How Early Should I Get To The Airport to Avoid Last-Minute Chaos?

Many travelers leave for the airport fearing missing their flights as the airports can be confusing, with long queues & security checking processes. But with this article, boarding your flight on time will no longer be a hassle. We will tell you exactly how early should you get to the airport, no matter where you’re flying. Be it domestic trips or international flights, we’ve got you covered.

On top of that, we’ll share some secret tricks to help you get through the airport like a pro. All you need to do is sit back, relax, and read the sections closely.

Domestic & International Flights

Domestic and International Flights

Reaching the airport on time is very important as there are many other procedures to follow. You must know all the key points covering how early you should arrive, depending on your flight type- domestic flights & international flights mentioned below:

Domestic Flights

Here are some important points that tell you how early to reach the airport if you are catching domestic flights:

  1. You must at least aim for 45 minutes before your flight takes off. Keeping yourself early enough to check in, drop off checked bags, & deal with the security procedures.
  2. If you want no stressful experience, consider reaching 90 minutes to 2 hours before departure. Reach as early as the airport allows if you are more anxious than needed. 
  3. Many airlines stop accepting checked bags 45 minutes before a flight to ensure everything gets loaded on time. You need to complete the loading deadline to be able to check your bags & travel with a carry-on only. 
  4. Traveling with a carry-on bag reduces the need to check luggage, saving time. But you’ll still need time for security & reaching your gate 15 minutes before departure.

International Flights

If you are planning to travel internationally, read out the helpful info below to reach the airport and check in on time:

  1. For international travel, aim to be at the airport 3-4 hours before your flight departs.
  2. Compared to domestic flights, you’ll face additional checks like passports, visas, & customs. These can cause delays, so reach out as early as possible. 
  3. Some airlines need check-in for international flights at least an hour before departure. Contact your airline to confirm if this applies to your specific flight.

How Much Prior Can You Check-In for Flight?

Have you ever thought about when you can check in for your flight? Knowing this can make your trip more trouble-free & more easy. Both checking in online & at the airport kiosk will be covered in the section below:

Checking In Online or With an App

When you check in online or with your airline’s app, you can do it 24 hours before your flight in most cases. It means that you’ll only need to handle your luggage, security, & reaching your gate at the airport.

Checking In at the Airport Kiosk

If you prefer checking in at the airport kiosk, you only need to contact your airline directly to find out when their kiosks open for check-in. In the US, most airlines open check-in kiosks 3 hours before departure.

When Can You Check Your Bags at the Airport?

There are different baggage check-in rules for domestic flights compared to international. You’ll find below what to expect when checking your bags for domestic & international flights.

  • Domestic Flights- If traveling on a domestic flight, check your bags 2 to 6 hours before your flight is ready for departure. You can check bags at major airports 12 hours before a same-day flight. Get a quick look at some popular US airlines:
    • In Southwest Airlines, passengers must check their bags up to 4 hours before departure.
    • The check-in process must be done up to 6 hours before departure in Delta Air Lines.
    • In United Airlines, check bags up to 4 hours before departure.
  • International Flights- For flights within or out of Asia, Europe, or the Middle East, check bags 2 to 4 hours before departure.
    • Some premium airlines may allow earlier check-in for a fee or free of charge for premium passengers.
    • Always confirm with your airline for their specific policies.

When to Board Your Flight?

Now that you know about check-in time, bag check time, and how early to reach the airport, you should also know when to board the flight.

When Does Boarding Begin?

Boarding for domestic and international flights starts 30 minutes to 1 hour before departure. First-class & business-class passengers board first and then economy class.

When Does Boarding Time Close?

Departure gates close 15 minutes before the flight takes off. You will be allowed on the plane if you attend the boarding deadline. Your seat could be reassigned to a waiting standby passenger.

Factors To Consider To Reach Airport Early

Check out some factors below that can influence how early you should get to the airport:

  1. Checked Bags– Checking bags adds more time to reach on time. Checked bags will make you wait at the baggage counter.
  2. Airport Size– Larger airports are more busier than others. 
  3. Travel Day– Fridays, Sundays, & holidays are peak travel times. On these days you can expect more crowds & longer lines.
  4. Frequent Flyer Status– Airline status holders often enjoy priority check-in and security lanes to shrink some time.
  5. Travel Documents– Double-check you have all your documents ready to avoid delays.

Top Tips To Reach Airport ASAP

Following these tips, you can relax by reaching out early and completing everything on time. Here are some tips below to help you get to the airport fast:

  1. Pack light and consider carry-on only to skip baggage check-in lines.
  2. To save time, check-in online or with the airline app before your flight.
  3. Stay updated on flight status, gate changes, and boarding times with the airline staff you’re traveling with.
  4. You can skip the kiosk line & head straight to security with your digital boarding pass.
  5. You must get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry for a faster security check.
  6. Wear comfortable clothes & shoes that are easy to take off during security checks.
  7. Pack liquids in travel-sized containers in a clear, resealable bag for security.
  8. Cross-check the baggage fees & restrictions to avoid any last-minute things at the airport.
  9. Always keep traffic, parking, & check-in times in mind when planning your arrival at the airport.

Now you know all the tips and information about how to reach the airport early. Following everything correctly, you won’t be late or miss your flight. Make sure to plan your arrival accordingly for a stress-free departure.

FAQ Section

What time should I get to the airport?

Passengers must reach the airport 90 minutes to 2 hours before a domestic flight & 3-4 hours before an international flight.

How early do you arrive to the airport for an international flight?

For international flights, arrive at the airport 3-4 hours before your flight departure. It will allow more time for all the checks & procedures. 

How early can I check-in for my flight?

You can check in online or with the airline app 24 hours before your flight departure.

How early can I check my bags at the airport?

For domestic flights in the USA, Canada, and Mexico, you can check bags 2-6 hours before departure.  For international flights, expect 2-4 hours. 

When does boarding begin for domestic & international flights?

It usually starts 30 minutes to 1 hour before the departure time.

Will traveling with only a carry-on bag save me time during check-in?

A carry-on can save time since you won’t need to check bags. But you’ll still need time for security & reaching your gate.

What factors can affect how early I should arrive?

To reach early, you must consider checked bags, airport size, peak travel days, frequent flyer status, and travel documents.

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