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December holiday travel: Best and worst time for road trips

by Staff

Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Col. Lou Caputo, left, has some fun with Deputy Willie Guerra as he aims a radar speed gun in a school zone on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Marathon.

Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Col. Lou Caputo, left, has some fun with Deputy Willie Guerra as he aims a radar speed gun in a school zone on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Marathon.

Tourist Development Council/Florida Keys News Bureau

Expect crowded roads as drivers head to and from their holiday destinations for Christmas and New Year’s.

There’s not much you can do about it. Or is there?

Unlike air travel, when you may be hemmed in by the time of your flight, you have a little more control as the captain of your vehicle.

To help get you around with less pain, AAA, the organization behind the emergency road service, has put together a best of times/worst of times schedule of when you should take to or stay off the streets during the December holiday stretch.

How many of us are hitting the road?

The AAA estimates that more than 6.6 million Florida people will hit the road for a trip of 50 miles or more from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1. That’s nearly 3 1/2 times the number of travelers who hit the road last year, which was a record and doesn’t include visitors from out of state.

“We want them to prepare,” said FHP spokesman Joe Sanchez told CBS News Miami on Wednesday. “And if you’re tired, there are plenty of rest areas. … Safety is always in season.”

The best and worst times to drive during the holiday stretch

Saturday, Dec. 23 and Thursday, Dec. 28 will be the most congested days on the road, according to a traffic analysis.

“In major metros, … drivers could experience nearly double the typical delays,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Avoid peak commuting hours and use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services to minimize holiday travel traffic frustrations.”

KNOW MORE: Gas prices in Florida are now the lowest in 2023. Will that last for the holidays?

Here’s a breakdown of the traffic forecast:

Saturday, Dec. 23

Worst time: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Best time: Before 10 a.m.

Sunday, Dec. 24, Christmas Eve/Nochebuena

Note: Minimal travel expected

Monday, Dec. 25, Christmas Day

Note: Minimal travel expected

Tuesday, Dec. 26

Worst time: 1 to 5 p.m.

Best time: Before noon

Wednesday, Dec. 27

Worst time: 1 to 7 p.m.

Best time: Before noon

Thursday, Dec. 28

Worst time: 2 to 8 p.m.

Best time: Before noon

Friday, Dec. 29

Worst time: 2 to 8 p.m.

Best time: Before noon

Saturday, Dec. 30

Worst time: 5 to 7 p.m.

Best time: Before noon

Sunday, Dec. 31 (New Year’s Eve)

Note: Minimal travel expected

Monday, Jan. 1 (New Year’s Day)

Note: Minimal travel expected

How to find cheap gas near you

There’s an app to help: The GasBuddy app was built to show motorists prices around them and a fuel tracker can update users on stations that have or don’t have fuel based on supply changes.

Interactive map: Use maps with data from AAA to see the average gas price by county.

This story was originally published December 13, 2023, 7:34 AM.

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