Traveling Thursday or Sunday? Leave early in the day to avoid the holiday traffic rush

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, traffic is expected to be heaviest Thursday on Interstate 5 between Tacoma and Olympia from approximately 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE -- Millions of people are traveling by land or by air this Thanksgiving holiday.

By 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, Christina Andreason had spent a lot of time watching other passengers pass by at Sea-Tac International Airport.

A lot.

"I feel like a fool," she said with a laugh. "‘Cause I got here so early."

Try 9 hours before her and her husband's flight to Sacramento, Calif., departs Sea-Tac at around 8:00 p.m.

She’s heard horror stories about getting stuck in heavy traffic and long security lines, she said.

"I was very surprised with how deserted it is in here. But everybody’s in really good spirits," Andreason said.

"I grew up in L.A., and LAX is a nightmare around this time. And coming here, it’s a breeze," added Travis Moger, who was heading to Spokane with his wife and their dog Milford.

The Transportation Security Administration told KOMO News that wait times through security checkpoints Wednesday have not exceeded 30 minutes.

The biggest challenge, at times, was just getting to the airport.

Alison Paoli will hit the road on Thanksgiving Day.

"We’re gonna head from Gig Harbor to Seattle. Then from Seattle back to Gig Harbor. And then Gig Harbor to Port Townsend," Paoli said. "I would say the latter half of the drive is gonna be much more peaceful then trying to get up and down the I-5 corridor."

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, traffic is expected to be heaviest Thursday on Interstate 5 between Tacoma and Olympia from approximately 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

The best time to travel on Interstate 90 between North Bend and Cle Elum on Thursday is before 8:00 a.m. and after noon if you’re headed eastbound. If you're headed westbound, travel before 11:00 a.m. or after noon.

"So, where you might think ‘It’s a holiday. There isn’t going to be much company.’ It’s really busy between Tacoma and Olympia. So, plan ahead. Especially for Interstate 5 travel on the holiday itself," said WSDOT Spokeswoman Lisa Van Cise.

If you plan to travel over the mountain passes, keep an emergency kit handy and make sure you have a full tank of gas. You never know when the road might close due to weather conditions or accidents/spin-outs, Van Cise said.

"It doesn’t take much for the conditions up at the pass level to change and change very quickly. So, unfortunately, if there is not enough following distance between you and the other cars on the road, or things ice up very quickly, sometimes we just have to close it down to keep everybody safe," she said.

That's why it's important to continually check the road conditions before and during your trip.

Hit the road early Sunday morning to head back home from your holiday travel plans or late at night, Van Cise said.

Sunday will also be the busiest travel day of the week at Sea-Tac Airport. Approximately 145, 800 passengers are expected to pass through the airport on November 26.

To save some time, here are a few tips that might help:

Try taking light rail.

You can also use the airport parking garage's south entrance off of 182nd Ave. and follow the signs for International Airlines. Looking for parking in the yellow or green sections on the south end of the garage.

Pick up your passengers on the departure drive or drop them off on the arrivals drive.

Have your ID and boarding pass ready to go when you step up to the security checkpoints inside the airport.

Sea-Tac Airport recommends passengers arrive at the airport at least two hours before their departure for domestic flights. International travelers should arrive at the airport at least 3 hours early.

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