Traffic moves north and south along I-5 through Everett on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Traffic moves north and south along I-5 through Everett on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jammed roads, busy airports: Labor Day weekend travel starts … now!

Even with gas over $5 a gallon, many people will embark on the last fling of summer, with 400,000 on ferries.

EVERETT — This weekend is not the best time to say, “Hey, let’s ferry over to the islands before it’s too late.”

It’s already too late, unless you want lots of traveling companions.

Washington State Ferries expects 400,000 people aboard Thursday through Tuesday in what could be the system’s busiest summer since 2019. Saturday is expected to be the peak travel day on ferries.

Travel surges over Labor Day weekend by sea, street and sky as people chase the last fling of summer.

Even with gas at about $5 a gallon in Washington, many will hit the road.

Timing is key to avoid the jams. Peak traffic is expected from 2 to 6 p.m. Thursday, with 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday also higher than normal, according to INRIX, a transportation data company based in Kirkland.

“The best times to travel by car over Labor Day weekend are early in the morning or in the evening,” INRIX transportation analyst Bob Pishue said in a news release. “If you must travel during heavy traffic, navigation apps and local departments of transportation can help steer drivers around long delays.”

Walking or bicycling on a state ferry can save hours trapped in the car line. Mukilteo now offers long-term paid parking near the terminal.

The busiest sailings for vehicles are expected to be westbound Thursday through Saturday, and eastbound on Sunday through Tuesday. In Snohomish County, westbound is Mukilteo to Clinton and Edmonds to Kingston. Eastbound is vice versa. Both routes have returned to two-boat service, but crew shortages continue to cancel sailings on short notice.

Check the Washington State Department of Transportation online at to plot your trip before you go. Load the mobile app, which has toll rates, traffic maps, Amtrak schedules and real-time updates on ferries, mountain passes and U.S.-Canada border crossings.

The WSDOT app is also handy when traveling close to home, such as to Monroe to the Evergreen State Fair, which runs through Monday.

AAA booking data for flights, hotels, rental cars, and cruises increased for Labor Day weekend travel over last year. Domestic bookings are up 4%, but the biggest jump is international bookings, up 44%. Cruise bookings increased 19%.

The top five domestic destinations are Seattle, Orlando, Anchorage, New York and Las Vegas this weekend. Vancouver, Rome, London, Dublin and Paris top the international list.

Long lines, already the norm at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, get even longer over holidays. Passengers without TSA PreCheck can reserve a screening time using SEA Spot Saver, a free service that allows appointments at certain checkpoints.

Travelers from Snohomish County wanting to avoid the Seattle congestion can catch the right rail at Northgate Station and get to Sea-Tac in under an hour. The cost for adults is $3.50. Seniors pay $1. Ages 18 and under ride free.

Riding a real train is an adventure in itself. The Amtrak Cascades has direct routes from Everett Station to Vancouver, British Columbia, and to Portland, Oregon. Hop on or off at stations that include Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Stanwood, Edmonds and Seattle along the way.

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443;; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

Talk to us

More in Local News

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

A fatal accident the afternoon of Dec. 18 near Clinton ended with one of the cars involved bursting into flames. The driver of the fully engulfed car was outside of the vehicle by the time first responders arrived at the scene. (Whidbey News-Times/Submitted photo)
Driver sentenced in 2021 crash that killed Everett couple

Danielle Cruz, formerly of Lynnwood, gets 17½ years in prison. She was impaired by drugs when she caused the crash that killed Sharon Gamble and Kenneth Weikle.

A person walks out of the Everett Clinic on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The Everett Clinic changing name to parent company Optum in 2024

The parent company says the name change will not affect quality of care for patients in Snohomish County.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
Lynnwood settles for $1.7 million after 2021 suicide at city jail

Jail staff reportedly committed 16 safety check violations before they found Tirhas Tesfatsion, 47, unresponsive in her cell.

Trainer Marcia Henton feeds Lolita the killer whale, also known as Tokitae and Toki, inside her stadium tank at the Miami Seaquarium on Saturday, July 8, 2023, in Miami, Fla. After officials announced plans to move Lolita from the Seaquarium, trainers and veterinarians are now working to prepare her for the move. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS)
Ashes of orca Tokitae finally home after her death last month in Miami

Her ashes will be scattered in a private ceremony by members of the Lummi Nation.

A Coast Guard cutter searches for a crashed chartered floatplane near Mutiny Bay Monday afternoon in Freeland, Washington on September 5, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Wife of pilot killed in Whidbey Island floatplane crash files lawsuit

This is the lawsuit filed against companies associated with the aircraft’s operations and manufacturing.

June Robinson
Everett senator will head state Senate’s budget-writing committee

Come 2024, Sen. June Robinson will lead the Ways and Means Committee, giving her power in deciding the state budget.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin gives an address to the city council of her proposed 2024 budget at the Everett Police Department North Precinct in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Everett mayor presents balanced budget for 2024; future deficit looms

If approved by the City Council, the $438 million budget will fund more police staff, parks and infrastructure.

Most Read