Plan Ahead For Holiday Weekend Travel

Nationwide, over 47 million people are expected to travel for the Independence Day holiday weekend according to the AAA travel forecast. About 90 percent will travel by car with the remainder flying or taking Amtrak. Here is what you need to know before you go.

Weather

For the North Sound, Saturday is the best day of the holiday weekend with partly sunny skies and highs around 70 degrees. A weak upper level low will park off the coast for the rest of the weekend and result in mostly cloudy skies and a threat of a few light showers Sunday and Monday with highs ranging from 65 to 70.

In the mountains, Saturday will again be the sunniest day followed by a threat of showers and thunderstorms Sunday into Monday.

Eastern Washington will have a similar forecast with sunshine on Saturday and highs climbing into the 80s. Then a chance of showers and thunderstorms the rest of the holiday weekend with highs cooling into the 60s and 70s.

Driving

According to Washington State Dept. of Transportation Independence Day weekend travel charts compiled over years of traffic data, the heaviest travel days eastbound on Stevens Pass and I-90 Snoqualmie Pass will be on Friday and Saturday. Returning westbound across Stevens and Snoqualmie Passes finds the heaviest travel day to be on Sunday and Monday. The peak times range from about 10 AM to 7 PM.

If you are heading south toward Portland, Friday is by far the busiest day with stop and go traffic at times expected from as early as 9 AM and continuing through 7 PM. The return trip finds the heaviest traffic volumes on both Sunday and Monday from midday until close to 7 PM.

There are no travel charts heading north toward Bellingham, but expect similar higher traffic volumes as those heading toward Portland during the holiday weekend.

If you wish to avoid delays and frustration in traffic, plan to travel before or after these peak times.

If you plan to use the ferry system, keep in mind that Washington State Ferries has a staffing shortage and they may have to make scheduling adjustments. Visit their website for the latest ferry schedules and plan ahead.

Gas Prices

Gas prices remain quite high but have come down about 20 cents per gallon in recent weeks. Heading into this holiday weekend, gas prices across Washington average just under $5.50 per gallon. Gas Buddy reports some stations are offering gas under $5 a gallon.

Air Travel

Sea-Tac Airport expects another busy holiday weekend period, close to pre-pandemic levels. Keep in mind several air carriers are experiencing pilot and staffing shortages and flight cancellations will again be an issue through the holiday weekend air travel period. Always contact your airline for the latest flight information. Authorities there ask passengers to arrive 2 hours ahead of their flight times and preferably 3 hours in advance.

Snohomish County’s Paine Field is a different story. The Paine Field passenger terminal will be busier than normal, but have far less congestion than Sea-Tac. Alaska Airlines has 24 daily departures from Paine Field.

Amtrak

Amtrak rail service to and from the North Sound also will be busy but have enough capacity. Amtrak says the busiest travel days are Thursday and Friday, and Sunday and Monday.

Wherever you travel this holiday weekend, plan ahead and travel safely.

North Sound Meteorologist Ted Buehner worked more than 40 years for the National Weather Service (NWS) from 1977 to 2018. He is now an Everett Post Media team member. Together with Everett Post Weather Minute Podcasts, he provides morning and afternoon commute traffic and weather updates on both KRKO and KXA Radio, and sports reporting on KRKO.