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What to know about traveling as more travelers expected this holiday season

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: December 13, 2023, 5:54pm

With one of the busiest travel times of the year fast approaching, here is what you need to know, whether you’re going far or staying close.


Approximately 730,000 travelers are expected to pass through Portland International Airport Dec. 17-31, a roughly 20 percent increase from 2022. Port of Portland officials recommend arriving 2½ hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights.

The busiest travel days are expected to be Dec. 20-22 with upward of 50,000 travelers flying in and out of PDX each day.

Parking at the airport is in particularly high demand right now. Port officials recommend checking FlyPDX.com/parking for a live count of available parking spaces before driving to the airport.


Washington State Department of Transportation officials advise travelers to give themselves ample time, as crashes or emergency road repairs can unexpectedly add to travel times. And before heading out, check road conditions, as well as your vehicle’s headlights to ensure they’re working properly.

Most WSDOT construction work will pause over the holiday weekends to help reduce congestion.

To stay up to date, WSDOT recommends downloading its mobile app, checking traffic cameras, signing up for specialized email alerts (including traffic alerts, construction updates and timely reports of mountain pass conditions) and identifying rest areas ahead of time.


More than 20,000 passengers are expected to ride on Amtrak Cascades the last two weeks of December, up from 16,000 during the same period in 2022. The busiest travel days are expected to be the Friday, Saturday and Sunday before Christmas with some trains already sold out.

No major delays are expected over the holidays.

As of Monday, Amtrak added two daily round trips between Seattle and Portland, bringing the number of daily train trips between the two cities to 14. Tickets between Portland and Seattle start at $27 one way.


All C-Tran routes will operate on Sunday/holiday schedules on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Although the administration and customer service office windows will be closed, the call center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

On New Year’s Eve, all C-Tran routes will be free from 6 p.m. until the end of service. Additionally, a handful of routes offer extended service hours, including The Vine on Mill Plain and Fourth Plain, Route 48 (ilani, Ridgefield and 99th Street Transit Center), Route 60 (Delta Park) and Route 65 (Parkrose).

View the full list at https://c-tran.com/newyears.

In Portland, MAX, buses and the Portland Streetcar will be free after 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Most MAX lines run until 2 a.m. On Jan. 1, buses, MAX and Portland Streetcar will run on Sunday schedules. The call center and the Customer Support Center at Pioneer Courthouse Square will be closed.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

Columbian staff writer