If You’re Among The Nearly 2 Million Coloradans Traveling Over Christmas, Here’s How To Avoid The Worst Traffic

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Traffic in Denver on a snowy evening.

AAA expects some 1.96 million residents to travel between Dec. 21 and Jan. 1 — an all-time record, the travel advocacy group says.

The vast majority — 1.78 million — will do so in a car. But unlike the Thanksgiving holiday, when most travel happens in just a handful of days, Christmas travel will be more spread out.

That means motorists can avoid the worst traffic by observing a few simple rules, AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley said:

  • First, leave early in the morning.
  • Second, don't drive on Dec. 26, the day after Christmas.

"On that day, I would say budget extra time," McKinley said, adding that travel times could double that day depending on your travel plans.

If you do find yourself in a sea of red lights, McKinley advises doing your best to relax.

"Every time I'm stuck in traffic I say to myself, 'I hate traffic,' up until I remember that I am traffic," he said. "You're out on the roads, and so is everybody else."

The Colorado Department of Transportation expects traffic on I-70 west of Denver to be busy on Christmas Eve and the days following the holiday. More than 46,000 cars passed through the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel the day after Christmas in 2018, a 42 percent increase over the day before.

The agency says it will suspend lane closures in most construction zones to help alleviate congestion. It also warns that eastbound I-70 at Floyd Hill may close between 7-8:30 a.m. because of blinding sun glare, a phenomenon that plagues the roadway from November through February every year.