanced planning, you and your family can avoid many travel headaches accompanying any holiday road trips.