Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Go early or late to beat Memorial Day weekend traffic

AAA projects busy airports, ferries and roads over the holiday weekend this year, though still below pre-pandemic counts.

Make “the journey is part of the adventure” your mantra this weekend if you plan to travel.

Prepare for long waits for ferries, jammed roads and busy airports. The best, evergreen advice: Go early or late to skirt the crush if you can.

Over 42 million people are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home over the holiday weekend, a 7% increase from last year, according to AAA.

“This is expected to be the third-busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000, when AAA started tracking holiday travel,” AAA Travel senior vice president Paula Twidale wrote in a press release. “More Americans are planning trips and booking them earlier, despite inflation. This summer travel season could be one for the record books, especially at airports.”

Most people, around 37 million, are expected to drive during their Memorial Day weekend travel, according to AAA. Lower gas prices and the end of pandemic emergency orders are encouraging people to head out, though the car travel is estimated to be lower than what was tallied before 2020.

The worst travel times are projected for 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday (May 25-26), noon to 3 p.m. Monday (May 29) and 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday (May 30). Recommended driving times are before 1 p.m. Thursday and noon Friday, then before 10 a.m. Monday or before 2 p.m. and after 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Westbound I-90 between Ellensburg and Seattle is expected to have heavy traffic by mid-afternoon Monday, according to data by Inrix. Another popular destination is Ocean Shores, which can add another hour to travel time during the holiday weekend as people head west Friday afternoon.

AAA projects growth around 20% from last year for other forms of transportation, notably buses and trains, this Memorial Day weekend.

You can ride the rails instead of the roads. The Amtrak Cascades has a direct route from Everett Station to Vancouver, British Columbia, and to Portland, Oregon. Hop on or off at stations that include Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Stanwood, Edmonds and Seattle along the way.

Check state Department of Transportation online, at wsdot.wa.gov, to plot a trip before leaving home. Load the WSDOT mobile app, which shows real-time traffic on ferries, roads and border waits. Alerts are also on Twitter, @WSDOT.


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