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Flight Plan

The holidays are a time filled with family, festivities, and—if you’re one of the estimated five million people passing through Denver International Airport this season—flights. Save your headaches for dinner with the in-laws with these DIA insider tips. 

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Getting There

It’s $11 each way from Union Station to DIA (exact fare only, please) on the SkyRide. But to be chauffeured solo, hand over about $85 (round-trip) via UberX or $100 by taxi. For short vacations: Drive yourself and park at Pike’s Peak ($8 a day) or Canopy Airport Parking ($9 a day), a green lot about eight miles from DIA that runs mainly off wind, solar, and geothermal power. Score discounts at canopyairportparking.com.

Road Block

When I-70 turns into a conga line of taillights, try one of these crafty alternatives. The long, toll-free 56th Avenue begins where I-270 and U.S. 36 intersect and practically parallels I-70 in northeast Denver all the way to Peña Boulevard. Or opt for Colfax Avenue, then hook a left on Tower Road to connect to Peña.

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Check Mate

Nix overweight luggage fees (more than 50 pounds on Frontier will run you $75 on top of the initial $20 bag fee) by packing a collapsible bag—like Topo Designs’ 24-inch duffel bag—to split your goods between two bags (the fee for the second is $30). Total baggage cost: $50.

Club Seats

Your 6 a.m. flight’s delayed. By five hours. All you want to do is sleep, but DIA’s gate chairs don’t leave much room to stretch out. Skip the neck-wrecking, seated nods (you can do that on the plane) and throw down for a $50 day pass to one of the two United Airlines lounges (B concourse) or the American Airlines Admirals Club lounge (A concourse). The lounges’ comfy leather or cloth seats make the perfect nap space—and when you rouse, you’ll be treated to a cocktail and snacks.

Cannabis Carry-Ons

Marijuana possession might be legal in Denver, but it’s not in DIA, even for medical cardholders. The ticket for taking weed through security can be as high as $999, although to date, exactly zero citations (really!) have been issued inside the airport. That’s because TSA turns pot-holders over to on-site Denver police officers, who simply ask passengers to surrender the weed before flying.

Security Shortcut

When the security line is backed up to the escalators, head to the third checkpoint (direct Concourse A access) around the corner from the Frontier ticket counter.

Plug In

Kill time—but not batteries—in Concourse C’s new waiting area. Opening this month, the space includes high-top seating with communal iPads and electrical outlets.

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Time Is Money

If your Frontier Airlines flight is delayed six or more hours, diverted, or cancelled, you should be offered a voucher (ask if you aren’t) ranging from $50 to $200 plus a 24-hour in-terminal meal voucher from $5 for breakfast to $15 for dinner. When weather gets in the way, the airline will try to secure discounted hotel rooms if you get stranded.

Damaged Bags

If Southwest Airlines leaves your bag busted, its policy is to offer you a brand-new piece of luggage on the spot. Hold them to it.

Picking Up The Clan

Skip the airport laps and park it at DIA’s new cellphone waiting area, which opened last fall. The 253-car lot is three-and-a-half miles down Peña Boulevard from the airport and boasts Wi-Fi, Zpizza, Dunkin’ Donuts, public restrooms, and iPad-equipped play stations for kids. The adjacent Conoco is convenient, but you’ll likely save pennies filling up on Tower Road.

This article appeared in the November 2014 issue of .

Jerilyn Forsythe, Digital Associate Editor

Jerilyn Forsythe co-directs 5280.com's editorial strategy, manages the magazine's social media presence, and oversees 5280's digital internship program. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter @jlforsyt.

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