One of the easiest mistakes to avoid when traveling is missing a flight. Everyone knows that you have to leave you home early and arrive at the airport early to avoid stress, frustration, and panic. After all, we can all agree that your heart starts beating faster when you arrive at the airport only to find a huge line at your check-in desk. What makes matters worse is that when there are a lot of people checking in, a lot of people are headed to security promptly after checking in. Cue the high blood pressure.
This stress and panic is easily avoided by departing for the airport a little bit earlier than your calculations say you should. But, how early is too early? Some people, whether they’re flying international or domestic, insist of arriving 3 hours early for a flight. Is this necessary if you are not even clearing customs and flying domestically?
With both international and domestic flights, passengers must complete the entire check-in process, including checking any baggage, before the cutoff time, which varies by airport. This cutoff time ensures there’s enough time for both passengers and baggage to be processed, screened and loaded onto the aircraft. During peak travel times, airports usually recommend allowing a minimum of 60-90 minutes to allow enough time to pass through security as well. Remember though that peak travel isn’t just major holidays, but also certain times of the day when more people travel.
A real time saver is to use an ‘e-ticket’. Gone are the days of paper tickets. This means shorter lines at ticket desks and one less thing to remember before you leave the house.
Many people search for a magic number, wandering how early they should arrive at an airport. It is generally advised to be there two hours before domestic and three hours before international flights. However, this time duration may vary depending on the season, the airport from which you are travelling, and your personal necessities.
The easiest thing to do is to take all of these factors into account when planning your departure for the airport:
- How long does it take to drive to the airport?
- Will there be traffic delays?
- Is it peak travel time (see above for peak travel time explanation)?
- What is the airport’s cutoff time?
- Is there any sort of security threat level at the airport that might delay security checks?
- Do I have any time consuming personal necessities (ie: traveling with a baby stroller, an elderly family member, etc.)
Like previously stated, the recommended time to arrive at a domestic flight is 2 hours before your flight and 3 hours before an international flight, but if you review the above factors you can re-asses your timeline to make sure you stress at the airport is minimal.