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Travel experts offer tips as drivers hit the roads this holiday season

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SEATTLE — With Christmas on Sunday this year, Friday is expected to be a busy travel day on the roads. Experts say with overall traffic in our region increasing between 2011 and 2016, drivers may feel the traffic impacts even harder this year.

Traffic has been steadily moving here on Interstate 5 all night long, but travel analysts say by avoiding I-5 on the worst travel days, drivers could save up to an hour of drive time.

You don’t need a Christmas tree to see the lights shine this year, just check out Interstate 5. It’s only Thursday, and drivers say they’re already getting a taste of holiday travel this weekend.

“I don’t like crowds, that’s why I was in a hurry because I thought if I could beat the 5:00 rush then I might be okay,” said Karen Janott.

Janott said it has been so bad, she’s grateful she won’t need to travel far this Christmas.

“Most of my close family lives here, and we’re going to Puyallup so we’re not going to go on the freeways, over the mountains, or flying,” said Janott.

But if you think it’s bad now, coming back could be even worse. INRIX, the traffic-tracking company in Kirkland, predicts the busiest travel time won’t be until next week.

“We expect the heaviest travel to be on the Tuesday after Christmas,” said INRIX Transportation Analyst Bob Pishue. “Monday after Christmas is also a holiday and people typically take off work, so Tuesday you’ll probably see the heaviest travel times in and out of Seattle.”

Regardless of which days will be the worst, drive say ‘tis the season to stay off the roads if you can.

“I am trying to stay home as much as I can right now and avoid the freeways at all costs,” said Stacy Johnson. “People who normally aren’t are on them, so I’m trying to stay away.”

If you can’t avoid driving, INRIX said on those busy travel days leave by 1:00 p.m. at the latest because mid-afternoon into the early evening are the worst times to hit the road.