EVERETT — Labor Day weekend is holiday weekend fun.
It’s also holiday travel purgatory.
Getting to your last hurrah of summer is only half of it. You also have to get back.
Friday and Monday are the choke days on many roads, ferries and planes, but the frenzy starts Thursday for people with nice bosses giving them the afternoon off.
“The general rule is leave early or leave late,” AAA Washington spokesperson Kelly Just said. “If you want to head out at 5 p.m. just plan to be sitting in your car idling versus actually driving.”
A drop in gas prices has people making up for missing out.
“In Washington, it was $4.73 today,” Just said. “The people who weren’t traveling in the summer when we were hitting a new record every day may be heading out now.”
Check Washington State Department of Transportation online, at wsdot.wa.gov, to plot your trip before you leave home. Load the mobile app, which shows real-time traffic on ferries and roads. Alerts are also on Twitter, @WSDOT. For the Luddites, set your car radio dial to 530 AM and 1610 AM for highway advisory radio alerts. Call 5-1-1 for updated road conditions.
The WSDOT app is handy even when traveling close to home, such as to the Evergreen State Fair that runs through Sept. 5, or trips to Costco, which is closed on Labor Day Monday but other stores are open.
Most state highway construction work is suspended through the holiday weekend to ease congestion. The I-405 express toll lanes will be free to all drivers on the Monday holiday. Toll rates will be in effect on the Highway 520 bridge and Highway 99 tunnel.
Travelers will also take to the skies.
Snohomish County’s airport at Paine Field is bracing for a busy weekend. Sea-Tac International Airport expects 10% more travelers at the gates over the holiday compared to last year.
“Our bookings are showing that Seattle is the number one domestic destination for Labor Day travel,” Just said.
For travel on Washington State Ferries, face it, it won’t be smooth sailing. Wait times will be long for cars.
Charge your phone. Pack water, snacks and toys. Travel with someone you don’t mind being trapped with in the car for long spells.
Peak travel times on most routes 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.
Buy tickets in advance to get through the toll booth faster. The motorists behind you will appreciate it.
Bypass vehicle lines by traveling as a walk-on passenger. Wallow in the deck breeze and view.
Galleys are open on many of the boats and offer regional favorites, such as Ivar’s chowders, Whidbey Island Ice Cream and Alki Bakery pastries and Northwest craft beers and wines. Alcohol must be consumed in the galley, but you can take the eats to the car.
The much anticipated new public parking lot with 99 spaces operated by the Port of Everett that was slated to open Friday at the Mukilteo waterfront has been delayed due to an unexpected snag with the permitting process and will not open for at least 30 days, a port spokesperson said Thursday.