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How Early Should I Get to the Airport? What You Need to Know

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How early to get to the airport puzzles everyone, whether you’re a frequent, occasional, or first-time flyer. Often, you get disappointed seeing the long check-in and security lines on arriving at an airport. There is a chance that you will miss your flight or get boarding at the last minute and ruin your peaceful trip. Due to the pandemic, security lines are even longer, and TSA checks take even more time these days. So, whether you’re a domestic or an international traveler, it is always best to err on the side of caution and¬†reach the airport a bit earlier than the specified¬†time. Are you still confused about how early to get to the airport? We have some information to help you have a relaxed check-in and flight!¬†¬†

How early do you really need to get to the airport?

Arriving late at the airport can be nightmarish if you miss the flight. There are some standard rules that international and domestic travelers should follow while flying. Always be aware that the boarding usually starts 45 minutes before takeoff and ends 15 minutes before. So, make sure you reach the airport on time if you want a hassle-free travel experience. According to Transportation Security Administration (TSA), everyone must reach the airport at least two hours before the scheduled departure time.  

How early should I get to the airport?

When should I get to the airport for domestic flights? 

Usually, you are required to reach the airport two hours prior if you’re a domestic traveler. Most of us do haul around a bit of luggage. If you have no baggage, it is okay to TSA PreCheck. This lets you reach the airport a little later and save your check-in time. However, major airports like Hartsfield‚ÄďJackson Atlanta International Airport‚ÄĮ(ATL), John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK),¬†Los Angeles International Airport‚ÄĮ(LAX),¬†and O’Hare International Airport‚ÄĮ(ORD), handle huge domestic passenger volumes. The check-in time at bigger airports can take around 45 minutes, and it may go up to one hour, maybe even more. It’s better that you reach the airport two hours before the takeoff. Remember that domestic flights may take off without you, even if your checked bag is on the plane. ¬†

When should I get to the airport for international flights? 

It is always best to reach international flights three hours before the takeoff. With more people starting to travel internationally after getting vaccinated, international flights have also started seeing reasonable passenger numbers. Most importantly, if you’re an international traveler, you’ll be okay if you reach the airport three hours before. Often, international travelers don’t get the privilege of using TSA PreCheck or online check-in. According to International Air Transport Association (IATA), the pandemic is causing heavy delays in the airports for travel processes. Earlier, a traveler used to spend around 90 minutes on air travel processes/procedures. According to IATA, this has gone up to three hours during peak hours! I board. However, the chances are high that they might allot the seat to another passenger if it is a full flight and you don’t board within the specified time. With the pandemic causing more delays, it is wise to arrive earlier!¬† ¬†

The impact of holidays and peak travel times 

You know that the holidays and peak travel times add more misery to airport travel processes. Traveling during holidays or peak seasons like Christmas, New Year, or Spring Break can quickly increase the time you spend at security lines. So how early should you get to the airport during such peak hours? Ensure you reach around three hours before domestic flights and four hours before international flights. Keep in mind that you’re very likely to miss your flight during a peak holiday season while standing in long security lines. Always check on the TSA app before you start driving to the airport to get an idea about how long the security lines are. Also, holidays and peak travel times can block the roads. For instance, traveling from New York City to JFK or Downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport generally takes nearly 30 minutes. However, you can’t expect to reach these airports within 30 minutes if it’s peak season. Start driving from your home early if you don’t want to miss out on your holiday trip!¬†

How early should I get to the airport?When to check in, board, and leave

How long before takeoff should you be at the airport, and how to find out when your aircraft is scheduled to depart are questions that plague many travelers. It’s smart to double-check the flight’s scheduled departure time multiple times just in case of last-minute adjustments or delays. ¬†

Remember that there is a time difference between when you check in and when you board and leave. 

While the departure time is when the plane takes off from the gate, the check-in time is when the airline opens its doors to welcome passengers and check their luggage.  

You can save time at the airport for shopping and lounging if you check in ahead of time online. When passengers are allowed to board the aircraft is referred to as the boarding time.   

