Frequent ferry riders share tips for Memorial Day weekend trips

PUGET SOUND REGION — Memorial Day is just around the corner, and we all know what that means: crowds and lots of traffic, not just on the roads but also on the water.

Washington State Ferries say they see an increase every holiday and expect westbound sailings Thursday through Saturday to be the busiest.

Experienced ferry riders say it’s best if you travel without your car.

“Arriving early is always a good idea,” said Sarah Sprouse.

“Yeah, I expect it to be packed on the ferry, it’s going to be kind of tight,” said Julien Thorne.

Sprouse and Thorne both work in Bainbridge, and hop on a ferry about five times a week. With Memorial Day weekend coming up, they have a few tips that can help you out.

“Definitely having flexibility and showing up and walking on is much easier than trying to drive on,” said Sprouse.

“Make sure that you’re definitely an hour and a half ahead of time, because if you are not in that line for a certain time, there’s only so many cars (that are) going to be able to get on that boat,” said Thorne.

Washington State Ferries recommends making a car reservation ahead of time and say it’s best to travel early in the morning or late at night.

You can make reservations for the Anacortes/San Juan Islands and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes, but they fill up quickly during holiday weekends.

Before heading to a terminal, people driving on board should check terminal conditions. Some terminals have cameras and an estimate of open drive-up spaces on the ferry for upcoming departures.

“It gets to the point where you are afraid that you might end up missing the ferry, you know lines can be backed up pretty much around the corner sometimes,” said Thorne.

Most routes have returned to pre-pandemic levels. Sprouse says she noticed the spike in travelers, and that’s why she will not be getting on a ferry this weekend.

“Probably not this weekend. I’m hoping to avoid it,” said Thorne.

“Yes, It should be fun, I look forward to all of that commute, you know,” said Thorne.

Washington State Ferries officials say Saturday through Monday, ferries heading eastbound will be the busiest, and on Memorial Day, there will be a few schedule changes.