Holiday Travel Tips For Washington's Airports

Published: December 19, 2002


Nearly 1.4 million passengers will be traveling through Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International Airports for the holiday season and knowing what to expect at the airport can help make for a smooth experience. The busiest days for travel will be December 20th-23rd for departure with the return trips spread out over several days with peak periods just before and just after the New Year.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is offering travel advice to area travelers.

Before you go to the security checkpoint

 Do NOT pack or bring prohibited items to the airport. Visit for a complete list.

Leave gifts unwrapped. They may be opened for inspection.

 Avoid wearing clothing, jewelry, and accessories that contain metal and may set off the alarm at screening checkpoints.

Put all undeveloped film and cameras with film in your carry-on baggage. Checked baggage screening equipment will damage some undeveloped film.

 Carry-on baggage is limited to one carry-on bag plus one personal item. Personal items include laptops, purses, small backpacks, briefcases, or camera cases.

Place identification tags in and on all of your baggage. Don't forget your laptop computer; be sure to put a label on the computer and the carrying case.

 At Dulles Airport, passengers will be required to have a boarding pass and photo ID to pass through security screening checkpoints. Tickets and ticket confirmation (such as an airline itinerary) will not be accepted at these checkpoints. Passengers must obtain a boarding pass at the airline ticket counter or a self-service ticket kiosk provided by some airlines.

A complete overview of new security screening procedures and travel tips is available from TSA

Arrive early -- Airline and airport officials urge travelers to arrive at the airport at least 1 ½ hours in advance of domestic flights and 3 hours in advance of international flights to allow time for ground transportation, parking, luggage check-in and security screening In addition, plan extra time to find parking spaces since the lots and garages will be crowded. Airlines require photo identification of passengers over age 18. Many airlines request a government-issued photo I.D., such as a driver's license or passport.

Parking - At Dulles, there is ample Economy parking in lots located near the entrance to the Airport which provide the largest supply of spaces at the most economical rate. Free Airport shuttle buses operate between the economy lots to the terminals. For parking information at Dulles please call 703-572-4500.

At Reagan National, parking is expected to be in great demand over the holiday period. Travelers who want to drive and park at National are asked to call ahead to check availability of parking. Receive up-to-the-minute parking information by calling 703-417-PARK (7275).

The Airport Radio Channel, 530 AM, will keep you up-to-date on available parking as you approach the airports.

PARK AND EXIT QUICKLY AT DULLES - There is a totally new option to pay for parking at Dulles Airport, called "Pay &Go". Drivers who park at Dulles Airport should take their parking ticket with them and use the Pay & Go Machines in the Terminal as they exit the building when they return from their trip or from visiting the airport. Pay & Go Machines are located in the lower level of the Terminal near the east and west exit doors. There are also two machines on the pedestrian bridge, which connects the Terminal to the Daily Parking Garage. The machines accept $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills and MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover Card and Diners Club credit cards.

Once the ticket is paid at the Pay & Go machine in the terminal, the customer will not have to stop at a cashier booth but can exit at the Pay & Go lanes with the paid ticket. Staff will be in the Terminal to assist drivers who wish to use the machines. Cashier lanes also remain available in all lots.

Check In Before Check-In: Call your airline's 800 number to re-confirm your flight or to answer questions about security regulations related to checked baggage. Weather can greatly affect flight schedules. Snow and winter storms may cause delays or even cancellations so check both the local weather forecasts and those for the destination to which you are traveling. A good source of air traffic delays around the country is the Federal Aviation Administration website,


Try the Washington Flyer or SuperShuttle Service-- If you don't want to drive to the airports, consider the Washington Flyer express bus service from the Metro West Falls Church Station to Dulles Airport. For information about this service, please call (703) 685-1400 or 1-888-WASHFLY. In addition, SuperShuttle provides door-to-door shared-ride service to the airports, please call 1-800-BLUEVAN. For more information on these services, log

Take Metro -- Travelers using National Airport often find Metro a good alternative to driving. The Airports Authority also encourages Dulles passengers to consider taking Metro to the West Falls Church Station and connecting to the Washington Flyer Bus to Dulles.

Travel wisely-- Carry medicine, cash, jewelry and other important valuables with you on the plane. Have identification tags on the outside and inside of your luggage; these tags are available at the airline ticket counters although it will save time to do this before you arrive. If you leave your car at the airport, remove any valuables. Carry your purse and wallet securely, and keep your luggage and carry-on items in your sight at all times. For security reasons unattended bags and other items will be confiscated destroyed

For more information about Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International Airports, call(703) 417-8000 for National and (703) 572-2700 for Dulles. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority wishes a happy and safe holiday season.