RDU airport expects record travelers this weekend. Here’s how to deal with the crowds.

Parking options at RDU airport

This video from Raleigh-Durham International Airport talks about the three levels of parking currently available to the public.
Up Next
This video from Raleigh-Durham International Airport talks about the three levels of parking currently available to the public.

When Mother’s Day and eight college and university graduations all fall on the same weekend, the result is unusually large crowds at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

RDU expects a record number of travelers to pass through the airport between Thursday and Monday, with Monday morning being the busiest time, the airport said in a news release. More than 40,000 passengers are expected each day on Thursday, Friday and Monday, the release said, and more than 150,000 over the five-day period. That’s up from 133,000 over the same weekend last year.

Those numbers are comparable to Thanksgiving, when RDU saw as many as 40,000 travelers on busy days.

“We encourage everyone to pack their patience during this busy travel weekend,” the airport’s president, Michael Landguth, said in a statement.

The drop-off and pick-up zones outside the terminals will be busier than usual, and airport officials are encouraging people who are picking up passengers to wait in the cellphone lot off Trade Drive until they’re ready. The lines at the security checkpoints will be longer than normal, making it more important to arrive at the airport two hours before the flight’s scheduled departure time.

Parking also will be tight. About 1,300 of the 3,824 spaces in Economy Lot 3 are closed because of repaving work. When that lot gets full, travelers will be directed to parking decks near the terminals or to Economy Lot 4 and the new ParkRDU Express lot on the north side of the airport. Express lot customers are picked up at their cars, rather than a central pickup point, and driven to the terminals.

Travelers also can pay for parking in advance, at parkrdu.com, guaranteeing them entry into a particular deck or lot, though not a reserved space. For information, including the current availability of parking in the various lots and decks, go to rdu.com.

Eight colleges and universities are holding their commencements this weekend, including Campbell University in Buies Creek on Saturday. N.C. State University, N.C. Central University, Meredith College, St. Augustine’s University and Shaw University are also holding their graduations on Saturday. Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill commencements are Sunday.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.