SAN DIEGO — The unofficial start of the summer travel season has arrived, with Memorial Day weekend excursions bringing thousands of passengers out to San Diego International Airport.

Bigger-than-normal crowds filled the airport terminals Friday morning ahead of the first big summer getaway weekend, with hundreds of passengers wrapping around TSA lines as early as 4 a.m.

While it’s expected with the holiday, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority says passengers should expect seeing even more crowds in the coming months, as officials are anticipating the busiest summer travel season this year since the onset of the pandemic.

“Memorial Day weekend marks the traditional start of the busy summer travel season,” said Kimberly Becker, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority President and CEO. “We are already seeing about a 12 percent increase in passenger volumes compared to last year, and these numbers will only grow after this weekend.”

Congestion in the terminals at San Diego International Airport amid the influx of travelers was particularly evident Friday morning, as even the reliably short TSA Pre-Check line in Terminal 2 became so long at one point that it went right out of the door.

The Regional Airport Authority says that the construction of the new Terminal 1 building could contribute to back-ups that people might see into the summer months, particularly for locals who are picking up or dropping off travelers.

More information on the Terminal 1 construction can be found here.

With this construction underway, lots of traffic is expected on the roadways along and approaching the airport, according to the Airport Authority.

For anyone traveling through or stopping by SAN this summer, the Regional Airport Authority suggests following these tips to make sure the trip is a smooth one:

  • Check your flight status in advance: Before coming to the airport, confirm your flight time and if there have been any changes to the itinerary.
  • Arrive to the airport early: With the construction, traffic congestion getting into the airport is likely. Crowds are also anticipated to create additional delays, whether it’s something like waiting longer to check your bag or lengthy wait times to get through TSA. Do not cut it close — arrive at least two hours before your flight.
    • If you have a flight during peak times, it might benefit you to get there earlier. Busiest curbside times at SAN are 4 a.m. to 6:15 a.m., 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and 8 p.m. to 12 a.m., according to the airport authority.
    • Construction impacts to the roads near the airport can be viewed here.
  • Make parking reservation: New Terminal 1 construction has limiting the number of parking spots available to those in the Terminal 2 Parking Plaza. Anyone planning on parking there should make reservations in advance to secure a spot or use curbside valet. Reservations can be made here.
  • Use the free electric shuttle or ride-share: Avoid the traffic and take the free shuttle bus between the Old Town Transit Station and SAN. The electric buses operate seven days a week from 4:45 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. The bus has an average arrival time of every 20 to 30 minutes. Ride-shared are also a good alternative for people who need to be dropped off.
  • Skip the pick-up traffic by using the Cell Phone Lot: Avoid circling by parking the Cell Phone Lot in the Terminal 2 West Parking Lot to wait for your party. The lot, located on McCain Road, is open from 5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. every day.

Despite the crowds Friday, travelers, for the most part, kept their cool and their excitement about getting away, including a group of ladies who were heading to Maui to celebrate a birthday. 

“We are going to celebrate her. We are going to treat ourselves,” Mounia Jamai told FOX 5, pointing to her best friend.  “Get away from the children. You know, school’s out.”

FOX 5’s Elizabeth Alvarez contributed to this report.