HOUSTON — Thanksgiving kicks off the annual holiday travel season across the United States, and this year the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) estimates more than 25 million passengers will fly over the river and over the woods to destinations near and far.
At the Houston Airport System, during the traditional holiday travel period — Nov. 16 through Nov. 26 this year — nearly 2 million passengers are expected to come and go through George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport. Bush Airport is one of the busiest airports in the U.S. during the holiday period, with an estimated total of nearly 1.5 million passengers over the period, while Hobby Airport is expected to see more than 500,000 passengers during that same time.
With that in mind, there are a number of things travelers can do to help keep things moving smoothly in and out of the airports. One key will be drop off and pick up locations at both airports. Both Bush Airport and Hobby Airport have an “active loading” policy — like all airports across the United States — which means that while dropping off or picking up passengers, parking is not permitted on the ramps or near the terminal in those designated loading and unloading areas.
However, there is a way to get to the airport early without having to park in a terminal garage or drive laps in the traffic circling the facilities. Cell phone lots at both Bush Airport and Hobby Airport are available for those waiting to pick up arriving passengers.
There are two cell phone lots at Bush Airport — one just off northbound John F. Kennedy Boulevard and a new expanded location on westbound Will Clayton Boulevard — and at Hobby Airport a cell phone lot is available on eastbound Airport Boulevard, just before the entrance to the airport. The lots are open every day, and there is no charge to park at the cell phone lots for short term waits. Signage marks all three locations, and drivers can wait there until their arriving party calls to tell you they have picked up their checked bags and are ready for you to pick them up at curbside.
Using the cell phone lots can alleviate both congestion in the pickup and drop off locations and provide a quick, stress-free trip to the airport. Information on the Bush Airport lots can be found online at this link, and at Hobby Airport at this link.
Here are some other helpful hints that can make traveling this time of year a little easier:
- “Fly” with the greatest of ease: The airport system’s award-winning website, fly2houston.com, offers a wealth of information tailored to meet the specific travel needs of passengers. Available in English, Spanish and now Chinese, whether departing, arriving or connecting, the complete passenger journey — from getting to the airport to getting to the gate for a flight — is the focus, providing information on parking cost and spaces available at both airports, as well as near-real-time wait times for security and immigration/customs checkpoints, ground transportation options, dining and shopping options, flight information and more.
- Know where you are going: Passengers can navigate the airport terminals on fly2houston.com with an interactive map system that is mobile-device friendly. This intuitive tool will guide you step-by-step to where you want to go throughout the airport, with a real-time estimate of walking times to your gate or destination, including live security wait times. Use with any device; no app to download. This feature now shows user location as a blue dot for Apple devices in Safari. You can find that feature for Bush Airport at this link, and at Hobby Airport at this link.
- Interactive information kiosks available at both airports: Once you arrive at the airport, both Bush and Hobby now have interactive information kiosks that provide a wealth of helpful information. Passengers can get directions to their boarding gates by entering their flight information or scanning their boarding pass in the updated search function. The kiosks take that information and display a 3D map that will show the quickest and most efficient route to the departing gate. And, to keep those directions handy, travelers can choose to have a map of their route sent directly to their smartphone in a text message. As well, the enhanced search capabilities provide not only user-friendly directions and maps, but also pertinent information for the traveler, like weather updates, airport shopping and dining options, and a variety of services available, like locations for ATMs, water bottle filling stations, shoeshine stands, currency exchanges and clubrooms. The kiosks in the baggage claim area include information on nearby hotels — with a phone available to let you call select hotels directly to make reservations — as well as ground transportation.
- Free Wi-Fi makes plugging in even easier: The free Wi-Fi at both Bush and Hobby airports has been rated as some of the fastest in any airport in the country and world, and there are plenty of charging stations and seating at both airports with electrical outlets for re-charging mobile devices.
- Park and ride: Along with new routes that make shuttle rides from ecopark and ecopark2 lots at Bush Airport quicker and more efficient, improved GPS technology now provides updates on when shuttles will arrive at the terminals. New curbside kiosks at the terminals provide the estimated times for the next two shuttle bus arrivals, and passengers at Bush Airport can track the progress of the shuttles on fly2houston.com at this link. A nearby ecopark option at Hobby makes that choice quick and convenient. For information on ecopark options at Bush Airport, check this link. For information on the ecopark option at Hobby Airport, check this link.
- Plan for your trip through security: Updates on the time it takes to clear the seven Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security checkpoints at the five terminals at Bush Airport can be found at this link, and updates for the time it takes to clear the TSA security checkpoint at Hobby Airport can be found at this link.
Here are more helpful hints that can make traveling this time of year a little easier:
- Get to the airport early: Arrive two hours before scheduled departure time to ensure plenty of time for parking and unloading.
- Parking: Reserve a spot in either ecopark location at Bush Airport early by making a reservation here. Get information online on parking spaces available at both Bush Airport at this link, and at Hobby Airport at this link.
- Prepare for security line: It’s important to remember that TSA has implemented new, stronger screening procedures for carry-on items that require travelers to place all electronics larger than a cell phone in bins for X-ray screening in standard lanes, similar to how laptops have been screened for years. This simple step helps TSA officers obtain a clearer X-ray image. Also, passengers should have boarding pass and ID ready for display, remove shoes and everything from pockets before going through the metal detector or whole-body imaging technology at the checkpoint. Follow the 3-1-1 rule regarding liquids in your carry-on bag. Visit the TSA’s website — tsa.gov — for a list of prohibited items and helpful travel tips, and if you’re a member of TSA Pre✓, follow the signs at checkpoints to participate in expedited screening.
- Come early and relax a little: Houston Airports have plenty of amenities to help enhance the passenger experience before their flight. Harmony in the Air is a live performing arts program featuring some of the Houston’s best local talent. Schedules for performances at Bush Airport can be found at this link and at Hobby Airport at this link. Take time to enjoy the new concessions available at Houston Airports featuring local favorites like Pink’s Pizza to well-known brands like Dylan’s Candy Bar. Pamper yourself at Hobby Airport at XpresSpa and head to your destination refreshed. Finish your Holiday shopping. Houston Airports offers a wide of retail shops that are sure to please from Mac Cosmetics to Pandora, Best Buy, Paul & Shark and many more. For dining and shopping options at Bush Airport check this link, and at Hobby Airport check this link.
For more information, the first stop on your holiday trip should always be fly2houston.com.
Animation videos available
- Arriving: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVViuud0DCs
- Departing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDhHsy6dk_U
- Connecting: https://youtu.be/H5pQdvH9F_A
- Pick-up/Drop-off: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyjjtBOwHis