When’s the Best Time to Leave? Your Thanksgiving Weather and Travel Forecast

Ready for Thanksgiving? Whether you're planning a trip or preparing to welcome guests, we have the weather and travel information you need to know -- including the best times to hit the road.

Note that if you were planning to take the Capital Beltway around midday Wednesday, you should make other plans. Traffic is backed up for nearly 10 miles after a crash on the Beltway's outer loop on one of the region's busiest travel days. 

What Will the Weather Be Like for Your Trip?

A winter storm in Minnesota is speeding toward the D.C. area and expected to arrive sometime late Wednesday night into early Thursday morning. Storm Team4's Tom Kierein said temperatures should be in the low to mid-50s, so there shouldn't be any ice coming in from the north.

Thanksgiving Day looking cloudy in the morning with a small chance of a few sprinkles then some sunshine may break out during the afternoon, highs in the low to mid 50s.

For more information on upcoming weather, check out StormTeam 4's live interactive radar.

When's the Best Time to Travel?

According to AAA, more than 48 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving.

How will the majority of these travelers be getting around? By car.

Obviously, you're going to want to drive during off-peak hours. But when are those, exactly?

In Maryland, your best bets on the Interstate 95 corridor on Tuesday and Wednesday are before 6 a.m. or after 11 p.m., said the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA).

For Thursday through Sunday, they recommend leaving before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

Based on traffic counts from previous years, the MDTA said it's expecting Wednesday to be the heaviest travel day in Maryland, although it's also expecting plenty of drivers to hit the roads Tuesday.

In Virginia, the heaviest traffic is most likely to happen from mid-morning to evening on Wednesday and Sunday, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said -- but drivers were told to expect holiday traffic as early as Tuesday.

VDOT has an interactive map showing the expected congestion levels for I-95 and Northern Virginia for Tuesday through Sunday, based on travel trends of the past few years.

HOV restrictions on I-66 and I-395 in Virginia will be lifted Thursday, and will resume Friday.

Transportation officials in both states are lifting construction-related lane closures throughout the Thanksgiving holiday to help drivers travel more easily.

Missing Attachment With temperatures dropping, it’s important to protect your car from the deep freeze. News4’s Melissa Mollet shows you how to prep for the WORST winter weather.

7 More Travel Tips:

1. Still don't have an E-ZPass? Get one. You'll save a signicant amount of time. Although it's too late to order one online if you want it before traveling for Thanksgiving, the transponders are available at a few retail locations. Visit EZPassMD.com or EZPassVA.com to see where you can get one in person.

2. Do have an E-ZPass? Make sure your info's up to date. Go to your state's E-Zpass site to verify that your credit card, license plate number and contact information are all current.

3. Don't have roadside assistance? Get it. Make a quick call to sign up for it through your car insurance company, or go online to register with AAA. You'll have help if the unexpected happens, both to keep you safe and to save yourself a lot of time and frustration.

4. Make sure your car is ready for the trip. Consumer Reports has a quick checklist you can run through, including making sure all your lights are working, your washer fluid's filled and your tire pressure is good. See the full list here.

5. Don't text and drive... or look at directions and drive... or flip through your playlist and drive. In Maryland, it's illegal to text or otherwise handheld cellphones while driving. Texting while driving is illegal in Virginia. Designate your front-seat passenger to be in change of your phone, the playlist and the directions.

6. Take a safety break. You might be tempted to make as few stops as possible, but don't drive for so long that you become a danger to yourself or others. A break at a rest stop will refresh you or let you exchange driving duties with a travel buddy.

7. But plan ahead to avoid unnecessary stops. If you have small kids, you're probably used to packing water and snacks. But even if your car's adults-only this Thanksgiving, it's always a good idea to bring along the basics. You'll also save money and probably end up with healthier options than what you'd get at a rest stop.

Sara Moniuszko contributed to this report.

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