Philadelphia International Airport is expecting more than 925,000 total passengers between Dec. 22 and Jan. 4, 80% of its pre-pandemic passenger volume from the same period in 2019.

Nationwide, the Transportation Security Administration says passenger volumes are approaching pre-pandemic levels. On Monday the agency counted nearly 2.1 million people passing through checkpoints — 84% of the same-day total in 2019 and more than double the same-day total in 2020.

Vaccines to protect against the coronavirus are now widely available to anyone aged 5 and older, compared with last year’s holiday season, when the first doses were just being rolled out. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also expanded eligibility for vaccine boosters to anyone who is 16 and older.

At the same time, many Americans remain unvaccinated and the omicron variant is making up a rising share of COVID-19 infections.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recommended this week that travelers be “prudent” about their vaccination status and mask-wearing.

“Clearly, when you travel, there is always a risk of increased infection, that just goes with respiratory illnesses,” Fauci said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “But if people need to travel and want to travel for the obvious family reasons during this holiday season, if you’re vaccinated and you’re boosted and you take care when you go into congregant settings, like airports, to make sure you continually wear your mask, you should be OK.”

If you’re flying from PHL, here’s what to keep in mind about navigating the airport.

Masks are required in the airport

Under federal regulations, you must wear a mask in the airport. That goes for adults and children aged 2 and up.

Arrive early

PHL recommends that passengers arrive three hours before boarding time. Remember, more people are flying now than a year ago, and the airport will be busy. And if you’re planning to drive and park at PHL, you might need the extra time (more on that below).

The PHL economy parking lot is closed, so plan ahead

Parking at PHL is more limited than during past holiday travel seasons.

The airport’s economy parking lot has been closed throughout the pandemic, and it’s not reopening, as officials plan to incorporate the property into new development of cargo services. The former PreFlight long-term parking lot also closed last summer.

PHL says on-site garages will be at capacity during the holidays and continues to encourage passengers to use alternatives to driving themselves, such as taking SEPTA’s Airport Line, getting a ride from family or friends, or using ridesharing.

Otherwise, you should plan to park offsite and might want to consider making a reservation. For a list of private parking options, visit

Keep gifts unwrapped at TSA checkpoints

Bringing presents with you on the plane? TSA recommends “packing gifts in gift bags or gift boxes instead of wrapping them because if a gift triggers an alarm, it will need to be opened to resolve the alarm.”

Food products that are solid can go through security

Passengers can bring foods that are solid in carry-on bags. For example, TSA says, fruitcake, candy canes and chocolates can be taken through security. But liquids and spreadable items, such as preserves, should be packed in checked luggage.

TSA permits larger bottles of hand sanitizer

Liquids, gels, and aerosols must be in a container that’s 3.4 ounces or smaller, and all those containers have to fit in a quart-size bag in order to go through security. During the pandemic, TSA continues to make an exception for hand sanitizer, which can be in a “container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags until further notice.”