No Pace Like Home for the Holidays: Worst Travel Times in U.S.

CARS.COM — As gas prices continue a steady drop, millions of Americans will be traveling over the river and through the woods this holiday season. According to AAA, a record number of travelers will hit the road ... and go nowhere fast. AAA and Inrix, a global transportation analytics company, are predicting that travel times during the holiday week could be as much as three times longer than the normal trip.

Related: How to Transport Your Christmas Tree Safely by Car

It's estimated that 97.4 million Americans will travel by car for the holidays this year, up 3.1 percent compared with 2016 — the ninth consecutive year of rising year-end holiday travel. AAA and Inrix flagged the late afternoons of Wednesday, Dec. 20, and Thursday, Dec. 21, as the most congested times to travel. Commuters leaving work early mixed with holiday travelers is a recipe for jam — and not the sweet kind.

Drivers near many metro areas will see the worst delays, and New York City has claimed the top spot. Inrix estimates that drivers in the Big Apple could see travel times peak at three times a normal trip between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 20. But NYC-bound motorists won't be alone in the yuletide traffic.

Here are the 10 cities forecast to experience the worst driving delays, according to the report:

Travel Time Multiplied by 1.5

  • Detroit; 3-5:30 p.m., Dec. 21
  • Houston; 5:30-7:30 p.m., Dec. 20
  • Atlanta; 4:30-6:30 p.m., Dec. 21

Travel Time Multiplied by 2

  • Seattle; 4-6 p.m., Dec. 20
  • Boston, 2:30-4:30 p.m., Dec. 21
  • Chicago; 4-6 p.m., Dec. 21
  • San Francisco; 3-5:30 p.m., Dec. 20

Travel Time Multiplied by 2.5

  • Washington, D.C.; 3-6 p.m., Dec. 21
  • Los Angeles; 3:30-6 p.m., Dec. 20

Travel Time Multiplied by 3

  • New York; 3:30-5:30 p.m., Dec. 20

AAA advises motorists to avoid traveling through major cities during peak travel times. "The best times to leave are typically early morning or after the morning commute because the roads should be less crowded and you will have more time to get to your destination safely," AAA said in a statement. "If your schedule permits, traveling on the holiday itself often results in fewer cars on the road."

Nothing puts a damper on holiday cheer like a roadside breakdown. Follow these tips to make sure your car is ready for a winter trip; AAA recommends downloading the AAA mobile app before you hit the road. The free app for iPhone and Android can help motorists find cheap gas and hotels as well as request roadside assistance and find auto repair facilities.

AAA expects to rescue nearly 1 million motorists this holiday season due to car battery-related issues, lockouts and flat tires — so be prepared if you hope not to be one of them.

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