With so much summer left and so little vacation time allowed, more travelers are looking to maximize three-day weekends. Analysis by INRIX, a leading provider of traffic information and driver services shows pushing back departure times by even an hour or two, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., can cut travel times by as much as 50 percent.
INRIX analyzed congestion data for several key three-day weekend destinations and found patterns that apply throughout the United States: the best departure times change from east coast to west coast and leaving later can have a surprisingly big impact on your travel time. Travelers may be surprised by the time they can save by altering departure times by just an hour or two.
The INRIX Summer Travel Report found patterns that apply throughout major regions in the U.S., including:
- If you live on the East Coast: Leave Thursday, take Friday off.
East Coast traffic is more conventional with the heaviest congestion on Friday night, especially during the summer. Travelers are anxious to get out of town; they want to leave right from work or right after work. This is a big mistake.
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INRIX tracked travel times to the Hamptons and found drivers who leave at 6 p.m. will get to their destination at 10 p.m., spending nearly four hours in traffic. Drivers who are willing to wait two hours and leave at 8 p.m. will get to the Hamptons in little more than half the time. "It's like a time warp. You save time by leaving later," said Holter.
- If you live on the West Coast: Leave Friday, take Monday off
West Coast traffic mirrors the West Coast focus on lifestyle. INRIX traffic data shows nearly all West Coast traffic is heaviest on Thursday night, not Friday night and 6 p.m. traffic is twice as bad as 8 p.m. traffic.
To get the most out of a three-day weekend, INRIX recommends West Coast travelers leave Friday night after work or after 8 p.m. and take Monday off instead of Friday. The difference between Thursday night and Friday night traffic does not vary as greatly as the East Coast, but the tie usually goes to Friday.
- If you live in the Midwest: Chicago to the Dunes, leave Thursday; Chicago to the Dells, leave Friday
The trip out of town from Chicago is mixed. Drivers who plan long car rides should leave Friday and those who plan shorter jaunts should leave Thursday. The time saved isn't much. The real benefit comes from leaving after 8 p.m. both days. The later departure time shaves nearly an hour off a trip to the Wisconsin Dells.
The return trip is the key to smart planning. Folks who vacation in Wisconsin can save an hour by returning after 5 p.m. on Sunday. The 3 p.m. return trip is nearly four hours where the 5 p.m. return trip is nearly three hours.
Even the smartest vacation planners can’t plan for collisions on the road. Drivers can download the free INRIX Traffic App which alerts drivers of collisions, delays, hazards, and police activity. It delivers alternate routes when the unexpected occurs and also directs drivers to the lowest gas prices in the area.
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