Denver, CO

5 tips to navigate the Thanksgiving crowd at Denver's airport this week

Brittany Anas
Traveling through Denver International Airport this week? Airport officials recommend arriving two hours before your boarding time.Photo byDenver International Airport

By Brittany Anas / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, CO) Nearly 600,000 travelers are expected to pass through Denver International Airport during Thanksgiving week, which is a 12 percent increase over last year.

The busiest travel days will be Tuesday and Wednesday, with more than 75,000 travelers going through TSA security checkpoints daily, according to DIA.

Suffice it to say the most wonderful time of year is also the busiest, and you’ll want to give yourself some extra time at DIA (which is the third busiest airport globally).

Here are five tips for navigating the airport this week.

1. Drop your baggage off before you step foot in DIA

Save your shoulders the strain of hauling your luggage through the airport and avoid the check-in counter by taking advantage of the “remote drop.” There’s free bag drop service at 75th Avenue near the Pikes Peak Shuttle Lot and at the transit center near the RTD A-Line.

The bag drop is available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for domestic flights on United, Southwest, Delta, America, Alaska and Spirit. If you’re flying internationally, you can’t use remote bag drop.

Also, to use this service, you must drop off your bags at least 90 minutes before your flight. If applicable, airline bag fees are paid at the bag drop kiosk.

Something to keep in mind: Passengers traveling with lap infants must still visit the ticket counter to collect their child’s boarding pass per airline regulations.

2. Arrive early

Officials recommend getting to the airport at least two hours before your boarding time (not your flight time!)

The TSA screening checkpoints are generally busiest from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and again from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m, according to DIA.

3. Know which security line to use

DIA has three security checkpoints. Here’s what you need to know about each.

  • South Security is open 24 hours a day. It’s the primary checkpoint for standard screening; howeverthere’s a limited number of TSA PreCheck lanes open from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • North Security is open between 4 a.m. and 7:45 p.m. This checkpoint is primarily for TSA PreCheck travelers; however, there are a limited number of lanes for standard screening passengers.
  • Bridge security is open from approximately 4:30 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. This checkpoint is for standard screening, and there are no PreCheck lanes available.

4. Enjoy DIA’s amenities

Whether your flight is delayed or you’ve just got some extra time while you’re at the airport, enjoy some of DIA’s amenities. A free ice skating rink is open during the holiday season and is located pre-security near the Westin hotel.

Also, the airport is adding more food and beverage options. VooDoo Doughnuts recently opened on the B Concourse, and Novo Coffee is open in the center of the A Concourse.
DIA has a free ice skating rink that's open through the holidays.Photo byDenver International Airport

5. Make a parking plan

All of DIA’s on-site parking lots are open except valet parking in both garages and the Mt. Elbert lot, which opens if Pikes Peak reaches capacity. The Pikes Peak Shuttle Lot is the most cost-effective parking option at only $8 a day. If the more than 8,000 spots fill at Pikes Peak, the Mount Elbert shuttle lot will open as an overfill lot.

To help plan, you can see real-time parking availability here. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to the airport, parking costs increased in mid-July in most lots.

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Brittany is a journalist in the Denver metro area with more than two decades of writing and editing experience. She covers travel, restaurants and other lifestyle topics.

Westminster, CO

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