Nationwide, over 53 million people are expected to travel for the Thanksgiving 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.
Overall for the North Sound, the Thanksgiving holiday weekend looks to have rain at times with mild temperatures. For those heading across the Cascades into Eastern Washington, snow levels are expected to remain above 5000 feet through the weekend. Check off any concern for winter weather driving conditions in the mountains.
In Eastern Washington, the threat of rain will be there as well though it could snow a little in a few places Thanksgiving morning. High temperatures will mainly be in the upper 30s to mid-40s, with lows close to freezing.
If you plan to visit Leavenworth for their holiday opening ceremonies, also anticipate rain at times with high temperatures around the 50 degree mark.
According to Washington State Dept. of Transportation Thanksgiving weekend travel charts compiled over years of traffic data, the heaviest travel days eastbound on Stevens Pass will be on Friday and Saturday. Wednesday and Thanksgiving Day itself have lighter traffic volumes. Returning westbound across Stevens Pass finds the heaviest travel days to be on Saturday and Sunday. The peak times range from about 10 AM to 7 PM.
Going over Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 reflects the same trends throughout the holiday weekend, just more cars on the road.
If you are heading south toward Portland, Wednesday 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 Saturday and Sunday from midday until close to 7 PM.
There are no travel charts heading north toward Bellingham, but expect similar higher traffic volumes to 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 have had to make some scheduling adjustments. Visit their website for the latest ferry run schedules and plan ahead.
The price of a barrel of oil has come down about 10 percent in the past week or so, and gas prices should reflect that price decline in the coming weeks, likely before New Year’s Day. Heading into this holiday weekend, gas prices across Washington average about $3.88 per gallon. That is up about a dollar from last year’s Thanksgiving weekend during the height of the pandemic, and up about 50 cents from Thanksgiving 2019.
Sea-Tac Airport is going to be a busy place through the holiday weekend. The airport is anticipating about 1.5 million passengers moving through the airport from Thursday to Monday, up nearly 150 percent from last Thanksgiving and close to 90 percent of 2019 totals. 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 that at Sea-Tac. Alaska Airlines has 13 daily departures from Paine Field including a new route to Tucson, Arizona.
Amtrak rail service to and from the North Sound also will be busy but have enough capacity. Amtrak says the busiest travel days are Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Wherever you travel this holiday weekend, plan ahead and travel safely.