If holiday travel stresses you out, get ready for the not-so-thoughtful gift of packed airports and roadways, Grinch-y passengers, and long lines, not to mention those mean little COVID elves attempting to spread anything but good cheer.
As we enter some of the busiest travel days of the year this week, San Antonio International Airport is offering up some holiday travel tips to help keep you safe and feeling like less of a Scrooge.
The airport expects a peak in travel two days before Christmas — Thursday, December 23 — and then again two days after New Year’s Day, on Monday, January 3.
“San Antonio International Airport anticipates increased numbers, especially with the addition of new nonstop flights to JFK, Boston, and Colorado Springs,” says Jesus H. Saenz, director of airports for the San Antonio Airport System. “The Colorado Springs route is seasonal, so some travelers will see snow during the holidays.”
While the potential of a white Christmas could bring cheer to some passengers, the fact remains that we are still living in a pandemic, so airport reps urge caution and point out that SAT’s COIVD-19 protocols and safety measures are still in place. (Note: SAT’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic will be on an abbreviated holiday schedule and will be closed December 23-January 3. Otherwise, clinic hours are daily from 9 am-6 pm and no appointment is necessary to receive a vaccine or booster.)
SAT maintains its contactless check-in areas, and hand-sanitization stations are conveniently located throughout the airport. Masks are distributed at each airline’s ticket counter, and TSA checkpoints and the airport’s information desks also have them for anyone who enters the airport without a mask.
And when you hear those regular messages and reminders to wear a mask, distance from others, and wash your hands, take heed and remember that we’re all in this together.
Here are some SAT recommendations for how you can fly safely, confidently — and, we might add, with a bit of joy and lightness in your heart:
- Check flight status online: Before you even get out the door, check the status of your flight online from home. You can also set yourself up with email alerts from the airline so there are no surprises.
- Print your boarding pass early: Again, do a little prep work prior to leaving home by printing your boarding pass or downloading a digital version to your smartphone. Otherwise, you can use the airline check-in kiosk at SAT, though be prepared for longer lines during the holidays.
- Save your elf work for later: The TSA recommends that passengers do not bring wrapped gifts to the airport. Pack your gift items unwrapped and add the festive adornments once you reach your destination. A word of warning: If you show up with a wrapped gift, the TSA may have to unwrap it for security reasons.
- Arrive early: Passengers are encouraged to arrive at least two hours before the boarding time of their scheduled flight, especially during the peak travel periods.
- Park wisely: After giving yourself ample time to navigate traffic on the way to the airport (remember, it’s the busiest travel time of the year), know where you’re headed to park the car. SAT offers nearly 9,000 parking spaces between its short-term, long-term, and economy lots (formerly known as the green and red lots). Obviously, the economy lots are the most affordable, and they include a free shuttle service that runs every six minutes. Utilize the signs for SAT’s Park Assist System to guide you to available spots. (You can also use the Park Assist app to better your chances of scoring a great spot.) Keep your ticket and consider jotting down your parking info so you don’t have to wander the lots indefinitely upon your return.
- Use the cellphone lot: If you’re picking up passengers rather than heading out, drive straight to the convenient cellphone lot to await their arrival. The new lot is located directly behind the Burger King and Q Mart convenience store on Airport Boulevard and features a digital monitor displaying real-time updates on flight arrivals.
- Know what can go: With regard to liquids, gels, and aerosols in carry-ons, stick to the 3-1-1 rule, meaning containers should have no more than 3, 1, and 1 ounces, respectively. You can bring some food along, but not sauces, preserved foods, or wine that’s more than 3.4 ounces.
- Be ready: When you enter the security checkpoint line, have your ID and boarding pass readily available to show to the TSA officer.
- Ask for help: Despite these tips, should you find yourself aimlessly ambling around the airport like a lost little reindeer, don’t hesitate to ask for help from the friendly airport ambassadors and staff. Travelers with questions about security or what they can and can’t bring on the plane can also tweet questions and comments to @AskTSA for live assistance.