July Fourth weekend travel: Here are the best and worst times to leave for your road trip

·6 min read

This Fourth of July weekend will be unlike any other, and if you're one of the estimated 42 million people expected to take a road trip for the holiday, you're more than likely to be stuck in traffic.

The holiday falls on a Monday this year, which turns the holiday into a de facto three day weekend, which is why Bob Pishue, transportation analyst for transportation data company Inrix, says there could be increased travel. AAA said other factors include persistent flight cancelations and delays at airports throughout the country.

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When is the best time to leave for Fourth of July weekend?

The earlier the better, Pishue said, because it gives flexibility to deal with any random traffic.

He said that since the pandemic began, mornings have been lighter because people weren't going into work. Even though the return to work has begun, it still remains a great time to travel, as well as nighttime.

"They're not as many people are commuting into work at 7:30 or 8 o'clock (a.m.). So the mornings are lighter, but the midday travel is as strong or a little bit stronger," Pishue told USA TODAY. "People are getting out in midday and afternoons. Not so much in the morning. So leave early – that's generally the best."

Here are the best times to travel for the holiday weekend, according to Inrix:

Thursday: Before 7 a.m. or after 8 p.m.

Friday: Before 10 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

Saturday: Before noon or after 7 p.m.

"If you really want to beat the traffic, if you want to get to where you're going quicker and with less hassle, I would recommend leaving midweek if possible," Oneika Raymond, travel expert and host on the Travel Channel, told USA TODAY.

If you're planning a quick trip for the end of the weekend, good news: Sunday and Monday are expected to have low congestion all day.

When is the worst time to leave for Fourth of July weekend?

The daytime is where you'll find the most pain behind the wheel.

Aside from the traffic, other factors could make sitting in traffic worse; daytime means hot temperatures inside the car if your air conditioning isn't working or fails.

"As far as safety and stuff is concerned, with the heat, make sure you have a ton of water, (and) don't overly stress," Pishue said.

Here are the worst times to travel for the holiday weekend, according to Inrix:

Thursday: 2-8 p.m.

Friday: noon-9 p.m.

Saturday: 2-4 p.m.

Pishue added another thing to consider if you are traveling during these peak traffic times: the possibility of car accidents. There has been an increase in serious car accidents and fatalities since 2020, so if an accident happens, it could mean extended time on the road and a greater need to stay alert behind the wheel.

"A lot of things can happen on a roadway," Pishue said. "We can't predict that."

If the only time you can travel is during peak times, Pishue said, have a traffic app or GPS unit on, because they can offer scenic routes as opposed to major highways and "make the driving experience a little bit more enjoyable."

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Travel impact on major US cities

If you plan on traveling to a major city or leaving one, travel times could be even worse.

Here are the worst parts of the roads in a handful of major U.S. cities, and what times could make travel a nightmare, according to Inrix.

Atlanta

  • Worst corridor: I-85 South, Clairmont Road to MLK Jr. Drive

  • Worst day: Thursday

  • Worst time: 2:30-4:30 p.m.

  • Peak travel time increase: 134%

Boston

  • Worst corridor: I-93 South, Purchase Street to MA-24

  • Worst day: Thursday

  • Worst time: 2-4 p.m.

  • Peak travel time increase: 103%

Chicago

  • Worst corridor: I-290 West, Morgan Street to Wolf Road

  • Worst day: Friday

  • Worst time: 2:45-4:45 p.m.

  • Peak travel time increase: 100%

Detroit

  • Worst corridor: I-696 West, MI-10 to I-275

  • Worst day: Thursday

  • Worst time: 3:30-5:30 p.m.

  • Peak travel time increase: 67%

Houston

  • Worst corridor: I-69 North, I-610 to I-10

  • Worst day: Friday

  • Worst time: 3:30-5:30 p.m.

  • Peak travel time increase: 92%

Los Angeles

  • Worst corridor: I-5 South, Colorado Street to Florence Avenue

  • Worst day: Friday.

  • Worst time: 4:15-6:15 p.m.

  • Peak travel time increase: 123%.

New York

  • Worst corridor: Belt Parkway West, Cohancy Street to I-278

  • Worst day: Saturday

  • Worst time: 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

  • Peak travel time increase: 142%

San Francisco

  • Worst corridor: I-80 West, Maritime Street to San Pablo Dam Road

  • Worst day: Thursday.

  • Worst time: 5:45-7:45 p.m.

  • Peak travel time increase: 75%

Seattle

  • Worst corridor: I-5 South, WA-18 to WA-7

  • Worst day: Friday

  • Worst time: 4-6 p.m.

  • Peak travel time increase: 138%

Washington

  • Worst corridor: I-495 counterclockwise, New Hampshire Avenue to I-267

  • Worst day: Thursday

  • Worst time: 3:15-5:15 p.m.

  • Peak travel time increase: 63%

How to save money for a Fourth of July weekend road trip

Raymond said there are still ways families can save money. She recommends people not wait until the last minute to leave because it can create a host of problems, no matter the means of transportation. She also recommends taking advantage of rewards programs to cut the cost of some travel expenses.

"Not only will it be stressful, it'll also be very expensive, and you might run into issues with availability. That goes across the board; that goes for flights, rental cars, hotels and other types of accommodation," Raymond said.

If you're traveling with family or friends, Raymond added, it's still not too late to plan the road trip together so you can save money on gas, because the national average still remains high at $4.89 a gallon, according to AAA. If you are trying to save money on gas, she said, it's best to fill up "sooner rather than later" and monitor prices throughout your route in case one state has cheaper gas than another.

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: July 4th travel, traffic: Best, worst times to leave for road trip