BWI survival guide: Where to eat and other ways to stay sane during the holiday airport rush

Survive the rigors of holiday travel at BWI with these dining and wellness options.
Survive the rigors of holiday travel at BWI with these dining and wellness options. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun)

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means that Christmas waits in the wings. In addition, for those who have to travel in and out of the Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport (BWI), these holidays promise rounds of long lines, traffic, the risk of delays and families that didn’t get their children’s shoes off before going through security.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said that the agency expected to screen close to 40,000 people at BWI during the Thanksgiving travel season (which it defines as between Nov. 22 and Dec. 2). But don’t let that number stop you from flying. Instead, be sure to follow these tips.


Park for free when picking up visitors

People getting rides that don’t require overnight car shelter can park for free in the hourly parking lot—but only for an hour. According to an airport press release, that policy applies to the periods “from Friday, November 22 through Friday, December 6 and also from Friday, December 20 through Friday, January 3.” Off-site parking and hotel shuttles will also get to use the terminal roadway’s upper level, which is typically reserved for drop-offs, for both drop-offs and pickups from Nov. 22 to Jan. 5.

Stay sane beyond security with these dining and wellness options

Security can be the most stressful part of holiday travel, but the terminals beyond carry their own annoyances: cancelled or delayed flights, children running around, bags on terminal seats and more. Survive this with these dining and wellness options:

  • Flying Dog Tap House: Maybe you want a beer to take the edge off before seeing your family. BWI has plenty of bars, but if you need some guaranteed quality, you’ll do fine with this outpost of the Frederick brewery. It features several of their famed beers on constant tap, as well as meals with ingredients from local Roseda Farms. Upper level of the food court between the A and B concourses.
  • Nalley Fresh House: For the health-conscious among us, the BWI location of this local salad and wrap restaurant offers both specialty and make-your-own options with nearly 80 ingredients to choose from. Upper level of Concourse A.
  • BWI Cardio Trail: Fight fatigue, restlessness and pulmonary embolisms in equal measure by taking advantage of this trail. It consists of two one-kilometer loops, one in the main terminal and another in the A and B concourses, designed to take about 20 minutes each. Main terminal and A and B concourses, pay attention to markings.
  • ROAM Fitness: If you need a more intense workout, this unique facility brings the benefits of a gym to travelers. For $25 (or more for frequent flyers that want to shave off a few dollars per visit), you can lift weights, do a heavy cardio routine, stretch and shower all within one retail space. Between D and E concourses.
  • Meditation Room: Slip into this quieter part of the airport to relax, focus on breathing and clear your head before descending back into the madness of holiday travel. Armchairs and serene decorations, including a trippy orange-pink sky-like portrait, add to the serenity. Between D and E concourses.

You can bring food, but pack it correctly

“People want to contribute to the Thanksgiving table, we get that,” Farbstein said. “It’s a matter of knowing where to pack the items: does this item go in a carry-on bag, or a checked bag?"

Most baked goods, such as pies and cakes, can bring their items to the checkpoints. But anything like homemade jams, cranberry sauce or other items with liquid or jelly-like consistency that exceed 3.4 ounces per item should check them.

Farbstein even has a handy rule for this: “If you can fill it, spread it, pump it report, it should go in your check bag.”

Still have burning questions? Visit tsa.gov or bwiairport.com for more.

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