How Early Should You Get to the Airport this Summer?

a woman walking with a hat and suitcase

You’ve seen the news reports. TSA lines stretching for over a mile and passengers missing their flights because they spent over 3 hours in security. The real question is what does that mean for you? Will that affect how early to get to the airport this summer?

In the past, the general rule of thumb has been to arrive at the airport 2 hours in advance for domestic flights and 3 hours in advance for international flights. But with online check in and savvier travelers, the reality the last few years has been arriving an hour or so before the flight with carry on luggage was usually fine. That probably won’t be the case this summer.

How much buffer time you allow will depend on whether you have TSA Precheck and how risk adverse you are.

Consider Arriving at Least Three Hours in Advance of Your Flight If…

You’re flying during peak times or holidays — That’s when the highest volume of passengers are going through security, on weekdays that’s typically early morning and late afternoon and evenings. On the days surrounding holidays, prepare for crowds at any time.

You’re flying out of “problem” airports — Larger airports often means longer lines. And some airports are already notorious for bad service, including Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, and New York. So be aware if your airport is known for long security lines and even check the airport’s status and hashtags on Twitter to see what people are reporting.

You’re checking a bag — It’s not the bag that’s the problem, its the time you’ll need to spend in line to check the bag and then wait in airport security.

You’re Opting Out of Security — Even when lines are short, it can still take 15 minutes or more for TSA agents to summon someone to do a pat down, particularly if you’re female.

Your Connecting Flight is the Last One — If you’re connecting to the last flight to your final destination, better to be safe than sorry! Spare yourself an overnight enroute just because you didn’t leave enough time for security.

Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!

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