How Early Should You Get To The Airport In The US?

How Early Should You Get To The Airport In The US

Air travel is a common mode of transportation for millions of people every year. So, how early should you get to the airport in the US? 

In this article, we’ll break down the recommended arrival times for domestic and international flights, as well as provide tips to make the most of your time at the airport.

How Early Should You Get To The Airport In The US?

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recommends arriving at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours prior to international flights. It basically ensures that you have enough time to check in, go through security, and board your flight on time.

If you’re traveling during peak times like early morning or evening, during holidays, or other events, it is best to plan ahead and allow extra time. 

For example, if you are flying during a busy holiday season such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, consider leaving more than two and a half hours earlier so that you can be certain that everything goes smoothly. 

Additionally, some airports are larger than others and may require more time for you to get from the parking lots or drop-off zones to your gate. 

When packing your bags, it’s important to remember that all liquids must fit into one quart-sized bag and be placed in a separate bin when going through security. 

Additionally, there are size limits for containers of powder and other items such as gels or creams which cannot exceed 3.4 ounces per container. 

Knowing these rules ahead of time will help speed up the process so that you can make it to your plane on time! 

How Early Should You Get To The Airport For An International Flight?

How Early Should You Get To The Airport For An International Flight?
Photo by alexey starki on Unsplash

Depending on the size and location of the departure airport, airlines typically suggest arriving two to four hours before your International flight. However, this doesn’t factor in the time needed for checking in, baggage drop off, passport control, security screening, or boarding procedures – all of which require additional time. 

Once you’ve determined your airline’s recommended arrival time, it is important to factor in the additional time needed for check-in, passport control, security screening, and boarding. 

The length of time for these processes can vary depending on the airport and situation. However, it is recommended that passengers allow a minimum of 30 minutes for all procedures. 

When checking in at the ticket counter or kiosk, expect to spend 5 minutes printing your ticket and 20 minutes dropping off any checked baggage. 

Passport control often takes an additional 20 minutes while airport security screening can take up to 20 minutes as well. 

Walking from the security checkpoint to the gate can add another 20 minutes depending on how far away it is located. 

Lastly, boarding policies will vary from airline to airline, so make sure to factor in 20 minutes for boarding as well.

Here’s a table on the time required at different stages of airports when traveling internationally:

Stage Time Required
Arrival at the airport 3-4 hours before departure for international flights
Check-in and baggage drop 1-2 hours before departure
Security screening and immigration control 30-60 minutes before departure
Boarding 30-60 minutes before departure
Immigration and customs at the destination airport Varies depending on the destination country and immigration laws

How Early Should You Get To The Airport For A Domestic Flight?

Depending on the airline and airport, the recommended times for arrival can vary. Generally, it is best to arrive at least two hours before your scheduled departure time for domestic flights. This will allow you enough time to complete all the necessary steps in a timely manner.

  • Printing Ticket At The Kiosk (+5 Minutes)

The first step is to print your ticket at a kiosk or check-in desk which can take up to five minutes. 

  • Checking Bags (+15 Minutes)

Then, you must check any bags which could take up to fifteen minutes depending on the size of your luggage, and any additional items that require inspection by security staff. 

  • Going Through Airport Security (+20 Minutes)

Once you have checked your bags, you will need to go through airport security which can take up to twenty minutes depending on the size of the queue and any additional items you may have in your carry-on. 

  • Walking To The Gate (+10 Minutes)

After this, you will need to walk to the gate which can take up to ten minutes. 

  • Airline Boarding Policies (+10 Minutes)

Finally, it is important to account for any additional boarding policies enforced by the airline such as early boarding for families with young children or those requiring extra assistance. This could add an additional ten minutes to your pre-flight time frame.

Here’s a table of the time required at different stages of airports when traveling domestically:

Stage Time Required
Arrival at the airport 1-2 hours before departure for domestic flights
Check-in and baggage drop 30-60 minutes before departure
Security screening 15-30 minutes before departure
Boarding 30 minutes before departure
Deplaning and baggage claim Varies depending on the airport and baggage handling

How Early Can You Go Through Security For A Flight?

How Early Can You Go Through Security For A Flight?
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Generally it is recommended that domestic passengers should aim to reach the airport 2-4 hours before their flight’s departure. This will give you plenty of time to check in, go through security checks, grab food or do any last-minute shopping before boarding your flight.

For an extra stress-free experience, some passengers even choose to get to the airport 6 hours ahead of their scheduled departure time. 

If you decide to do this, remember that once checked in and cleared through security, you won’t be able to leave the terminal until it’s time for your flight. 

So make sure to bring along something to keep yourself occupied in the meantime! 

Here is a table of different airports and their recommended arrival time:

Airport Recommended Arrival Time for Domestic Flights Recommended Arrival Time for International Flights
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta 2 hours 3 hours
Los Angeles International 2 hours 3 hours
O’Hare International 2 hours 3 hours
Dallas/Fort Worth 2 hours 3 hours
Denver International 2 hours 3 hours
John F. Kennedy International 3 hours 4 hours
San Francisco International 2 hours 3 hours
McCarran International 2 hours 3 hours
Seattle-Tacoma International 2 hours 3 hours
Logan International 2 hours 3 hours

Can You Sit In An Airport Overnight?

