How Early Should I Get to the Airport?

How Early Should I Get to the Airport?

Since commercial flights became available to the general public, the subject of how early should i get to the airport has been a source of conflict.

Some passengers prefer to arrive at the airport before the crack of dawn for a 2 p.m. flight, while others frequently have to sprint from security to the gate before the jet bridge door closes.

While everyone’s preferences vary, most people want to arrive at the airport early enough to avoid feeling rushed.

But also to reduce the length of time they have to wait for their aircraft to board. As a result, determining how much time to allow yourself at the airport might be difficult.

How Early Should I Get to the Airport?

Missing your flight is a terrible experience because it may easily disrupt your entire schedule and trip itinerary.

o help you avoid it, we’ll go over how to figure out how long you should be at the airport before your trip.

There are two categories of people: those who arrive at the airport hours before their flight and those who arrive at the last minute.

While we recognize that everyone has their own method, we have to side with the early birds if you don’t want to miss your flight.

Here’s how early you should arrive at the airport—and how you may expedite your travel through the airport if you’re running late.

How Early to Get to the Airport for Domestic Flights

For domestic flights, most airlines recommend arriving at the airport two hours before departure. However, depending on the specifics of your travel situation, this is a changeable guideline.

Regional airports, for example, often have significantly fewer passengers than large international hubs; therefore, waits are likely to be much shorter.

Furthermore, if you’ve already checked in online, aren’t checking a bag, and have TSA PreCheck or Clear, you may be able to glide through the airport and thus avoid arriving as early.

On the other hand, if it’s a busy travel period, such as a holiday or school vacation, queues may be longer than usual, so plan ahead of time.

When to Get to the Airport for International Flights

For foreign flights, most airlines recommend arriving at the airport three hours before departure.

International flights typically begin boarding sooner than domestic flights, which explains the earlier suggestion. This figure, like domestic flights, is adjustable based on your circumstances.

You may speed up the procedure by checking in online, not checking a bag, and enrolling in programs such as TSA PreCheck.

You should also allow for extra time during busy travel hours.

Of course, whether you’re flying domestically or internationally, it’s always preferable to err on the side of caution in order to prevent missing your flight.

How to Get Through the Airport Quickly

In a bid to get through the airport quickly without any hassle or worries, Below are some of the things you can do to avoid unnecessary issues and delays.

1. Don’t Check a Bag

If you don’t need to check a bag, you may be able to bypass the check-in counter if you check in online. That cuts out one potentially long line.

If you need to check a bag, find a kiosk to check in and print your own tag before proceeding to the self-tagged drop-off area.

These waits are usually shorter than the full-service check-in lines.

2. See if You Have Priority Check-in Privileges

Passengers traveling in business or first class, as well as regular fliers with elite status, are frequently awarded priority check-in rights, allowing them to access priority check-in lanes.

3. Sign up for TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck is a Trusted Traveler program administered by the Department of Homeland Security that allows approved members to go through a more simplified security process.

You normally don’t have to take your laptop or liquids out of your luggage, and you don’t have to take off your shoes or outerwear.

Signing up for a five-year membership costs $85 and includes a background check and an interview.

4. Sign up for Clear

Clear is another security expediting program, but it is a private operation that costs $189 a year and allows you to bypass the security line in select airports.

It can be combined with TSA PreCheck for the quickest security experience.

Factors that Influence the Time You’ll Need at the Airport

The following are the most essential elements that will determine how much time you will need at the airport and how you will best manage your time.

1. What Airport are You Traveling out of?

This is an easy thing to ignore, but it is critical to remember.

Simply put, if you’re flying out of a large international airport, you’ll want to allow more time for yourself because these airports are often much busier than smaller regional airports.

2. Are You Traveling on a Domestic or International Flight?

International flight passengers should arrive at the airport earlier than domestic passengers.

This is due to the fact that overseas flights may have additional check-in processes, such as passport verification, that must be performed before receiving your boarding card.

Furthermore, due to the larger plane size, foreign flights typically begin boarding 15 to 30 minutes earlier than domestic flights.

3. What Time of Year are You Traveling?

The time of year you travel might have a major impact on how crowded the airport you’re flying out of is.

For example, wait times on winter flights are far lower than on flights during the summer, when demand for travel increases significantly.

4. What Time of Day are You Traveling?

Similarly, the time of your trip can influence how congested the airport will be.

Have you ever observed that the earliest and latest flights of the day frequently have the lowest prices? This is because midday flights are far more popular with travelers.

Given this, expect the airport to be much busier for midday flights than for early morning or late night flights.

5. Are You Traveling by Yourself or With a Group?

If you’re going alone, you’ll be able to move through the airport considerably faster than if you’re traveling with a group, so keep this in mind when considering how much time to schedule.

This is especially critical for families traveling with young children.


As you can see, while 2 to 3 hours before your departure is a reasonable general rule, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for determining how much time to allow at the airport.

Instead, based on the considerations discussed in this book, you could be better off treating each trip on an individual basis.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you really need to arrive 2 hours before a flight?

When flying within the United States, we recommend arriving at the airport at least 2 hours before departure. 

Do I really need to arrive 3 hours before a flight?

Most airlines recommend that you arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before a domestic flight and at least 3 hours before an international journey.

Is it OK to reach the airport an hour before the flight?

Of course you can, but if you don’t arrive at the gate after boarding has closed, you won’t be able to board. Sometimes there are long lineups at security.

How early should you get to the airport?

Choose 3 hours for international flights and 2 hours for domestic flights. Adding a half-hour buffer can help with unexpected delays and is rarely a bad idea.

What happens if you get to the airport 30 minutes before your flight?

Most airlines limit check-in to 30 minutes before departure. This allows you to obtain a boarding card and go to the gate after security screening, as well as for checked luggage to be put onto your aircraft.

Can I arrive 45 minutes before my flight?

Starting 24 hours before departure and up to 45 minutes before departure (90 for international), you can check in online or via the app. You must be at the airport a specified amount of time before your scheduled departure time to check-in and check your bags: Within the United States, it takes 45 minutes.

What time is boarding for international flights?

International flights frequently begin boarding 45 minutes to an hour before departure. Most airlines will mention their specific check-in procedures and deadlines on their websites, so check your airline’s website for further information.

How early should I check my bags?

The earliest you can check your luggage varies according to airline and airport restrictions. However, the earliest time you can check your bags is 2-4 hours before your flight. 

Can I bring food on a plane?

Within the continental United States, you can travel solid food items (but not liquids or gels) in either your carry-on or checked bags. Food items greater than 3.4 oz are not permitted in carry-on bags and should be stored in checked bags if possible.

What is not allowed on a plane?

All knives and safety razors (including pocket knives and Swiss Army knives) are prohibited, as are firearms, ammunition, and pyrotechnics. Straight razors and straight razor replacement blades are also prohibited. 

How do I know if a flight is boarding?

The departure is mentioned in the status column. There, you may see if the flight has gone, been cancelled, delayed, or if boarding has begun. Make sure you’re on the airport’s official website.

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