This summer will likely see record-breaking numbers of air travelers — people excited to visit family and sightsee globally. Adding a little predictability to your summer vacation or business trip subtracts stress and multiplies enjoyable experiences at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
These tips to get you from home to and through the airport with less hassle, featuring the insights of Tacoma-based travel expert Tash Haynes, who travels with her husband and three daughters (ages 9, 3 and 1).
Before you go
Download apps. Download the apps for services you may need en route and on flight day:
- Ground transportation: Uber, Lyft and Sound Transit for getting there on Link light rail.
- Airline: App for your specific airline for gate changes, updates and check-in.
- FlySEA: SEA Airport’s official app, featuring real-time checkpoint waits and an interactive map for wayfinding, among other cool tools.
In addition, sign up for airline notifications and for airport updates delivered by text so you stay in the know. At SEA, simply text YES1 to 2729. Follow @flysea on social media (Twitter, Instagram) for travel tips or alerts.
Check in online. Check in for your upcoming flight at home, online, or in your app. Ensure you review any rules around carry-on or checked luggage to avoid at-airport surprises. Most airlines allow check-in up to 24 hours in advance of your flight.
Review menus. Browse the airport’s restaurants from home to find a great dining spot. This step is essential if you’re traveling with kids or have special dietary needs.
Strategize for TSA. Travelers in the know choose from multiple ways to abbreviate TSA line wait time. “While CLEAR and TSA PreCheck are amazing tools, they’re a significant investment,” Haynes says. “The new SEA Spot Saver program can be good if you don’t travel often and prefer a free option. Get the same perks without paying.”
With SEA Spot Saver, you schedule your TSA appointment up to 72 hours in advance. After you arrive, you simply wait for your appointment and get in the special line dedicated to Spot Saver appointment holders.
Skip the traffic. Expect airport parking to be jam-packed this summer. Avoid parking, long waits and that where’s-my-car moment by taking public transportation. Bonus money-saving tip: Take a Lyft or Uber to your nearest Link light rail station, and cruise the rest of the way.
Arrive early. Once you’re through security, a bevy of options awaits. With extra time built in, you’ll be able to smoothly deal with any gate changes or other surprises while enjoying the airport’s amenities.
“I started seeing the airport as a destination, versus a place to pass through,” Haynes says. “I intentionally go early because there are restaurants I like to eat at. If I want to bring someone a gift, there are airport shops with small and women-owned businesses. There are treasures in each terminal.”
Smart ways to spend a few hours (or the day) at SEA
Dine: When traveling solo, Haynes stops for a glass of wine and charcuterie board at Vyne Tasting Room.
With her family, she takes the girls to the restaurant Hachi-ko for a meal and then a macaron treat at Lady Yum.
“Now that the airport has mobile ordering, you can order food ahead of time, and they’ll drop food at the gate, or you can pick it up,” Haynes says. Use the orderSEA.org website or the FlySEA app to put in your order.
Relax: Mental health is vital during big trips. Get a massage at Getaway Spa (prebooked at home by calling 206-242-9356, of course). Or drop into one of the two day lounges or seven airline or credit card lounges.
Play: Those with younger kids can visit the Children’s Play Area across from gate A1. Traveling parents may want to step into the peace of the new N concourse Nursing Suite’s private spaces for feeding babies or a little calm. “It’s such a beautiful place to get away from the bustle of crowds, gather and get ourselves together,” Haynes says.
New vending machines offer traveling families bottles, pacifiers and even goldfish crackers. “The things that moms survive on,” Haynes says wryly.
Work: New workspaces by Jabbrrbox are 12 single-person escape pods sprinkled among the concourses. Either reserve a time at home using the app or sign up onsite for 15 minutes up to 2 hours. Take business calls or just catch up on your Netflix queue. Haynes describes the pods as “cozy” and worth a stop.
Browse: Shop the airport’s dozens of stores for apparel, travel essentials, makeup and more. Or visit the 10 contemporary art pieces within the modernized N Concourse. Even popping in at local fave SubPop Records feels like entertainment for Haynes and her girls.
The big return
If you’re going abroad, you’ll reenter Seattle using the new 450,000-square-foot Seattle’s International Arrivals Facility, a grand hall for baggage claim and customs processing. The facility features faster processing times for making connections — or catching the Link light rail home.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is adding modernized spaces and better services and amenities to make your airport experience more predictable. SEA recently earned the prestigious 4-Star Skytrax Airport Rating. Subscribe to the FlySEA monthly email newsletter for travelers.