The last boarding call is made about 20 minutes before departure. There are plenty of ways to find out when you can check in, board, and leave these days. 

How to check in online and when to get to the airport 

You can check in online with almost all airlines. When you do this on your phone or laptop, you can also see when you should get to the airport.   

If you have bags to check in for an international flight, you should usually get to the airport at least an hour and a half before your flight is scheduled to leave. 

If you’re not checking bags or flying within the same country, you must be at the airport at least an hour before your flight leaves. It is always better to have 30 minutes to spare just in case airlines have additional procedures. ¬†

Verify departure time online 

It’s pretty easy to find out what’s going on with your flight at any time online. Go to the website or app of your airline and click on “Flight Status” to do this. You will know when your plane is supposed to leave the ground. You can also see if the flight is late or has been canceled. ¬† ¬†

If your flight was late, canceled, or overbooked in the last 6 years, you could get up to ‚ā¨600 (¬£520) in compensation.¬†¬†

If you need to check TSA wait times, you can check them on the Way.com website.  

Check your flight ticket. 

You can check your ticket directly if you don’t trust the information on the Internet. No matter which airline you fly with or what kind of flight you are taking, the ticket will tell you the exact time of departure. ¬†

Call the airport 

If you’re unsure when to get to the airport, you can always call airport information and find out. When you call, you might be asked for more info, like your name, airline, or flight number, so have it ready so you can get the answers you need quickly.¬†

Ask to be notified by email. 

Email alerts are another way to find out about schedules and your flight status. If you gave the airline your email address when you booked your flight, they would send you information about your flight and when it will leave.   

Also, if you buy your ticket online, you will get a confirmation email when you are supposed to leave and check-in. 

Plan ahead before leaving for the airport  

Plan ahead for how you will get to the airport. Depending on how you get to the airport, you should be aware of any strikes, traffic jams, or road work that could make your trip difficult. 

If you plan to drive to the airport, use Google Maps to track how busy the roads are. If you’re taking public transportation, it’s best to catch your bus or train a little earlier than the one that gets you there on time. ¬†

Another thing you must plan ahead is where to park your car. You can use Way.com to book an airport parking site much cheaper than official sites.  

Getting an airport parking spot  

Finding onsite airport parking will be another headache that you may encounter. Most of the onsite parking lots tend to fill up soon these days. Several temporarily closed lots due to less passenger traffic are yet to reopen! If you’re flying out for holidays or extended periods, it is best to use the airport’s long-term parking spaces. However, this isn’t easy considering the passenger traffic at US airports.

So, it is always safe to pre-book your spot before driving to the airport. Otherwise, you will have to spend a lot of time finding a parking spot at the airport, eventually delaying your check-in and security checks.¬†Using public transportation or other services will be an option if you don’t want to search for an onsite parking spot. However, it is not wise to use them during peak hours as you may arrive late at the airport.

Getting an offsite parking spot will always be a good option as you can. You can always book an offsite parking spot via the Way.com app or website to get long-term parking at cheaper rates. Most of these lots offer amenities like round-the-clock security and free shuttle services.  

 Tips to follow 

  • Arrive at the airport at least¬†two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights.¬†
  • Try online check-in or enroll in programs like TSA PreCheck to avoid long check-in and security lines. Check for the TSA app’s security lines before you check in.¬†
  • Drive early from home to the airport if you’re traveling during holidays or peak travel seasons. ¬†
  • Always pre-book a parking spot.

What to do at the airport 

There are some good things about getting to the airport early, but if you get there too early, you will always have to wait a long time in the departure hall. But it’s always better to be early for your flight than to miss it. ¬†

No one really likes to waste time in the airport terminal, but it can be a great chance to relax and do something fun. You can read more about how to kill time at the airport on our blog РWhat to do on your next layover: 8 ways to make the most of it!  


Check out more blogs on the best parking spots in your city, the most affordable insurance for your car, and top-rated car washes near you.

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