Tips for a Better Journey Through Washington's Airports

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport are preparing for another record holiday travel season as more people plan to take to the skies between Thanksgiving and the New Year.

Between Friday, November 17, and Tuesday, November 28, more than 28.5 million passengers are projected to travel on U.S. airlines for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 3 percent from 2016. According to the trade association Airlines for America, the busiest travel days are expected to be Sunday, November 26, Wednesday, November 22 and Friday, November 17, while the lightest is expected to be Thanksgiving Day.

For those traveling to and through airports in National Capital Region, the expected increase in air traffic means more congestion on airport roadways and inside airport terminals. To help make for a faster, more convenient journey, here are the Airports Authority’s tips for airport travelers.

Plan Before You Go

  • Pack smart – Know your airline’s checked bag policies and fees, remember not to pack laptops and other devices with lithium ion batteries in your checked bags, leave gifts unwrapped and pack liquids you plan to carry-on with you according to the 3-1-1 rule.
  • Check with your airline – Confirm your flight status and gate location before departing for the airport, and make sure you’re aware of airline policies regarding check-in times, boarding processes, fees and rebooking options.

Arrive Your Way

  • Consider your options – Reagan National and Dulles International are both accessible via car, taxi, ride share services and public transit. Reagan National is accessed directly by Metrorail on the Blue and Yellow lines while Dulles International is connected to the Silver line via the Washington Flyer Silver Line Express bus. Choose the most convenient or most economical option for you and your family.
  • Park with confidence – Reagan National and Dulles International provide economy, daily and hourly parking options depending on the length of your travels. Keep in mind certain lots at Reagan National may fill up on peak travel days, so ensure you’re able to park by reserving a parking space in advance online. Customers reserving garage parking at Reagan National using a promo code can receive up to $100 in discounts on parking stays of four days or greater through January 31, 2018.
  • Leave early – Allow for extra time getting to and through the airport, as holiday travel can cause backups on roadways and longer passenger queues throughout the terminal. The Airports Authority recommends arriving at the airport at least two hours before domestic departures and three hours before international departures.

Minimize Your Wait

  • Prepare for new screening procedures – The TSA is implementing new screening procedures in standard security lanes, which require passengers to remove electronic devices larger than a cell phone from carry-on baggage. The TSA also recommends placing food items in bins for easier screening. Pack your carry-ons accordingly by putting items like electronics, toiletries and food in easily accessible places.
  • Enroll in a trusted traveler program – Trusted traveler programs like TSA Pre✓® and CLEAR provide passengers an easy alternative to standard screening procedures and speed-up the security screening process. If travelling abroad, consider enrolling in Global Entry or using Mobile Passport to expedite Customs processing upon your return.

Enjoy Your Journey

  • Relax in our new restaurants – A multi-year effort to transform the concessions offerings at Reagan National and Dulles International is almost complete. Check out locally inspired offerings like Ben’s Chili Bowl, The Burgundy & Gold Club and &pizza, along with national favorites like Chick-fil-A and Five Guys.
  • Shop for those last minute gifts – Give the gift of travel this holiday season by sharing new experiences with family and friends to one of many new nonstop destinations, or pick up one of the many items featured in the #FlyWashington magazine gift guide.
  • Do something fun – Our airports will offer a full slate of holiday activities through December 21. Enjoy a musical performance, take a commemorative photo or catch a glimpse of Santa. View the full schedule here.


The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority operates Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, the Dulles Airport Access Highway and the Dulles Toll Road and also manages construction of the Silver Line project, a 23-mile extension of the Washington region’s Metrorail public transit system through Fairfax County and into Loudoun County, Virginia. More than 45 million passengers a year pass through the two airports.