Whether or not you can sit in an airport overnight depends on the airport’s policies and regulations. Some airports have designated areas for passengers to sleep or rest.  However, others do not allow passengers to stay overnight at the airport. 

It is important to research the specific airport’s policies before attempting to stay overnight. 

Additionally, it is important to ensure that you have enough food, water, and other necessary items to make your stay comfortable. 

It is also important to be aware of safety concerns and to take necessary precautions, such as keeping valuables with you at all times and staying in well-lit areas.

What Can You Do To Save Your Time At The Airport?

Firstly, check-in online before arriving at the airport to avoid long queues. Secondly, pack your carry-on bag efficiently, so it can pass through security quickly. Thirdly, consider signing up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry to expedite the security screening process

Fourthly, arrive at the airport early to allow for unforeseen delays or issues. 

Lastly, consider booking a lounge pass or upgrading your ticket to access priority lines and avoid crowds. 

Here are some detailed tips on what you can do to save time at the airport:

Check-in Online

One of the easiest ways to save time at the airport is to check-in online before you arrive. Most airlines offer online check-in, which allows you to print your boarding pass or download it to your phone. 

This means you can head straight to security when you arrive at the airport, bypassing the check-in counter and saving valuable time.

Pack Smart

Another way to save time at the airport is to pack smart. Make sure you know what items are allowed in your carry-on and checked baggage, and pack accordingly. This will help you avoid delays at security checkpoints and reduce the risk of having to repack your bags.

Arrive Early

While it may seem counterintuitive, arriving early at the airport can actually save you time. By arriving early, you can avoid long lines at check-in and security, giving you plenty of time to grab a coffee or a bite to eat before your flight. 

It also gives you a buffer in case there are any unexpected delays, such as traffic or long wait times at security.

Use TSA PreCheck

If you’re a frequent traveler, it may be worth investing in TSA PreCheck. This program allows you to bypass the standard security lines and go through a special, expedited screening process. This can save you a significant amount of time, especially during peak travel times.

Pack Snacks and Entertainment

Finally, make sure you pack snacks and entertainment for your flight. By bringing your own snacks, you can avoid long lines at airport restaurants and save money on overpriced airport food. 

Similarly, bringing your own entertainment, such as a book or a tablet, can help you pass the time on your flight and make the overall travel experience more enjoyable.

How Busy Is The Airport Going To Be?

How Busy Is The Airport Going To Be?
Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

It can be difficult to tell in advance, as there are many factors that come into play. Travelers should also be aware of the time of year they are traveling. During summer months, airports tend to be more crowded due to increased vacation travel. 

Additionally, holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s can see a higher-than-normal influx of travelers. 

This can lead to longer lines at the ticketing/check-in counters and kiosks, so it is important to leave extra time for these activities.

It is also important to plan ahead when traveling during inclement weather. If there is a forecast for snow, rain or high winds, the airport may experience delays or cancellations

It is best to check with your airline in advance so that you can adjust your plans accordingly and leave enough time for travel.


How Early To Arrive At Airport Southwest?

In general, it is recommended to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your scheduled departure time when flying with Southwest Airlines. This allows enough time to check-in, drop off luggage, go through security, and reach your gate without feeling rushed or stressed

It’s important to keep in mind that the check-in and security lines can be unpredictable. Hence, arriving early can help ensure that you don’t miss your flight. 

Additionally, if you are traveling during peak travel times or holidays, it may be wise to arrive even earlier to avoid potential delays or crowds.

How Early Should You Get To The Airport American Airlines?

For domestic flights within the U.S., passengers are typically required to arrive at least 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time. For international flights to or from destinations outside of the U.S., passengers are required to arrive at least 60 minutes before the scheduled departure time

This extra time is needed to allow for additional security and customs procedures that are required for international travel. 

It is always recommended to arrive at the airport early to avoid any potential delays or issues with the check-in process.

Can You Go Through The Security 24 Hours Prior To Your Flight?

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), you can only go through security 24 hours prior to your flight departure time. This means that if your flight is scheduled for 7:00 AM the next day, you can go through security as early as 7:00 AM the day before. 

It is important to note that you must have a boarding pass and a photo ID in order to go through security 24 hours before your flight. 

Therefore, it is recommended to arrive at the airport early enough to allow time for check-in, security, and any unexpected delays.

Does TSA PreCheck Skip Lines?

Yes, TSA PreCheck does skip lines at the airport security checkpoint. TSA PreCheck is a program that allows travelers to go through a separate, expedited security screening process. It typically involves shorter lines, no need to remove shoes, belts, and light jackets, and keeping liquids and laptops in their bags

TSA PreCheck is available to eligible passengers who have applied and been approved for the program, as well as members of certain trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry. 

While TSA PreCheck does not guarantee that you will always skip lines, it does generally provide a faster and more streamlined security screening experience.


In conclusion, the ideal time to arrive at the airport in the US varies depending on several factors such as the airport’s size, the day of the week, the time of day, and the airline’s policy. 

As a general rule, it is recommended to arrive at least two hours before a domestic flight in the U.S. and three hours before an international flight. 

However, passengers should always check with their airlines to confirm the recommended arrival time and to factor in any additional time for security screenings, check-in procedures, and unexpected delays. 

Swati Jaiswal

Swati Jaiswal is a dedicated traveler and an even dedicated individual who specializes in travel, digital marketing, & health and fitness niches. Passport stamps and coffee stains are her badges of honor.

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