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Travel tips: How to beat crowds at TPA, PIE this Thanksgiving week

Tampa International Airport is preparing to see as many as 75,000 to 80,000 passengers on peak days.

TAMPA, Fla. — Travelers flying in and out of the Tampa Bay area this Thanksgiving holiday should prepare to face massive crowds, with airports expecting more passengers than before the pandemic.

Tampa International Airport is preparing to see as many as 75,000 to 80,000 people on peak days surrounding Thanksgiving — one of the busiest travel times of the year.

For context, TPA says its typical daily average is around 55,000 passengers.

St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport is also expecting a busier-than-normal holiday as it continues to see record-breaking growth.

Both airports offered tips for travelers to beat crowds as they head home for Thanksgiving.

RELATED: Traveling for the holidays? Thanksgiving travel to exceed pre-pandemic levels in Florida

1. Get a ride if you can

More travelers mean fewer parking spaces. Both TPA and PIE have free cell phone lots where drivers can wait until passengers are ready at the curb with their bags.

Circling the roadways or lingering at the curb is not allowed. Plus, both cell phone lots have restrooms and free Wi-Fi.

2. Make a parking plan

If you do have to drive yourself, make sure you plan ahead. TPA offers online booking for parking, which also has discounted pricing for the Short Term, Long Term and Economy garages.

PIE has very limited parking options. Long-term parking is expected to reach capacity on Monday, Nov. 21. The Economy and Overflow lots are expected to fill up by Wednesday, Nov. 23. No overnight parking is allowed in the Short-term lot.

Once all lots are closed, no additional parking is available at PIE. Some nearby hotels offer limited parking and shuttle services; you can learn more about that here.

3. Arrive early

The big crowds will cause traffic delays and long lines. Plus, construction on the Gateway Expressway Project near PIE can cause congestion on airport roads.

For both TPA and PIE, plan to arrive at least two hours before your flight, three if you're traveling internationally.

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4. Skip the lines

TPA now has Blue Express Curbsides for passengers traveling with carry-on luggage only. You'll be able to breeze past lines for ticketing and baggage claim. Just follow the signage for "Express" to get there.

Travelers can also use the TPA To Go app to preorder food and drinks to have waiting for them when they arrive.

5. Check your pockets

The traveling process will be easier for everyone if you check your bag for prohibited items ahead of time. TSA has an extensive list of what you can and can't bring.

According to TPA, jams and jellies, cranberry sauce, gravy, bottles of wine and other Thanksgiving treats are commonly confiscated at TSA checkpoints. So plan to eat up before you get to the airport.

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Before You Leave, Check This Out