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Thanksgiving traffic
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The worst Thanksgiving travel times and routes for 2017

When it comes to Thanksgiving traffic in western Washington, the best times to hit the road are generally the same every year — when no one else is out.

It therefore helps to know when drivers are expected to flood Washington’s freeways and highways.

RELATED: Gratitude goes beyond the Thanksgiving holiday

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, the worst of the weekend travel is over: Thanksgiving traffic is heaviest for the longest period on Wednesday, Nov 22. In fact, of the 13 worst travel times over this weekend, the heaviest traffic will be on I-5 between Tacoma and Olympia.

Still, you’ll want to avoid a few more bumper-to-bumper travel times this Thanksgiving weekend. Traffic peaks along certain routes, including:

  • I-5 between Bellingham and the Canadian border
  • Highway 2 from Everett to Stevens Pass and Leavenworth
  • I-90 from North Bend to Cle Elum
  • I-5 between Olympia and Tacoma

13 worst Thanksgiving traffic times and routes

  • I-5 northbound Friday, Nov. 24 (Olympia to Tacoma): 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • I-5 southbound Friday, Nov. 24 (Tacoma to Olympia): 10 a.m. through 4 p.m.
  • I-5 northbound Saturday, Nov. 25 (Olympia to Tacoma): 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • I-90 Westbound Saturday, Nov. 25 (Cle Elum to North Bend): 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • I-90 eastbound Sunday, Nov. 26: 11 a.m. through 2 p.m.
  • I-90 westbound Sunday, Nov. 26 (Cle Elum to North Bend): 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • I-5 southbound Sunday, Nov. 26: 11 a.m. through 2 p.m.
  • I-5 northbound Sunday Nov. 26 (Olympia to Tacoma): 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Check traffic news for Western Washington

Ferry travel

Lines are expected for Washington’s ferries. Reservations — if possible — are strongly advised by WSDOT.

Longest lines at the ferry terminals are expected:

  • Seattle/Bainbridge: Westbound Wednesday afternoon and evening (Nov. 22); eastbound Friday morning (Nov. 24).
  • Seattle/Bremerton: Westbound Wednesday afternoon and evening (Nov. 22); eastbound Friday morning (Nov. 24).
  • Fauntleroy and Southworth: All departures Wednesday evening (Nov. 22); departures from Vashon Friday morning (Nov. 24).
  • Edmonds/Kingston: Westbound Wednesday afternoon and evening (Nov. 22); eastbound Friday morning (Nov. 24).
  • Anacortes/San Juan Islands: Westbound Wednesday afternoon and evening (Nov. 22); westbound and eastbound Friday (Nov. 24) morning; eastbound Sunday (Nov. 26). Arrive 90 minutes to 2 hours before your departure time.
  • Port Townsend/Coupeville: Wednesday throughout the weekend.

Sea-Tac Airport travel tips

While Thanksgiving is not the busiest time at Sea-Tac Airport, officials are bracing for heavier traffic. More than 950,700 travelers are expected to pass through the airport between Nov. 19-26, according to the Port of Seattle. The busiest days will be:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 21: 131,400 travelers
  • Wednesday, Nov. 22: 140,200 travelers
  • Sunday, Nov. 26: 145,800 travelers

Sea-Tac officials recommend travelers:

  • Try traveling on Thanksgiving Day, the least traveled day during this holiday time.
  • Take Link Light Rail to the airport instead of tackling heavy holiday traffic.
  • Consider taking a shuttle, taxi or rideshare to the airport.
  • Arrive 2 hours in advance of the departure of a domestic flight.
  • Arrive 3 hours in advance of the departure of an international flight.
  • You can take food with you in your carry-on luggage, but TSA will want to check it out.

Check your flight status here.

The airport also touts its cell phone waiting lot with 200 parking spots and WiFi. It is located across from the S. 170th Street exit of the Airport Expressway. (Map) You’re allowed to park there for free for 20 minutes.

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