Watching the Clock : Arriving at the Airport too late or too early.

Screenshot_20171113-172836Flying, it can be a dance of too early vs too late. Do you arrive 1 or 2 hours early for a domestic flight? What about international? What if the airport is really small? Do you still need to arrive that early?  It is a never-ending balancing act of arriving so early that you have to sit around a crowded airport, searching for a wall outlet, busying yourself with your electronics and arriving so close to departure that you cut it close getting through security and risk missing your flight. No one likes either scenario, so how do you manage a happy medium?

Research! I know, it’s our favorite word. It is true that we are a duo that loves the excitement of formulas, research, comparisons and lists just as much as we love the written word. It is true though, research is your best friend in this case. Plan, plan, plan.

  • Know before you go!

    • Is the airport small?

      • Smaller, less utilized airports can mean less walking time needed to get from security to your gate.
      • These airports tend to have fewer flights going in and out as well. Security may not take as long to navigate.
    • Is the airport large?

      • Larger airports are not better or worse than smaller ones. They are just different animals. You have to know what you are dealing with.
      • A larger airport means more flights, more traffic in and out. This can work to your advantage though as this will likely mean more security stations!
      • Know your terminal! International flights tend to depart from certain terminals in larger airports, so grab the map of them online and learn the set up. When your airline assigns the gate, you will be able to place yourself in the security line closest to your gate.
    • Know the parking situation!

      • If you are parking at the airport, make sure you know how long it will take to get from the lot to your terminal and allow yourself an extra 15 minutes (at least) in case you miss a shuttle.
      • If you are being dropped off, taking a taxi, grabbing an Uber, make sure you look at the drop-off areas and know how close you will be to your terminal.
      • Is the taxi area particularly busy at certain times of the day? Knowing this will allow you to plan accordingly.
    • What time do you fly?

      • Adjusting your flight time is great for your pocket, but it can also have a positive impact on your flight experience.
        • Some airports have heavier passenger traffic for morning or afternoon flights. Others will have busier days to travel as well. Selecting a time that is less commonly booked will diminish your time navigating check-in (if necessary) as well as security checks. Flights departing after 8pm and before 8 am can allow you to shorted your pre-departure arrival time by 30 minutes to an hour in some cases.
    • Streamline Security

      • Knowing and preparing for what can and can’t be taken on the plane is crucial. You can find the most current TSA list here.
      • Wear easy to remove shoes. Slip on, extra space for swollen feet (always happens on long flights) and breathable fabrics are our go-to.
      • Lightweight jackets or sweaters. Leave the heavy coat in the checked luggage or carry it on the plane, don’t wear it. Taking it on and off in the security line will take time and can hold up the queue.
      • Electronics, for now, must be removed from your luggage, so be sure to have any laptops or tablets in their own cases so they are still protected when you must remove them and send them through the x-ray machine.
      • Have your passport and boarding pass ready and in your hand. Do not find yourself fumbling and digging through your belongings for the documents, slowing down your progress.
    • Skip the Snacks and Shops

      • Bring your own snacks, pack them ahead of time. The only thing you must purchase once you make your way through security is water. If you need water, and we suggest you have a bottle, find your gate first then get a bottle of water.

The rule of thumb to follow is 2 hours before a domestic flight and 3 hours before an international flight. We suggest you arrive at least an additional hour early if it is a particularly busy airport or time of year, such as a holiday weekend. The key is doing your research, knowing your airport and checking with frequent travelers. In our experience it is better to arrive with too much time to spare than to be stressed and pressed for time before you even get to the airport.


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