22:22 PM

Five things to know about the Thanksgiving travel season at TPA

The holiday travel season of 2021 is fast approaching and everything you’ve heard is true: Airports will be as busy as ever and planes will be full. After several months of suppressed passenger traffic due to the pandemic, many families will be looking to be reunited with loved ones in other cities and countries and some of them will be flying for the first time in years.

Passing through TPA in the next couple of weeks? Here are five things to know during the Thanksgiving travel period:

1. The three busiest days at the Airport will be the Sunday before Thanksgiving and the Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving. While the Christmas travel season is spread out across a three-week period, the Thanksgiving rush is concentrated into one short week, with TPA seeing up to or more than 80,000 passengers coming through its terminals on peak days. The Saturday after Thanksgiving will be the busiest, with more than 82,000 passengers expected.

2. Masks are a must. Vaccinated or not, on a plane or in a terminal, all passengers and visitors (with few exceptions) inside a U.S. airport – any U.S. airport – are required to follow a federal mandate to wear a mask while indoors. That requirement is officially in place until at least Jan. 18, 2022. Forgot your mask at home? Our Guest Services Info Kiosk in the Main Terminal has a limited number of masks to give away, or several of our newsstand shops have masks for sale.

3. The Blue Express Curbsides are open and ready to make your life a step or two easier. Beginning Nov. 16, TPA opened its innovative new lanes and curbsides, designed to streamline your walk from car to gate (or vice-versa) if you have no checked luggage and don’t need to print a boarding pass at the Ticketing Level. Just follow the signage, or if taking an Uber or Lyft, their navigation systems will direct you to the right place depending on your luggage situation. And bonus: It’s a beautiful and calming space with some cool features you’ll see along the way.

4. All TPA restaurants and shops are open … depending on how early or late you’re flying. As passenger traffic has quickly returned to airports around the world, many are struggling to keep up with the demand for terminal dining and shopping experiences, primarily due to worker shortages. TPA is doing better than most, with all shops and restaurants now open for business, though some have limited hours, particularly during early morning or late-night hours. For a full list of TPA’s offerings and hours, check out this directory.

5. Arrive at least two hours before departure. Tampa International Airport is known and loved for its speedy and convenient trek from car to gate and has some of the fastest TSA checkpoints among airports of its size. However, the holidays are not the time to test that great timing, as lines are sure to be longer than usual, curbsides will be more congested and travelers generally move slower while on vacation. Passengers should plan to get to the airport at least two hours before departure to leave plenty of time to get to the gate and enjoy a stress-free journey through TPA. Even better, get to your Airside terminal well ahead of schedule, then grab a cocktail or snack, do some gift shopping and relax while you wait.