(credit: Thinkstock)

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons can turn holiday travels into a nightmare. Even Tampa’s airport, acclaimed for its convenience and customer friendly design, can be a real headache for travelers and those trying to drop them off or pick them up. However, there are some ways to help make your trip a bit less of a pain and maybe even save a little money along the way.

Tampa International Airport

4100 George J.  Bean Parkway
Tampa, FL 33607
(813) 870-8700

The Florida Department of Transportation spent years and millions of dollars overhauling the main approaches off Interstate 275 into Tampa International. The work solved some problems and created others. While there’s room for more traffic, the new system creates confusing lane changes and it seems that traffic is either going too slow or too fast. One way to avoid some of the worst of it, especially during non-peak hours, is to use the back entrance off West Spruce Street. This eliminates some of the most confusing lane changes and takes you past the point where drivers who realize they are in the wrong lane make unexpected swerves. Coming off Dale Mabry, you can head west on Tampa Bay Boulevard and continue past International Mall. Coming off I-275, go north on Westshore, then turn left on Spruce at the International Mall entrance. Keep right at the fork and follow the signs to the airport.

TIA's Cell Phone Lot

(Credit: Mike Hennessy)

Airport Parking

Parking rates at some airports can range from expensive to downright extortionate. Tampa International has made a concerted effort to give customers a chance to minimize their parking fees. The first hour at short- and long-term lots is free. This is good for quick errands, but delayed flights or baggage claim snarls can easily push wait times to over an hour. One way to avoid parking fees altogether when picking someone up is the cellphone parking lot. It’s free and equipped with a flight tracking board, restrooms and even free wi-fi.

Off-Campus Parking

While you can’t beat parking at the airport for convenience, you can save a lot of money by parking in a private lot. There are a number of them scattered around the airport with most offering free shuttle service to and from the airport. Advertised rates start as low as $2.99 per day. One thing to consider is that most of the off campus lots do not offer covered parking which can take a toll on your car. A quick Google search will turn up a wide variety of choices.

(Credit: Mark Hennessy)

Easy Pick Up Tip

Southwest Airlines is Tampa International’s dominant air carrier. It’s almost always crowded and at peak times, the road around the pickup area can be clogged with cars three or four lanes wide. But if you look to the left of Southwest, you’ll see a pickup area for Air Canada, Cayman Airways and Edelweiss Air. Since those airlines fly on only part-time schedules, they are usually much less crowded than the Southwest area. If you’re being picked up, taking a short walk from baggage claim to the other end of the red side pickup zone will make it much easier to meet your ride and get on your way.

Related: Getaway Guru: One Tank Trip to Lakeland


Real-time flight tracking is one of the really helpful advances in travel technology. Being able to see if your outgoing flight or the incoming flight you’re trying to meet is on time can keep an inconvenience from turning into a travel nightmare. Everyone wants the latest and greatest app, especially when it comes to their smart phone. There are plenty of free apps, but generally the better ones will come with a small charge. One of the best is Mobiata’s FlightTrack. The $4.95 version gives you real-time updates with beautiful maps and easy-to-find information on cancellations and delays.

Super Shuttle
11901 30th Court N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33716
(727) 571-4220

If all of the above is just too much to face and a taxi would be too expensive, you can still leave the driving to somone else at much less cost. Super Shuttle is an airport limousine service that can take you from your home to the airport and back for a flat fee. Rates can vary, but a recent check of Super Shuttle’s website returned a one-trip fare from Lutz to the airport of $31. The drivers will assist you with up to two pieces of luggage, although extra fees may apply for extremely heavy bags. Super Shuttle has a counter at the Ground Transportation area of each airside. You’ll probably be sharing a ride with other passengers, but when you don’t want to the do the driving yourself and you can’t call a friend or relative, Super Shuttle is well worth considering.

Related: Getaway Guru: One Tank Trip to Orlando

Mike Hennessy is a veteran news man who has won Florida AP awards for feature reporting and covered almost every kind of story imaginable from on-the-scene coverage of Hurricane Andrew, to some of the highest profile murder and corruption trials in Florida history. Mike is versatile and has the curiosity it takes to get to the bottom line of any story. His work can be found at Examiner.com.