If you’re flying this Thanksgiving, you’ll be part of one of the busiest air travel seasons in recent history.
Airlines for America projects record-breaking airline traffic this year. The Thanksgiving travel period is Friday, Nov. 16, through Tuesday, Nov. 27, and the group expects 30.6 million passengers to travel during this time. That’s up from 29 million during the 2017 Thanksgiving travel season.
The trade organization, which represents U.S. airlines, attributes that growth to affordable flight options. Airlines for America points to Department of Transportation statistics that show a 5 percent decrease in fares compared to 2017.
Here are tips to help your trip go more smoothly.
Are you flying on the busiest days?
The busiest day will be Sunday, Nov. 25, with an estimated 3.06 million travelers flying that day. That’s closely followed by Wednesday, Nov. 21, and Friday, Nov. 16, as the next most popular air-travel days.
The lightest day, unsurprisingly, is expected to be Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22.
Here in Phoenix, Sky Harbor Airport expects its heaviest days to be Nov. 21 and 25.
Check your flight before you go to the airport
Nobody likes to spend more time than they need to at the airport. So, check your flight status before you head to the airport. It’ll be a lot easier to make calls or rebook flights from your living room than the airport.
Go to www.skyharbor.com to check the security wait times. Sky Harbor recommends arriving two hours before your flight departure if you are flying domestically and three hours if flying internationally.
You can expect the roads to the airport will be busy so pay attention to highway information signs for updates on airport traffic and alternate routes. Watch your speed and pay attention to officers directing traffic near the terminals.
Use the Sky Train
To avoid traffic congestion at the terminals, pick up or drop off your friends and family at the PHX Sky Train station at 44th and Washington streets in Phoenix. There’s a cellphone waiting lot, and your passengers can hop on the train to the terminals for free. Passengers also can connect with light rail trains here.
Sky Harbor parking discount
If you’re parking at the airport, plan ahead and save a few bucks.
You can get a 26 percent discount in the Terminal 3 and 4 garages with a coupon at www.skyharbor.com. These are the most expensive garages and normally charge $27 per day. With the coupon you’ll pay $20 per day. The coupon is good through Dec. 2.
Other parking options at the airport:
Terminal 2 garage: $10-$26 per day.
West Economy Lot: $7 per day.
East Economy Lot: $12 per day.
East Economy Garages: $14 per day.
Sky Harbor also offers valet parking at Terminal 4 for $34 per day. First-time users can save $5 when booking online ahead of time. For an additional charge you can get an oil change or fuel fill-up. Find out more at epicvalet.com/sky-harbor-valet-parking.
Using Uber and Lyft
The airport has designated areas for pickup and drop-off at each terminal.
Terminal 2: Outside Door 8 at the east end of the terminal.
Terminal 3: On the south curb outside Door 4 at the west end of the terminal.
Terminal 4: Two locations, both on Level 1: On the north curb outside Door 1 at the west end and on the south curb outside Door 8 on the east end.
Make sure you’re not accidentally packing prohibited items. Check the Transportation and Security Administration’s website to see which items can be carried on and which must go in checked luggage. You can also download the MyTSA app to your tablet or smartphone.
General rule of thumb for holiday foods: Solids such as turkey, pie and stuffing are OK. Liquid and gels such as gravy and cranberry sauce need to less than 3.4 ounces or go in your checked bags.
If you have a medical condition or disability, TSA has a help line to answer questions about screening policies and what to expect at security. Call 855-787-2227.
Consider PreCheck or Global Entry
It’s too late for Thanksgiving travel but if you’re heading out for the December holidays, consider getting PreCheck or Global Entry to make your trip through security a bit easier.
The cost is $85 for PreCheck and $100 for Global Entry (which comes with PreCheck membership). Both are good for five years. In exchange for a background check, members get a dedicated security line and don’t have to take off their shoes or remove their toiletries.
Before you pay, check your credit card benefits because some offer reimbursement or allow you to use points to pay the fee. TSA has a list of some cards that offer this on its website.
If you’ve had PreCheck or Global Entry for a while, check their expiration dates. It might be time to renew.
Things to do while you wait
Grab a meal, coffee or adult beverage. Here are all your options for eating, drinking and lounging, organized by gate. If you need help making up your mind, here are the 10 best restaurants in Terminal 4.
You can also visit the airport museums or relax at an XpresSpa.
You could also get a jump on your holiday shopping with Sky Harbor’s 2018 Holiday Catalog, which features locally made gifts that celebrate Arizona and are available in airport shops.