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Thanksgiving TurkeyTalkin' Turkey with Sea-Tac​

Thanksgiving travel tips

With the family coming over for the traditional Thanksgiving meal, anxious cooks across the country call the Turkey Tips hotline to learn how best to prepare the bird. In the spirit of the season, the Port of Seattle offers its customers tips on the best way to travel by air.

More than 950,700 travelers are expected to pass through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from November 19-26. The heaviest travel days are anticipated to be Sunday, Nov. 26 (145,800), Wednesday, Nov. 22 (140,200), and Tuesday, Nov. 21 (131,400). And while it may be at other airports around the country, Thanksgiving is NOT the busiest travel season at Sea-Tac. Passenger traffic is heavier during the summer, from June to August.

To help make the trip easier, Sea-Tac offers these travel tips.

Smooth as Gravy:

No one likes lumpy gravy, just like no one likes a bumpy ride to drop off or pick up loved ones at the airport for the holiday. Here are some ideas to make the trip smooth:

  • Take Link Light Rail. You can park for free at the Tukwila or Angle Lake Stations (the closest stops immediately north and south of the airport), and take the train to Sea-Tac.
  • Consider parking in the garage, and walking into the terminal to say goodbye or welcome a traveler. One hour costs just $4; $5 if you choose our “Terminal Direct” parking, which is the closest to the ticketing level of the airport. We have 13,000 spaces in our garage.
  • If you use the garage, try using the south entrance off of 182nd Avenue. You’ll get in and out quicker. Another pro tip: Once in the garage, follow the signs for International Airlines, and look for parking in the yellow or green sections on the south end of the garage. Parking is usually available in these areas.
  • Sea-Tac Airport is offering a reduced weekly rate of $140 in General Parking. No extra taxes or fees. That’s like getting two days free when you park for seven days. Best of all, no coupon is needed. Click the link above for more information.
  • Consider taking a shuttle, taxi, or ride-share car to the airport.
  • Port of Seattle Police Commander Tom Bailey has other suggestions for how to get into and out of the airport. Click the link.
  • Think Opposite: Pickup on the departure drive, drop-off on the arrivals drive. Kind of like eating your pumpkin pie before your turkey.

Plan Your Menu (Trip):

  • Outbound travelers should arrive at least two hours prior to the departure of their domestic flight; three hours if you’re flying internationally.
  • Leave the stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner; don’t overpack your suitcase.
  • Speaking of stuffing: You can travel with food in your carryon luggage (except liquids over 3.4 ounces), but you may want to make sure your food is accessible in your bag in case TSA wants to take a closer look. For tips on flying with food click here.
  • Please check with your airline for updated flight information, or you can monitor current departure or arrival times using the Sea-Tac website.
  • If your holiday plans allow, consider flying on Thanksgiving Day. That will be the least traveled day of the Thanksgiving holiday week, with an estimated 90,500 passengers. The busiest days will be Sunday, Nov. 26 (145,800), Wednesday, Nov. 22 (140,900), and Tuesday Nov. 21 (130,900).

Comfy (and Powerful) Seating:

We often scramble for the folding chairs to accommodate extra guests at the Thanksgiving table. There’s no such problem at Sea-Tac. Travelers using Gates C2 and C3 will notice new seating. Most seats in those gate areas will feature power (outlets and USB), to let you charge up your devices before departure. New colorful couches will also be in place at both gates. The soft and inviting seating will also offer power outlets. The new seating and couches are previews of the new furniture that Sea-Tac will be installing throughout the airport in the future. (We even have a kids’ table – it’s in the play area!) 

The following tips also will help you have a safe and comfortable journey through Sea-Tac Airport and you may find our Passenger services and amenities page useful​ as well.

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
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 at the Airport
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.