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Travel Tips

Sea-Tac Airport is as busy as ever

We've taken steps to speed up TSA lines, you can help too!

Sea-Tac Airport is the fastest growing large airport in the U.S., with 12 percent more passengers in 2015 and 10 percent more thus far in 2016. Sea-Tac has added staff and made several other changes to speed up TSA lines. Here are some tips to make your trip a smooth one.

Insider tips and tricks 
  • Arrive Early! Travelers are encouraged to arrive a minimum of two hours before domestic and three hours for international flights – give yourself time to park, check-in and get through security. Additionally, if you’re checking bags, add some extra time on top of it. It’s always better to be early.
  • The busiest times at TSA checkpoints typically are between 5 -11 a.m., while increased flights during the evening create another busy period between 7 - 9 p.m. 
  • Peak hours may mean TSA checkpoints are longer
  • Thursday and Fridays are the busiest days during the week while Tuesday and Wednesday are the least traveled.
  • Pack Safe: know before you travel what items are and aren’t allowed in carry-ons and checked bags.
  • Print boarding passes ahead of time or use self-serve kiosks at ticketing.
  • Travelers can reach gates from any TSA security checkpoint. The central checkpoint is open 24/7.
  • Empty liquids before you get into TSA lines.
  • At security checkpoints, have your boarding pass and ID ready and remove laptops from their bags ahead of time.
  • Trusted Travelers Programs such as Pre-Check or Global Entry. A new option is Clear which uses biometric technology to bypass the ID check station. These programs allow approved travelers to take specific designated lines for quicker service through checkpoints.

The following travel tips are designed to help you expedite the check in process and provide pointers to make your travel experience as seamless as possible. You also may find our Passenger services and amenities page useful.​​

The airport is fully equipped with special access facilities to provide all travelers – as well as meeters, greeters and airport employees – with a safe, convenient means of getting around. Please read our accessibility page for more information and visit TSA's website.
At home
Use Web Check-in. Most airlines offer it. You can print your boarding pass at home; if you don't have luggage to check you can bypass the ticket counter completely and go straight through the security checkpoint and your gate.
Check the status of your flight online.
Give yourself the gift of time. Get to the airport at least two hours before your domestic flight, 3 hours for international. Note: Due to heightened security some airlines are asking international travelers to allow extra time at the airport. Check directly with your carrier.
Avoiding congestion on the airport departures and arrivals drives aaaa
THINK OPPOSITE! Pickup on the departure drive (upper level), drop-off on the arrivals drive (lower level). If traffic is congested, look for the opposite airport drive for relief. Try meeting your arriving guests one level up from baggage claim at the less-crowded departure drive. Those with only carry-ons can go straight out the ticketing level.

For drop-offs, reverse it. Go to the arrivals drive and travelers only have to go up one level to ticketing. Remember, the busiest periods are mornings for departures and evenings for arrivals.

Don’t get stuck in traffic!– Park on the Terminal Direct floor of the airport parking garage, the quickest and most convenient option for meeting passengers in the terminal, and pay just $4 per hour. Or use any other floor for $3 per hour.

Try the Cell phone waiting lot – Our cell phone lot is located just south of S. 170th Street exit from the Airport Expressway. The lot has a capacity of 200 spaces specifically designed for easier circulation, along with better lighting, and free WiFi. Parking is free as long as drivers remain in their vehicle and can wait up to 20 minutes. Take advantage of the posted QR code to scan for the most recent flight arrival information. (Remember, there is no parking or waiting allowed on the airport roadway shoulders).

There is no parking or waiting allowed on the airport roadway shoulders.
Check-in options
Shortening your time in airline ticket counter lines is always a great strategy. New technology offers two alternatives for travelers.
Checking In for Flights in Sea-Tac's Garage or at ticketing. Travelers on seven airlines – Alaska Airlines / Horizon Air, Delta Air Lines, Continental, American, United, Hawaiian, and Korean Airlines - can check in and print their boarding pass from kiosks located at entrances to Skybridges 2 through 6. from the garage and on the ticketing level in the terminal.

