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7 tips if you’re heading to DIA during the holiday season

denver international airport holiday.jpeg
Posted at 6:56 PM, Nov 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-20 22:11:23-05

DENVER — Taking a trip to the airport can be stressful for some travelers at any time of the year. Denver International Airport has seen its fair share of changes in recent months. Throw in the increase in travelers for the holidays, and it can make for a frustrating experience if you’re not prepared.

Here’s 7 tips if you’re heading to DIA during the holiday season to make sure your travels run as smoothly as possible.

1. Yes, you still have to wear a mask

It’s required by federal law to wear a mask on public transit, so that means at the airport, on buses and while flying. The mask mandate was set to expire in September, but has now been extended through Jan. 18, 2022.

2. Make sure you’re arriving early

We’ve all heard it said before, but the busy holiday season is not the time to test your luck on cutting it too close at the airport. Travelers should arrive two hours early to ensure they have enough time to check bags, make it through security and move through the airport. Lines will likely be longer than usual.

3. Getting to the airport

With busy travel days ahead, parking lots will fill up. DIA recommends using the RTD A-Line or taking a rideshare when possible to get to the airport.

4. Speaking of parking...

The East Economy lot officially closed to incoming traffic on Nov. 15. This is because the airport is planning on opening the Pikes Peak shuttle lot 24/7 beginning on Nov. 19 through Jan. 6 to accommodate the busy travel season. If the Pikes Peak lot reaches capacity, DIA will open the Mt. Elbert shuttle lot as well.

Due to an ongoing bus driver shortage, it may take longer for the shuttle to arrive at the shuttle lot, so the airport recommends arriving an additional 45 minutes early if you’re planning on parking in the shuttle lot.

You can check the status of the parking lots and see parking prices here.

For anyone parking their car, the airport has seen an increase in vehicle thefts. They’re partnering with the Denver Police Department for additional patrols, but drivers should remember to secure their vehicles, park in a well-lit spot with other vehicles around and remove any valuables from the vehicle.

5. TSA checkpoints have officially changed

DIA changed up how they’re operating TSA checkpoints in hopes of getting passengers through security in the most efficient way possible.

For standard screenings, head to the south security checkpoint. Travelers with TSA PreCheck, Clear and Premium customers should use the north security checkpoint. Travel-Lite customers, or people who only have one small item — like a backpack, briefcase or purse — can use the north security checkpoint as well.

If you’re flying in the late or overnight hours, the south security checkpoint is the only checkpoint operating from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.

If you need any help navigating the airport, ambassadors with purple vests or employees with purple shirts that say “ask me” will be there to help.

6. If you’re traveling with gifts, don’t wrap them

If your gifts set off an alarm, TSA agents are going to have to check it. If you use your beautiful wrapping or tissue paper, that’s going to be a real bummer if the agents have to rip it open. If you want to bring a wrapped gift, TSA recommends using a gift bag. Solid food is fine to bring on the flight, but don’t forget that anything liquid has to be under 3.4 ounces if you’re bringing a carry-on.

7. The holiday season is busy, but some days may be busier than others

Over the next two weeks, the airport will be busier on certain days. Here’s DIA’s current TSA screening forecast for the number travelers flying, keeping in mind it is subject to change:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 23: ~71.5k
  • Wednesday, Nov. 24: ~79k
  • Thursday, Nov. 25: ~38.5k
  • Friday, Nov. 26: ~56.5k
  • Saturday, Nov. 27: ~72k
  • Sunday, Nov. 28: ~78k

On Dec. 20, the airport said it anticipated its busiest days for the end of the year travel season to be Thursday, Dec. 23; Monday, Dec. 27 and Wednesday, Dec. 29. DIA anticipates more than 200,000 travelers at the airport with 60,000-70,000 traveling through TSA checkpoints. More than 2.7 million passengers are projected to travel through DIA from Dec. 20, 2021 through Jan. 3, 2022, which is about 5% lower than the same period in 2019.


The holidays are stressful. The pandemic has drained so many of us not only of quality time and missed opportunities for creating memories with loved ones, but also our patience. Remember, a little kindness to fellow passengers, airport employees, TSA agents and flight staff goes a long way.