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Holiday travel tips for the D.C. area

What to expect from the changes made to the District’s Metrorail, buses, and more

Photo via Shutterstock/Hurst Photo

According to AAA, over 107 million Americans will travel this holiday season, whether by plane, train, automobile, or any other method. This means that this year will have the highest year-end travel volume on record in the nation with a 3.1 percent increase in travel volume compared to last year.

When it comes to the busiest time of the season for traveling in Washington, D.C., AAA predicts that Thursday, December 21 will be the worst day for starting one’s journey between the times of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

For those who would like more specific tips and information on what to expect this year, see what you should know below, from when the worst day to drive is, what airfare to expect, and what hours you should keep in mind for the Metrorail and Metrobus.


Out of the more than 107 million Americans traveling this holiday season, the majority (97.4 million) will do so by automobile, according to AAA. With this, be sure to leave the area during the early mornings or after the morning commute if able.

Unfortunately, factoring gas into one’s budget will be tougher this year. AAA reports that this year’s national average gas price from December 1 through 13 is $2.47, 28 cents more when compared to the previous year.

When considering slowdowns on highways, the areas to avoid are the Capital Beltway near Adelphi, Glen Echo, Montgomery County, and Springfield, Virginia; I-66 west; I-270; and I-95 in Virginia and Maryland, as reported by NBC4.

Instead, consider choosing US-301, the BW Parkway over I-95, and Route 1. More alternatives can be found in this Washington Post article.

HOV restrictions will be lifted on I-66 on Christmas Day.

Metrorail and Metrobus

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, off-peak fares will be in effect and parking will be free at Metro-operated facilities. This does not include the Largo Town Center or Morgan Boulevard stations due to a football game on Sunday.

On Sunday, December 24, until 6 p.m., expect single-tracking on the Red Line between the Medical Center and Grosvenor stations.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the rail system will be open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. For the Metrobus, it will operate on a Sunday schedule on both days.

Looking for more information on hours and fares on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day? Head to WMATA’s website for more intel.


More people are choosing to travel by air this year. There is an estimated 4.1 percent year-over-year increase in Americans flying this holiday season, according to AAA. Despite this, holiday airfares are nearly 20 percent cheaper than last year.

If you can, avoid flying on Friday, December 22. The New York Times reports that this will be the single busiest day to fly this holiday season.

For service to nearby airports, the Metrobus route 5A will operate Sunday service on Christmas Day, and the Metrobus route B30 will operate regular weekday service, but not operate on Christmas Day.

Have Holiday Plans, Will Travel: Record-Breaking 107 Million Americans to Celebrate Holidays Away From Home [AAA]

Best Time to Leave: Your Holiday Travel Forecast [NBC4]

A Guide to (Somewhat) Painless Christmas Travel [The New York Times]

Last-minute travel tips for your Christmas getaways [The Washington Post]

Metro Holiday Service Information 2017 [WMATA]