Monday, November 21, 2016

Plan ahead to ensure you enjoy all of your holiday traditions

By Barbara LaBoe

The Thanksgiving holiday is a time for fun and relaxation, but holiday feasts can also present some tricky "high stakes" choices.
  • Homemade or canned cranberry sauce?
  • Rolls, biscuits or cornbread?
  • Turkey or Tofurkey?
  • And don't forget Apple Cup the next day: Cougars or Huskies?
The day before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year, especially on I-5 between Tacoma and Olympia. Thanksgiving
weekend is a very busy travel day and significant congestion can be expected on most major routes throughout the state.

A quick poll of co-workers and friends found some pretty strong – and unbending – feelings about each of these choices. And that's how it should be – it's what makes holiday traditions so special.
Anyone driving over mountain passes for the holiday
should be prepared for winter conditions.

You also have choices to make when it comes to Thanksgiving travel. Stay close to home or head out of town? Leave early Wednesday or put it off until Thursday? And when should you head home to beat the worst of the traffic? We want to make sure you don't miss out on your favorite holiday tradition because you made the wrong travel choice, so here are some tips and tools to make sure no one starts eating without you.
  • Know before you go. Our holiday travel charts help drivers plan trips around the most heavily congested travel times.
  • Online tools further help plotting your trip and our mobile app, 5-1-1 travel alerts and social media such as Twitter and Facebook help you stay informed on the road. (Have a passenger check these once on the road, distracted driving is a sure way to ruin a holiday).
  • Make sure both your vehicle and your passengers are prepared for winter travel.
  • Carry chains, especially if traveling over passes.
  • If traveling by ferry, leave extra time for holiday lines at the docks, consider purchasing tickets online  and make reservations if traveling on the San Juan or Port Townsend/Coupeville routes. Some ferries run on Saturday schedules on holidays, check your route schedule before heading out.
  • Check out the two extra trains WSDOT has added to its Amtrak Cascades routes for the holiday on Wednesday, Nov. 23 and Sunday, Nov. 27. Trains sell out quickly during holidays, so make reservations at www.amtrakcascades.com or 800-USA-RAIL as soon as you can.
  • Know your tolls. The State Route 520 bridge will have weekend rates on Thanksgiving, returning to normal rates on Black Friday.  On the Interstate 405 Express Toll Lanes, everyone travels for free on the holiday, returning to normal and HOV requirements on Friday. Weekends are always free in the I-405 lanes.
  • Slow down: many pass and road closures are caused by vehicles spinning out or crashing, not the actual snow levels. Don't be the one driver who snarls traffic for everyone.

Don't forget the football
This year's Apple Cup in Pullman on the Friday after Thanksgiving also presents several choices, especially with likely playoff and bowl invitations on the line. The 12:30 p.m. start doesn't leave much travel time between Thanksgiving meals and kickoff, making travel choices even more important.
The Apple Cup the day after Thanksgiving will add even more traffic to I-90 and roads into Pullman.

Will fans travel the night before or get up early the day of? Will true diehards try to have their Thanksgiving meal in the car this year?

Whatever your decision, follow these tips to help ensure you get there with time to spare:
  • Plan your route and give yourself extra travel time. No matter which way you're heading, there are only a couple of ways into Pullman. Drivers should expect congestion on US 195 and SR 27 between Spokane and Pullman, plus SR 26 between Vantage and Colfax, both before and after the game.
  • Be prepared for snow or ice on the passes – and check pass reports before heading out the door. A forecast calls for a series of strong fronts moving into the area on Thanksgiving and lasting through the weekend with snow levels falling which could lead to significant snow accumulation on the passes. High winds are also expected.
  • Slow down. No game, not even the Apple Cup, is worth crashing or risking injury.

Here's to a safe and stress-free holiday weekend and an exciting, hard-fought Apple Cup.