18:44 PM

'Tis the season: TPA prepares for a busy three-week holiday stretch

Similar to the Thanksgiving period, travelers will need to book parking ahead of time, use Blue Express when possible and arrive at the Airport early.

Following a record Thanksgiving last month, Tampa International Airport is now preparing for similar upcoming traffic as it expects around 80,000 passengers per day during the three-week Christmas and New Year's holiday period.

The two heaviest days are expected to be the Saturday before and the Saturday after the Christmas holiday, when more than 90,000 passengers will travel through TPA, and the weekend after New Year's Day will also be extremely busy.

Much like the Thanksgiving period, TPA's parking garages are expected to reach capacity during peak times, so travelers are urged to book parking in advance online. Some garages could briefly close, so travelers without reservations could get bumped to alternative lots, hence the need to arrive early. All drivers with reservations will be guaranteed a parking spot.

Arriving passengers using ride-share apps such as Uber and Lyft for pick-up on the Blue Side will be directed to use the Blue Express Curbsides to relieve congestion at the Blue Bag Claim level. Passengers using Uber and Lyft on the Red Side can either use the Red Arrivals drive or take the elevator up and over to the Blue Express Curbsides, where there is less traffic and passengers can be picked up more quickly.

Below are some critical tips to make one of the Airport's busiest times of the year a more smooth ride for all travelers.

PLAN AHEAD FOR PARKING: It is very likely that TPA parking garages could reach capacity at various points throughout the holiday season. For that reason, TPA is encouraging passengers to book parking online in advance of travel, which is the only way to fully guarantee a space when you arrive. The Airport offers discounted pricing in the Short Term, Long Term and Economy garages. Online bookings also help TPA anticipate demand and manage its garage space availability, prioritizing those who have reservations.

CHOOSE EXPRESS: Traveling with carry-on luggage only and don't need to go to the Ticketing level? The Blue Express Curbsides are an easy, breezy alternative to the regular Departures and Arrivals curbs to get in and out of the Main Terminal more easily. Drivers can follow the signage to Blue Express for a much less crowded drop-off and pick-up experience. TPA’s Blue Express Curbsides are also where ride-share apps pick up arriving passengers on the Airport’s Blue Side. Passengers on the Red Side  – where the Red Express Curbsides are currently under construction – can meet their Uber or Lyft outside of the Red baggage claim area.

ARRIVE EARLY: While most passengers can normally speed through the Airport and get to their gate in minutes, the holiday travel season and huge crowds can often lead to longer lines and unanticipated delays, particularly in parking or check-in areas. For that reason, passengers are encouraged to arrive at the Airport no later than two hours before departure, or three if you’re traveling internationally.

CHECK YOUR POCKETS: Jams and jellies, gravy, bottles of wine and other Christmas treats are commonly confiscated at TSA checkpoints, along with the usual prohibited items such as knives and firearms. To keep things flowing smoothly through screening, be sure to check your pockets and carry-on luggage before leaving the house.

SKIP THE LINES: You already know you’re going to need a snack or a caffeine fix once you get to TPA. Why not order ahead and have your latte or burger waiting for you when you arrive? Customers can use either TPA To Go or the Starbucks mobile app to order and pay, then swing by the counter and pick up the goods without standing in line.