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After recently returning from a family vacation to Corolla, NC on the Outer Banks in which we encountered significant traffic just getting to our destination (especially a family member's hour-later departure time resulted in a 3 hour difference in arrival time), it got me wondering about whether questions about the "best" time to arrive to limit traffic delays would be on topic.

I can see that travel times as a whole is much too broad and virtually unanswerable since there are too many variables to account for, but on the other hand, experienced travelers would know the ideal times to arrive at a given location to limit the delays due to traffic. Since the summer traffic on a typical arrival day (Saturday) would be reasonably predictable, it stands to reasons someone could provide advice on when to plan to arrive on the island to avoid significant delays. Similarly, I could imagine other vacation destinations around the globe have similar access challenges and would require advice on when to arrive.

For those who don't know, the Outer Banks of North Carolina are a barrier island with essentially 1 4-lane (2 each direction) bridge onto the island and a single 2 lane road north and south to connect the various communities to the bridge. From the time we hit traffic, it took us close to 3 hours to reach our destination, and a family member who was about an hour behind us arrived 4 hours after we did.

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They're usually fine, see for example Will the traffic and parking be easier in York on a week day or a weekend?, where people who knew York were able to give helpful factual information about how York is unusually consistent in having good reasons for having awful traffic at all times :-)

They were also able to suggest a non-obvious way to beat the traffic (York's park-and-ride scheme). Good work, team. Another travelling person succesfully helped.

Just keep in mind the usual criteria:

  • Be unambiguous: If there's an ambiguity about what best would mean, if it's not obviously just "least impediments to getting from A to B quickly" (e.g. if you also want a scenic route or to avoid certain types of road, or whatever) spell it out
  • Keep it objective like "What times of day see least congestion on [route]",
  • Tell us your criteria, e.g. make it clear if you're flexible or limited regarding days of the week and if you can't, say, choose to travel on a Sunday, tell us which days you can travel
  • Tell us what you've tried. I'd recommend first checking out this answer to that York question which suggests Google historical traffic data, it might answer your question for you. If it doesn't, tell us what you learned from it and why that isn't enough (e.g. maybe your location isn't covered, or maybe you have reason to be sceptical about google's estimates in this location - or maybe all the options look rubbish and you're just hoping there's some smart local alternative like park-and-ride)

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