Heading out? Travel tips for the Thanksgiving holiday

Planes, trains and automobiles — and ferries, too. Some travel tips for the Thanksgiving holiday.


Or, if you prefer, metal snail. Because it’s a holiday weekend, you’re bound to be stuck in traffic. At least mentally prepare yourself for the inevitable. Then follow these tips to try to avoid the oil-slick slime trail.

Travel times are significantly lighter Wednesday and Thanksgiving Day mornings on the region’s major travel corridors.

I-5 sees the most holiday travelers, including many who don’t normally travel the route as commuters.

Heading south, you’re more likely to get through the Tacoma-to-Olympia section without screaming if you hit Tacoma by early morning (4 to 5 a.m.) Wednesday and before 8 a.m. Thanksgiving Day. You’re more likely to see light traffic volumes after 9 p.m. both days.

Heading north, try to be in Olympia before 7 a.m. or after 8 p.m. Friday, and before 9 a.m. or after 8 p.m. Saturday or Sunday for the lightest traffic.

On I-405, express toll lanes will offer a two-person free carpool all day Thanksgiving Day (with Good to Go account and Flex Pass), returning to a three-person requirement during peak hours on Black Friday.


For those heading south, Amtrak Cascades will again expand service for the holiday.

The Washington State Department of Transportation will add two trips each day between Seattle and Portland to the Amtrak Cascades regular schedule Wednesday and Sunday. Buses will provide extra service continuing to Eugene and points between.

All Amtrak Cascades trains require reservations. Go to www.amtrakcascades.com or call 800-USA-RAIL for tickets and information.


The longest lines for Washington State Ferries travel are expected westbound Wednesday afternoon and evening, Nov. 25, and eastbound Friday morning, Nov. 27. Some routes will be on a holiday schedule Thursday, Nov. 26. Check www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries for details.

If you plan to travel to the San Juan Islands for the Thanksgiving holiday, you can try to make a reservation.


Thanksgiving weekend is not the busiest time of year for air travel. But it can feel like it with the number of inexperienced travelers taking a flight — inexperience can back up checkpoint lines. The number of vehicles coming through to drop off or pick up relatives can cause jams into and out of the airport complex as well.

Tips from Sea-Tac Airport:

Whether you’re flying or just the chauffeur, arrive early, arrive early, arrive early (did we mention arrive early?). If you get bored, there’s always a Pearl Jam concert poster exhibit and other art to take in.

Know your airport rush hours. Security checkpoint peak hours are 5-11 a.m. Thanksgiving Day will see the lightest traffic. For drivers, the busiest times are mornings for departures and evenings for arrivals.

Try meeting your arriving guests one level up from baggage claim at the less crowded departure drive. Those with only carry-ons can go straight out the ticketing level.

For drop-offs, reverse it. Go to the arrivals drive and travelers only have to go up one level to ticketing.

The airport’s cellphone lot often is full during holiday travel periods. Consider parking in Terminal Direct for $4 per hour.

Have a question? Email me at streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence. Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog at www.heraldnet.com/streetsmarts.

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