Bay Area Thanksgiving Travel and Traffic

San Francisco traffic
Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images

Whether you're flying across the country or just driving across the bridge, you, unfortunately, cannot avoid the congestion that is Thanksgiving travel. Also unfortunate: San Francisco happens to be one of the worst traffic capitals in the United States when it comes to this fated holiday. It's going to be brutal. But you can try and avoid it. Or embrace it. Here is our guide to surviving the traffic and avoiding the stress. 

Plan Ahead

If you're flying across the country, you'll already have it booked. But it's really easy to leave your driving plans until the last minute. And that's when you're stuck in the world's worst traffic. The day before Thanksgiving is the pinnacle of traffic. It starts at 2:30 PM and goes until well after dinnertime. So you need a plan. Take some time to review your potential routes on Google Maps before heading out the door. By taking a route to airports like SFO or Oakland International that isn't quite as direct, you run less risk of being stuck in bumper-to-bumper mayhem.

And at the very least, the view will be just a little bit different. 

Time It Right

There's going to be congestion at any hour, but you can avoid the peaks. As mentioned above, Wednesday is going to be the worst. It'll take you longer to get where you're Wednesday, whether it's over to the East Bay or driving south to LA, than it will if you leave early Thursday. Now, that might mean you miss out on some quality family time, but if you're the type who gets easily irritated by traffic, then it's probably not going to be the best quality of time with the family when you come in after sitting on the Bay Bridge for an hour and half.

Wake up nice and early Thursday morning to be home before anyone's up—and get brownie points for bringing local pastries and coffee to share. 

Make a Survival Kit

Go ahead and scoff. It sounds ridiculous, but nothing is worse than being in stuck in the car without your creature comforts. Pour yourself a nice cup of herbal tea, pick out a good podcast or playlist that you won't have to tinker with while on the road. Then take a deep breath and take your time. Stress levels will shoot through the roof if you are racing out the gates. But if you settle in like you would for a road trip, you're less likely to engage in road rage. Who knows, the whole thing might even go by just that much faster.


Get a Ride

Some families get tipsier than others on this holiday, and after enduring the Bay Area traffic, you're probably inclined to take that scotch. If you can't stay where you are or haven't designated a driver (that's rule #1, people!), there's tipsy tow courtesy of AAA. Their Holiday Safe Ride Program provides rides and tows to members and non-members alike. But this too takes some foresight. Check the website to see if your area is covered. And you know, there's always Uber. 

Brace for Black Friday

If you're into the mega-sales, try taking public transportation. If you're not willing to go anywhere near a mall, stay home. Traffic will be the worst in the mid-afternoon, but it's going to be terrible all day long. A nice alternative would be a hike. Tilden Regional Park has great trails, a farm for the kids to get acquainted with animals and a killer visitor's center that all ages will enjoy. But the key is to stay close to where you are. Don't try and trek out to Tilden from San Jose. Instead, opt for a disc golf tournament in Kelley Park.

Or climb Mt. Tam if you're in the North Bay. Whatever you do, avoid the congestions zones and move about by your own power. You'll have done plenty of sitting in the car at some point this weekend. 

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