Partly Cloudy 74°

Take your time, plan ahead, and enjoy safe travels this holiday season.

Take your time, plan ahead, and enjoy safe travels this holiday season.

Wikimedia Commons

Your Holiday Travel Guide

If you’re hitting the roads, rails, or airports over Christmas or New Year’s, you’ll want to plan properly to avoid being Scrooged by holiday travel woes.

D.C. Commute Times has compiled a wide array of information to help ensure your visit to Grandma’s house goes smoothly. We can’t guarantee you won’t experience a traffic jam or airport delay, but we can help you avoid the worst of it.

The American Automobile Association is projecting that people in the Washington, D.C. area will travel in record numbers. AAA said there will be 2,691,900 people traveling in the region, with about 2.4 million choosing to drive. Nearly 150,000 will fly, and more than 100,000 others will take a train, bus, or hop on a cruise ship.

Here are some travel tips, broken down by mode of travel.

ROADS

Yes, we said 2.4 million people in this region will be driving during the holidays. Many have already gotten a head start, and AAA said Wednesday and Thursday of this week were expected to be the “peak” travel times as holiday travelers mix with commuters.

Maryland and Virginia announced that it will cease most road projects and lane closures until after the New Year, but there could still be slowdowns in areas with concrete barriers on the shoulders.

Maryland and Virginia officials advised using EZPASS whenever possible, and offered these tips:

  • Remember to fill up your gas tank before you leave. Doing so will not only reduce the risk of you running out of gas while stuck in traffic, but you’ll also be less likely to use gas stations at highway rest stops, where prices are usually higher than average.
  • Use Twitter for real-time updates on major incidents. Follow: @MDOTNews, @TheMDTA, @VaDOTNOVA, @VaDot, @DDOTDC
  • Get text and email alerts from mdta.maryland.gov.
  • Call 511 or go to 511Virginia.org or MD511.org for statewide travel information.Call 1-877-BAYSPAN for traffic conditions on the Bay Bridge, or go to baybridge.com

RAIL

If you plan to travel by Amtrak, you probably needed to have purchased your ticket a while ago. The rail service had record revenue in November, driven by heavy Thanksgiving travel, and expects similar demand through the Christmas and New Year’s Holiday.

Locally, Metro will run a weekend schedule on Dec. 23 and 24. Then on Christmas Day, Metro will run on the Sunday schedule, beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 11 p.m. Parking will be free at most stations.

On New Year’s Eve, Metro will stay open until 2 a.m.

MARC Train will run its normal weekend service on Dec. 23 and 24, but will have no service on Christmas Day or on New Year’s Day. There will be additional after train cars this Friday to accommodate workers leaving early.

VRE trains will not run on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day. Service will operate between Christmas and New Year’s with an “S” schedule.

PLANE

With 150,000 people from this region expected to fly, you can expect crowded conditions at the area’s airports.

The Metropolitan Airports Authority, which operates Reagan National and Dulles International airports has a few travel tips for those flying out this week and next:
Around BWI Thurgood Marshall International Airport, parking in satellite lots is often full during the holiday season, so prepare to either reserve parking in advance or pay more for daily garage parking. (Or just get a ride.) Real time information on parking availability is offer on the BWI Airport website.

  • Give yourself time. Arrive two hours before your departure time for domestic flights, three hours for international.
  • Remember TSA procedures. The newest wrinkle is that you will probably need to removing electronic devices larger than a cell phone from carry-on baggage. Consider placing food items in bins for easier screening. Pack your carry-ons accordingly by putting items like electronics, toiletries and food in easily accessible places
  • BWI Airport is advising people to use the upper level to pick up and drop off passengers, or use the hourly garage.

WEATHER FORECAST

The good news for travelers is that current forecasts do not call for any troublesome weather over the holidays. It may rain on Saturday into Sunday in the Washington, D.C. region, but temperatures will be unseasonably warm, so there’s no risk of snow or ice. Chances of a White Christmas are minimal, though temperatures will drop and be cold enough by Monday to allow for snow if precipitation comes.

Click here to sign up for commuter news and real-time traffic updates for free, delivered to your inbox Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Related articles

  1. The suspension of road work on highways in Virginia could help ease holiday traffic.

    VDOT to Stop Road Work, Lane Closures During the Holidays

    Work will cease on Dec. 22 and won’t resume until noon on Jan. 2.

    Read More
  2. Tysons Corner at Christmastime. Great for shopping. Terrible for traffic.

    Avoid the Mall Mayhem During Holiday Homestretch

    With about a week before Christmas, expect malls and shopping centers to be packed. Here are some potentially high-traffic areas to avoid.

    Read More