A ferryboat. (Washington State Ferries)

A ferryboat. (Washington State Ferries)

Turkey travel is for the birds

Leave extra early or late if you can, pack the winter essentials and prepare for traffic whether driving, flying or sailing.

EVERETT — Those who don’t have to travel beyond the couch this weekend have something to be thankful about.

It’s going to be crowded out there on the roads, seas and in the skies.

Thanksgiving travel is back to nearly pre-pandemic volume, according to travel association AAA.

About 55 million Americans nationwide will travel 50 miles or more from home during the long holiday weekend. Air travel is up almost 8% from last year.

Ferry traffic is also for the birds.

Washington State Ferries advises riders: “Pack your patience.”

You don’t have to pack a turkey sandwich. Most galleys are open now.

Service has returned to pre-pandemic levels on the Mukilteo-Clinton route, where two boats crisscross the water on sailings that take 20 minutes.

The busiest times on all routes likely will be westbound, onto an island, on Wednesday and Thursday, then eastbound, off the island, Friday and Saturday, as tourists head home or locals go to the mainland to score shopping deals.

To avoid the fray, walk on the ferry or go off-peak, such as an early morning or late-night sailing.

Getting to the ferry line is only part of the journey.

People using state highways to get to the ferry terminal should plan for traffic backups and delays.

Most of the holiday travel is expected via driving, according to AAA Washington.

Cars will jam roads around malls, big box stores and airports. Pre-booked parking at the SeaTac International Airport lot was already full, The Seattle Times reported.

Things should be much simpler and smoother for people flying from and to Paine Field in Everett. Brett Smith, whose company Propeller Airports owns and operates the passenger terminal, said about 2,500 passengers will pass through the airport tomorrow, likely on full flights.

Even with that number, the lines to check bags, check in and get through security should go quickly, he said.

Parking at nearby lots, which costs $20 to $30 per day, is ample even on busy holidays, Smith said.

“We’ve never once not been able to park somebody,” he said. “People should not worry about parking.”

Travelers crossing the mountains via eastbound U.S. 2 can expect heavy traffic between Skykomish and Stevens Pass starting Wednesday mid-morning, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. That vehicle congestion could resume mid-morning through early afternoon Thursday and Friday.

The heaviest westbound U.S. 2 traffic is expected from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sunday.

Drivers are encouraged to have winter essentials — such as food, water, blankets, flashlight and batteries — in the vehicle in case weather turns.

Get real-time traffic information at wsdot.wa.gov or the mobile app. Alerts are on Twitter @WSDOT. Set your car radio dial to 530 AM and 1610 AM for highway alerts. Call 5-1-1 for updated road conditions.

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

Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037; bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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