Holiday travel tips: When to hit the road to avoid the worst traffic

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There may be nearly 6 million people on Florida roads during the holidays -- that’s 108,000 more drivers than this time last year, so you can expect congestion, traffic and long lines in many places. Give yourself some extra time to get where you need to go.

According to AAA, the worst days to drive between now and the start of the New Year are Friday, Tuesday and Wednesday after Christmas, and Jan. 2. Dec. 27 is the busiest day of the travel period.

If you’re going to hit the road Friday, the best time to leave is before noon or wait until after 7 p.m. or 8 p.m.

Antonio Freeman and his family are traveling to Pompano Beach from Washington, D.C., and South Carolina. They left home at midnight to avoid the rush.

“That’s the best time to do it because by the time you get to this side, things can get kind of busy. But we’ll get there kind of early, just after the morning rush. That’s kind of perfect,” Freeman said.

Traveler Thomas Rowe was on his way from central Florida to North Carolina -- at least an 8-hour drive.

“Just kind of leave early. Pack some snacks. It is supposed to be really cold. Pack some cold weather gear just in case you get stranded on the side of the road,” Rowe advised. “Water is a good thing, too, because you never know what is going to happen out there. Just be safe. Watch out for the other folks on the road that might not have as much experience as you do.”

AAA is anticipating helping around 899,000 drivers across the country with road-side assistance over the next 11 days with problems like flat tires, dead batteries and being locked out of their cars.

AAA is also offering a free service to any driver in certain states, including Florida, called Tow-to-Go to prevent as many impaired drivers from getting on the road as possible.

You can call for a tow truck and be driven to a safe location within a 10-mile radius for free. But the service should be used as a last resort.

All this travel is coming at a good time for drivers as gas prices continue to drop. The average cost for a gallon of regular gas in Florida is 25 cents cheaper than what it was on Christmas Day last year.

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