Getting around big city traffic

 Getting around big city traffic

Traffic jam at Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai in a summer day

If there's one thing I dislike about RV traveling it's getting stuck in traffic jams around big cities.

Back in my working journalist days for newspapers and TV stations, that was the bane of my existence. Each morning, it was an hour commute to get to work. Returning, it was often longer. And if the weather was bad, it was sometime better to get a hotel room downtown than try and navigate the 42 miles from work to my house.

So when we began the RV Lifestyle seven years ago, my one big goal was to avoid traffic jams as best as possible. And that meant, avoiding big cities.

Each year, INRIX, a transportation data firm, releases a report that lists the U.S. cities with the worst traffic. Recently, they released a new traffic congestion report. The study ranked cities based on delays caused by congestion on U.S. roads and expressways. It also adjusted the measurement according to each city's population. INRIX determined the per capita and cost of congestion for each U.S. city as well.

Here are the five worst:

  1. Boston
  2. Washington DC
  3. Chicago
  4. New York City
  5. Los Angeles

But based on our experience, other big cities that you can add to that list include Baltimore, Atlanta, Detroit, Cincinnati, Nashville, New Orleans, Miami, New Orleans/Baton Rouge, Dallas, Houston, Portland, Seattle, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Denver and St, Louis.

So, how to avoid them?

Here's five things that work for us:

  1. Time your travel through big cities for Sundays (the best), Saturdays, holidays or non rush-hours (avoiding early morning, noon and late afternoon)
  2. Spend some time and look for two-lane highways that bypass large metro areas.
  3. Use the traffic app Waze. It provides real-time traffic and road reports and is a huge help in daily driving. 
  4. Each state highway department has a website that list construction projects. Check your route ahead of time so you can be aware and plan accordingly for the delays road construction creates.
  5. And when the inevitable happens like an accident up ahead or something else that causes traffic to back up and you find yourself creeping along in stop and go traffic, chill out. Turn on soothing music. Listen to an audiobook. Go with the flow. Look for a rest area to pull into and take a nap or prepare a snack until traffic clears.

Happy trails!



Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

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