When Should You Arrive at the Airport for a Flight?

Traveling can be stressful, but if you plan for the unexpected and come prepared, it helps to make your trip a little more enjoyable. Knowing when to get to the airport for a flight is tricky because it depends on a few different factors, and if you are new to flying, these changing situations may cause you a bit of confusion. Don’t worry: We’re here to help.

Domestic Flights

Deciding when to arrive at the airport for a domestic flight actually has more to do with which airport you are departing from than which airport you will be flying into. Larger airports will suggest you arrive earlier than smaller airports because it will likely take you more time to check in, go through security and arrive at your departure gate. That’s why it’s a good idea to follow your airport on Twitter prior to departure to get up-to-date alerts, like those provided by the Newark Airport @NY_NJAirports and @PATHAlerts.

International Flights

When you are flying in or out of the country, you should always plan to spend more time in the airport than you would for a domestic flight. It may take longer to go through security or you could get held up in customs, so plan accordingly. Most airports suggest arriving about three or four hours before your scheduled departure time to ensure you have enough time to check your luggage, make it through security and customs, find your departing gate and board the plane on time. Following your departure airport on Twitter is a great way to get up-to-the-minute alerts on what’s going on and what you should be prepared for. Larger airports like Newark offer specific Twitter accounts to attain this information like @NY_NJAirports and @PATHAlerts.

All Flights

When deciding how early to arrive at the airport, some factors are relevant for both domestic and international flights. For instance, you should always arrive earlier than usual if you are departing from an airport you are not familiar with or traveling during busy times. Long weekends and the holiday season often mean longer lines at the ticket counter and at security, so allowing yourself more time can reduce stress and anxiety.

Now that you can print your tickets at home, you may want to consider not checking a bag and skipping the check-in lines. Doing so will help you know how early to get to airport security. If you aren’t checking your bag, you’ll still want to get to the airport at a reasonable time. This is because the amount of time you saved by skipping in-person check-in may be used in the security line while they scan and check your carry-on luggage.