Best and worst times to travel over busy Thanksgiving holiday in Wisconsin

A look at the best times and the busiest times if you're driving
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 6:05 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2022 at 6:42 PM CST
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ASHWAUBENON, Wis. (WBAY) - The road is home for Wisconsinites Alec Hraban and Claudia Barbin, who travel just about anywhere in their purple bus with their dog, Indie. “We’ve been pretty much all across the country -- Florida, Oregon, everywhere in-between,” said Barbin.

This week, the pair is keeping their wheels at home, only traveling between Green Bay and Appleton for Thanksgiving. From experience, they expect it to be busy. “I do remember, recall driving on Thanksgiving Day and being just packed in the road,” Hraban said.

Nearly one million Wisconsin residents will hit the road this Thanksgiving holiday, among 54.6 million Americans traveling by road or air nationwide.

“That’s just shy of the record we set back in 2019, pre-pandemic level, but certainly higher than we’ve seen in the last couple of years and even higher than we saw in most of the pre-pandemic years before 2019,” said Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs, AAA – The Auto Club Group.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year.

AAA anticipates 89% of Thanksgiving travelers will drive to their destination. In Wisconsin, 957,872 are expected to drive over the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s 3,199 more travelers from 2021.

Minus one. Shirley Saez told us she almost went on a trip to Michigan with her daughter but thought twice about it. “I’d rather stay home. I had to the chance to go with her, but the traffic actually, I was like, I’m not driving there.”

All these vehicles are on the road despite some of the highest gas prices seen on the Thanksgiving holiday. AAA says drivers will pay about 48 cents per gallon more than in 2021, though prices are quickly dropping.

“Higher gas prices don’t seem to be enough to stop people from traveling to be with family and friends,” said Jarmusz. “We’ve found that when gas prices are high, travelers look to offset the added cost by spending less on a hotel, shopping or dining out.”

So when are the best and worst travel times over the holiday? AAA breaks it down:

11/23/2211:00 AM - 8:00 PMBefore 8:00 AM, After 8:00 PM
11/24/2211:00 AM - 3:00 PMBefore 11:00 AM, After 6:00 PM
11/25/224:00 PM - 8:00 PMBefore 11:00 AM, After 8:00 PM
11/26/224:00 PM - 8:00 PMBefore 2:00 PM, After 8:00 PM
11/27/224:00 PM - 8:00 PMBefore 11:00 AM, After 8:00 PM

If you’re going to be out on the road, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation doesn’t want you to forget about those orange cones.

”What the DOT does on holidays is cease most construction activities the noon before the holiday. We do this to get the construction trucks off the highway,” DOT communication manager Mark Kantola said. “Now, there may be some spots that have orange barrels up and there are some closures -- not in our Northeast region -- but there are some closures.”

The Wisconsin DOT offers a 511 app that lets you get road updates, including construction zones and accidents, before you leave your driveway.