The Transportation Security Administration expects 40,000 outgoing passengers per day to be screened at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in the days leading up to Christmas.
If you're one of them, here are a few tips for more easily navigating the crowds.
Use the departures doors upstairs — even for arrivals
The line of cars waiting to pick up out-of-town family and friends has been known to stretch all the way out of the airport and back to Interstate 195 on Christmas Eve and the other busiest travel holidays of the year.
To avoid the wait, here is the best airport hack, hands-down: Tell your college kid, uncle, sister-in-law, or whoever else you are picking up (or whoever is picking you up) to meet you at the departures drop-off area upstairs.
This might seem counterintuitive, especially if the arriving traveler is picking up checked luggage from one of the carousels downstairs. But taking the escalator back upstairs can mean skipping the dawdling lines of people craning their necks for their Aunt Polly and Uncle George, in favor of the significantly thinner ranks of those who are hugging their friends and relatives goodbye — generally a much less time-consuming task.
(Related: Uber and Lyft are required to pick up passengers in the upstairs departures area through Jan. 6 to “ease congestion on the lower level,” the airport says. So, whoever’s picking you up, upstairs is the way to go.)
The hourly garage is free under an hour
Another alternative to sitting in a long line for arrivals? Park in the hourly garage and meet there.
The hourly garage will be free for those who get in and out within 60 minutes — another measure the airport is taking to alleviate backups on the lower arrivals level.
Bonus: It’s covered, so if it continues to rain as it has nearly all year, you’ll stay dry.
If the arrival is delayed longer than an hour, you can wait for free in the Cell Phone lot. It has been expanded by 50 spaces for the holiday travel season, according to the airport.
If you’re lost or need directions, ask a Pathfinder
Pathfinders, volunteers who staff information desks at the airport, can answer any question, whether it’s “Where’s the bathroom?” or “How do I get to D.C. from here?” Ask away!
Even if it’s been a long day of traveling, be nice. They’ve been known to dress up as Santa Claus.