Getting to the Airport
If you have a long drive, be sure to give yourself extra time for the unexpected like flat tires, weather and moose in the road! This may sound obvious but most people don’t factor in enough time. Don’t start your day stressed out. The rule of thumb these days is to arrive two hours before a domestic flight and three for an international flight. In actuality, it’s HIGHLY variable depending on airport. Smaller, regional airports typically have fast check in and short security lines. We’re fine with a 45 minute check in time in Missoula. But I would never do that in Vegas which has notoriously long security lines; I’ve seen a number of people miss their flights there. On weekday mornings, Atlanta has very long lines too. The check in lines at DFW for non elite coach can be massive at peak times. The best thing to do is start with the general rule of thumb and then adjust based on your observations at your departure airport. Keep in mind that timing can have a huge effect as well. Early AM, Mon-Fri is slammed with business travelers and early Sat AM is slammed with vacation travelers – especially at hub airports.
On your return when flying home from your recent international adventure, DON’T check in when the hotel tells you too. The reason for this is because that’s when everybody else is coming and the check in counter is guaranteed to be slammed. So when flying home from Palau, where the hotel tells you to check in three hours before the flight, either check in 3 ½ hours ahead and beat the crowds or show up two hours ahead when the lines have died down.
If you live Far from the Airport
Since it’s a 1 1/2 hour drive for me to the airport and it’s more dangerous to drive at night or early morning because of animals on the road, I often drive to Missoula and stay the night with my cousin. I take her out to dinner in exchange and we have a great evening catching up. Now I’ve added FUN to my trip. My cousin drives me to the airport in the morning, keeps my truck and now has another vehicle at her disposal, win/win.
Creative Airport Parking Options
What if you booked the 6:00am flight to save $50 and despite the fact that you have loads of great friends no one is dumb enough to want to drive you to the airport at dark thirty? Now you have to drive yourself and park in the airport or remote lot. Your parking costs $10 or more a day and now you’ve gotten up way too early and paid MORE in the end to do it.
The auto dealership where I bought my truck is five minutes from the airport. When I need service, I wait until I’m ready for a trip. They keep my truck for me at no charge, do the service work needed while I’m gone (no inconvenience) and they pick me up and drop me off at the airport…win/win! You may be able to use this strategy as well…using a cab or friend to drop you off. It’s great to have your truck worked on when you are out of town!
Did you know? There are hotels like the Comfort Inn in Cleveland who will allow you to leave your car up to three weeks in their parking lot when you overnight. Here’s a win/win! You get to the airport the night before your trip, have a relaxing evening, spend $100 to stay and park your car for three weeks. (prices at Hopkins range from about $11-$8 per day). No need to worry about a flat tire or rush hour traffic on your way to your flight. It’s FUN, easy and convenient! I’m sure there are other hotels that offer this service.
Relaxing on Your Travel Day
Also, since flying can be a stressful experience I recommend taking it easy on the caffeine on travel day. I am amazed how caffeine ramps me up and gets me primed for a boxing match with TSA or a few rounds with the counter agent. If you are a nervous flier like I used to be, caffeine will make it much worse. Opt for soothing morning drinks like chamomile tea and skip the Mountain Dew! When I switched from Coca Cola and microwave popcorn to a nutritional shake for breakfast five years ago, my life changed, as did the life of the counter agents on many airlines!
Another great option is to check in several hours early and then do something FUN near the airport or in the airport. Many airports have good restaurants. While you’re waiting for your int’l flight at LAX’s Bradley Terminal, go upstairs and have dinner at Daily Grill. In Minneapolis, you can catch a free shuttle to the Mall of the Americas and see a movie.
Well, it seems that I’ve morphed from getting to the airport right into travel day which is tomorrow’s topic!
If you have creative ways to get to the airport let us know!