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How Early Should I Arrive at the Airport?

Traveler looking at the Flight Information Board

A Guide to Timing Your Arrival

If there’s one question that both frequent and infrequent fliers ask, it’s: How early should you get to the airport? No one wants to get there and sit for five hours. But you also don’t want the stress of running through the airport, jumping over luggage, and narrowly avoiding other passengers just to get to your plane. This mad dash is not nearly as fun as it looks on TV.

Knowing how early to get to the airport should be a simple factor. However, as we all know, nothing is exactly “simple” when it comes to airline travel.

Just fitting all those tiny plastic bottles of liquids in a carry-on bag stresses some of us out. And by “us,” I mean me.

Before we dive into the nitty gritty of how early you should get to the airport to check in before departure, you may be interested to know where to find the best places to get good deals on flights, rental cars, hotel rooms, and more.

Scott’s Cheap Flights is a great travel tool to help find amazing deals on a flight, with the best prices to the best destinations. Skyscanner is another excellent tool for finding the best rates on flights, hotels, and car rentals in a wide variety of domestic and international destinations.

If you’re flexible with your airline flight choices and like to compare, check out a site like Momondo to find and compare the cheapest flights available. You can also book hotels, car rentals, trains, and buses.

How Early Should You Get to the Airport?

Traveler looking at the Flight Information Board

According to USA Today and Condé Nast Traveller, the answer is: Two hours before your scheduled departure time for a domestic flight and three hours before the scheduled departure time for an international flight. The TSA and airlines like American Airlines go along with this two and three hour advice.

This, however, is the simple answer and a general rule. There’s also a complicated answer. You knew that was coming, right?

These time frames allow the less frequent traveler time to arrive at the airport and park, check in, check luggage, and make their way through security screenings in a less rushed and stressed state of mind. If you’re a frequent traveler, you may not need all the extra hours ahead to arrive at the airport.

Factors that can contribute to your time schedule (and that you should take into consideration when asking yourself: how early should I get to the airport?) will include things like:

  • Parking (how far you may have to…

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