As the holidays approach, airports are about to get much more crowded.

According to the Sacramento International Airport, the busiest days are expected to be Dec. 21-23, Dec. 26-30 and Jan. 2 as travelers return home. Meanwhile, some additional 70,000 people could be traveling through the airport this year due to increased seat capacity.

To help the upcoming travel rush a little bit easier, here are some tips for navigating SMF:


The economy lot costs $10/day and is the most affordable parking option at the airport. There’s also the daily lot, which costs $12/day.

Heads up: Both can fill up (they did intermittently, for instance, during the Thanksgiving holiday). If that’s the case when you arrive, check out the airport’s availability map on their website. The map updates every five minutes and will show where else a spot might be available.

The parking garage across from the terminal also tends to have availability, but costs $18/day.

You can also, of course, take an Uber or Lyft to/from the airport, or other shuttle services like SuperShuttle.


If you’re picking someone up, instead of circling the terminal waiting for your visitor, you can wait in the Free Waiting Area (often called the cell phone lot). It’s just a few minutes drive from both terminals.

When you’re ready to pick someone up, tell them to pick a numbered door to stand by. (Pro-tip, per SMF: Traffic is most congested by doors 1 and 2, so it might be easier to pick up passengers outside doors 3 and 4).


The TSA recommends travelers arrive 2 hours before their flight. This is due to not only increased crowds, but new TSA security procedures that can take more time.


Try to enjoy! SMF will have live music in both terminals from Dec. 20-24. They will also have the “Boarding Area Relaxation Corp” support dogs out in force during those dates.