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How Early to Get to the Airport in 2023 (Guide & FAQs)

The question of how early to arrive at the airport boils down to caution vs. boredom. You want to be sure to get there with ample time so you are not feeling rushed, but you don’t want to sit in an uncomfortable gate seat for an hour and a half because you were too early.

Some important things to consider that will add time to how early you should arrive at the airport are if you are checking a bag, traveling with children, pets or in a group, or during peak times of day or days of the year. In any of these situations, you should consider getting to the airport at the earlier recommended times below.

Here is a breakdown of everything you need to know about getting to the airport on time for domestic and international flights, plus five major U.S. airports:

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How Early Should I Get to the Airport?

The major U.S. airlines, including United, Delta, and American, recommend you get to the airport two hours before your scheduled departure when traveling domestically. When flying internationally, you should arrive three hours before your departure. Remember this is a general guideline, and be sure to add extra time if you are traveling during busy holidays, at peak flying hours, or through the most active U.S. airports.

How Early Should I Get to the Airport for an International Flight?

Most airlines recommend arriving at the airport three hours before departure when flying internationally. That said, the best time to arrive at the airport can vary significantly depending on the airport’s size or your departure date and time. If you are traveling out of a small, regional airport in the off-season, you might need less time, such as two hours. Consider arriving four hours early if you travel internationally from a large airport during the peak travel season.

How Early Should I Get to the Airport for a Domestic Flight?

Nearly all U.S. airlines recommend getting to the airport two hours before a scheduled domestic flight. When the airline industry is in turmoil, as we have seen recently with extended security wait lines and mass flight cancellations, consider getting to the airport 3-4 hours early for a domestic flight to ensure you make your travels. If you are traveling out of a small airport with no ongoing chaos and traveling during the off-season, you can get to the airport as little as one hour before your flight; however, we strongly advise sticking to the two-hour rule of thumb.

How Early Should I Get To LAX?

With over 3,000 acres of airport space and crushing car traffic, you often need to budget extra time for navigating Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, Discover Los Angeles, recommends arriving the standard two hours before departure for domestic flights and three hours for international flights. However, a recent study by Upgraded Points found that passengers should get to LAX nearly three hours before a scheduled domestic flight.

How Early Should I Get to DEN?

The Denver International Airport (DEN or DIA) is the largest airport in the U.S. and the second largest globally, with nearly 53 square miles of operating space. Traffic flows through the terminal reasonably well, so the standard recommendation of arriving two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight applies. There are occasions, like during peak travel days or unusual airline chaos, where you will want to factor in extra time at Denver airport, such as 2.5 hours for domestic and 3.5 hours for international flights.

How Early Should I Get to ATL?

While Denver airport is the largest in the U.S. by square miles, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is the biggest by passenger volume and, as such, may require you to arrive at the Atlanta airport a little earlier. The airport recommends passengers arrive at the airport at least two hours before the scheduled departure time. We recommend getting to the airport in at least 2.5 hours for domestic flights during busy travel days and at least 3.5 hours for international flights.

How Early Should I Get to DFW?

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is a sprawling campus, but thanks to its Skylink Train, getting around the massive airport can be speedy. DFW suggests arriving at the airport at least two hours before domestic and international flights. However, a recent study by Upgraded Points found that passengers should arrive at DFW nearly three hours before departure. Use your best judgment, don’t take risks, and plan for ample time during peak travel seasons.

How Early Should I Get to ORD?

Suggestions for how early to arrive at O’Hare International Airport (ORD) range but generally line up with the national average of two hours for domestic and three hours for international flights. Southwest only recommends two hours for domestic and international, while American Airlines suggests three hours for international. However, O’Hare airport ranked #1 in the Upgraded Points study for the U.S. airport to arrive the earliest in the nation, with a recommendation of arriving just over three hours early for a domestic flight.

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