The Essentials

How Early Should You Get To the Airport?

Here’s one of my old rules of travel. The later you are getting to the airport, the further away the gate, and the more likely the plane is departing on time.

The question, however, is how early should you really get to the airport?

Most veteran flyers know the airlines like to close a flight out 15 minutes before departure, and sometimes the airlines do it 20 minutes out.

If you’re checking bags, your cut-off time is 45 minutes before a scheduled departure. And most airline counter agents won’t bend that rule.

What about for a domestic flight? That’s two hours for domestic and three for international flights.

But there are some shortcuts. Check in 24 hours ahead of time online, and print out your boarding pass at home. Don’t check bags, and apply for TSA PreCheck or CLEAR.

Then, figure a 10-minute walk to the gate once you clear security. Finally, back time the process, and if everything is working smoothly, then get to the airport 40 minutes ahead of departure time.

But since everything never works out smoothly, plan on an hour ahead of time to get to the airport.