The quick check-in kiosks enable travelers to print their boarding passes and bag check tags at the check-in kiosks. Passengers with only carry-on baggage then proceed directly to the security checkpoint.

Passengers with luggage to check proceed to one of the bag-check points, where customer service employees accept bags with tags printed by the passenger.
Eat in the terminal
Dine at the airport or grab some take-out for the trip. The options are delicious. Check out our dining and retail options.
International travelers
Download the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Mobile Passport Control App to expedite entry into the United States and help speed you through Customs.

Sign-up for Global Entry – frequent international travelers can significantly speed up their clearance process through U.S. Customs and Border Protection by enrolling in Global Entry. This is an expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. A five-year membership is only $100. Visit the Global Entry website for more information.

International travelers can take advantage of numerous Automated Passport Control and Global Entry kiosks.
Pack smart
Valuables and essentials, such as medicine and travel documents, should stay with you in your carry-on luggage. Know what is and isn't allowed in carry-ons and checked luggage, and remember to leave checked luggage unlocked or use a TSA-approved lock (your luggage may be opened for security reasons).

What you may and may not bring through security or in checked bags:

•  Prohibited items
•  Transporting firearms and ammunition
•  Military travel
•  Traveling with disabilities and medical conditions
•  Liquids rule
•  Guidelines on traveling with food and gifts.

Always check the latest security measures in effect on TSA's website.

What does the FAA say?

The FAA also has a helpful Pack Safe page to help you navigate through the regulation of hazardous materials. Please keep in mind that the links on this page contain lists of common hazardous materials; if you don't see your item it doesn't mean it's allowed in baggage. When in doubt, leave it out!
Park in the Airport Garage. Whether you're traveling for business or pleasure, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport's onsite parking garage offers the closest, most convenient airport parking for your needs and budget. With more than 13,000 spaces available for both short- and long-term parking, the Sea-Tac Airport garage offers a wide range of affordable parking options for business and leisure travelers.

You'll also notice there's an airport garage floor count system to take the guess work out of finding available parking. Remember to note where you've parked (space number and elevator color).

Parking Coupons – Discount parking coupons are available here. You also may wish to take advantage of special, reduced weekly rate. Keep in mind, prices include all taxes and there are no added charges or fees.
Plan ahead
  • Confirm your travel details.
  • Make sure that the name on your boarding pass and your government-issued ID match. This is a TSA requiremnet. So when you confirm your flight, make sure the name on your airline reservation matches whatever I.D. you plan to use (driver's license or passport, for example).
  • Ask about baggage policies for your airline: How many bags are allowed; what the fees are; and what are the size and weight restrictions.
Public transit
A number of public transit options are available, including Link Light Rail, which gives travelers a quick, inexpensive and environmentally friendly way to travel from downtown to the airport. Check out all the public transit options.
TSA Security
Security checkpoints at Sea-Tac are managed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). There are four main checkpoints at Sea-Tac and a fifth that is opened as needed or as staffing allows.
Travelers can reach their gates from any checkpoint.  If one line looks formidable and you are able, check other lines. The central checkpoint is open 24/7.

Security Checkpoint #1 is open for limited hours for cruise passengers only. Passengers should be prepared to present their cruise card.

More information on the use of full body scanners is available on the TSA's website and you may read the Security page for more detail.

Insider tips and tricks

The info and tips at the top of the page will help expedite your next trip through Sea-Tac Airport.
Traveling with kids
Sea-Tac's kids area is between Concourse A and the Central Terminal, across from Seattle Taproom. It's a fun-filled place to let children play before the flight.

In addition, there is a Mothers' Room located inside the kid's play room. It offers a quiet, private space where moms can nurse, pump and spend extra time in rocking chairs with their babies. The room has adjustable lighting, several rocking chairs, foot stools, electrical outlets and side tables.

Military families can also access the Mothers' Room in the USO located on the mezzanine level of the Main Terminal.

Need more info on traveling with kids? Check out our Traveling with Kids page and/or TSA's tips.