So you’re planning to travel for Thanksgiving? Bring your patience because just about everyone else has the same idea.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts that nearly 1.3 million people in Washington state, and more than 55 million across the U.S., will make a trip of 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving.

That’s a near 3% increase compared to last year and the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since the organization began tracking in 2000.

Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Alaska Airlines, Kemper Development Co., NHL Seattle, PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and Seattle Children’s hospital. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.

Here’s what you need to know to avoid gridlock.

If you’re traveling by car

Most holiday travelers will drive to their destinations.

The Kirkland-based worldwide traffic-data firm INRIX expects Wednesday afternoon to be the worst traffic period. If you plan to depart Seattle between 4 and 6 p.m., your trip could take up to 2.7 times longer than usual.

Expect the most congestion on Interstate 90 between North Bend and Cle Elum and on Interstate 5 between Tacoma and Olympia in both directions Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

Prepare for added congestion on Friday in Seattle as well.

What could be Macy’s last downtown Holiday Parade will start around 9 a.m. Friday at Seventh Avenue and Pine Street. The route will wind along Fifth Avenue to University Street and loop back down Fourth Avenue ending at Olive Way.


Elsewhere in Seattle, University of Washington and Washington State University fans will flock to Husky Stadium for the annual Apple Cup. The game starts at 1 p.m. Friday.

If you’re traveling by train

Amtrak is encouraging holiday travelers on the Amtrak Cascades route — which connects 18 cities, including Vancouver, B.C., Seattle, Portland and Eugene along the I-5 corridor — to make ticket reservations early.

The Cascades line saw a 60% increase in ridership last year on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday afterward. The passenger railroad service anticipates similar counts this year.

Public transit in Seattle will operate on modified schedules.

King County Metro will provide bus service on a Sunday schedule Thanksgiving Day. Buses will run on a reduced weekday schedule Friday. Metro named the day after Thanksgiving Mark McLaughlin Day, after the Metro employee who was killed while driving Route 359 over the Aurora Bridge in 1998.

Sound Transit‘s Link light rail and express buses will run on a Sunday schedule on Thanksgiving Day. On Friday, light rail will run on a modified Saturday schedule, and express buses will run on a typical weekday schedule.

If you’re traveling by air

The Port of Seattle estimates more than 1 million passengers will travel through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Monday through Dec. 2. The busiest travel days — Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, and Monday, Dec. 2 — are projected to see between 140,000 and 163,500 passengers.


The Sea-Tac App allows flyers to check wait times in real time.

If you’re traveling by ferry

Expect added traffic at ferry terminals, WSDOT warns. The agency advises passengers to purchase tickets online in advance or consider walking on, if possible.

Only standby space remains on the Port Townsend/Coupeville ferry route Wednesday and Thursday, due to tidal-current cancellations.

Service to Canada is suspended through Dec. 8, due to required maintenance on the vessels.

Ferry schedules may be checked online or by calling 888-808-7977 to make sure your route isn’t running on a Saturday schedule for the holiday.