What Time Should You Arrive at the Airport?

I’m unusual in that I love airports. I'll regularly arrive 2-3 hours in advance of my flight, sometimes even at a small airport without a lounge. There’s just something about being around the bustle of people in motion and aircraft on the tarmac that I find reassuring.

But let’s say that you’re a normal person. Assuming you don’t want to live as I do, when should you arrive at the airport before a flight?

Two simple guidelines will help.

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Watch This Haneda Airport Timelapse Video for a Glimpse of Tokyo Travel

Several years ago I came to Haneda airport in central Tokyo for the first time. As I wrote then, it's an interesting place that feels very different from the larger Narita airport where most international travelers arrive.

A few weeks ago I came back, and spent an hour watching the runway traffic from the observatory, which is conveniently open before security to all travelers and visitors.

Then I found this video, which provides a great perspective of flights arriving and departing at all hours of day. So pretty.

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Giveaway: Win a “Boarding Tote Bag”

Win a Boarding tote from Airportag, an online business started by "Captain Greg"—a flight lover and designer who got creative with the world of airport codes and made a fun shop.

You can find a ton of airports represented on totes, coffee mugs, and pillows over at Airporttag. Naturally, I have a lot of favorite airports, so it would be hard for me to choose a single one... but on the tote bag page, I especially like the styles of MEX, BKK, LHR, and LAX.

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A Night at the Airport

A Night At the Airport

After being home for three whole weeks, I'd almost forgotten how to travel.

Fortunately, unlocking travel master status is a lot like riding a bicycle. You go through the motions, packing your bag and choosing your seat on the plane. By the time you take the train to the airport in the morning and amble through the security line, you're back in the game.

As I began a big trip last week, I flew to Dallas and stayed for the night. In a hotel. Not on the floor.

In my early days of world travel, I slept on the floor of the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport more than once. As airport sleeping goes, it was solidly mid-range. I didn't get evicted or hassled, and no one tried to steal my bag.

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Race to the Airport

You thought you had plenty of time, but something went wrong. Having spent too much time thinking about what to pack, you spent even more time reevaluating at the last minute. You overslept, or you forgot about the time zone change. The bus came late, or the traffic jammed up. Whatever it was, as you head out the door, you run up against an uncomfortable fact—you're late. Not fashionably late, not pressed for time, just ... LATE. Thus begins the sense of apprehension. “Will I make it? What will happen if I don't?”

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For the Love of Airports

There are those who say that airports are all the same; that travel has become standardized and sterilized. This view holds that airports exist merely to take passengers from one place to another, and that “real” travel begins only when you leave the terminal. That's one way to think of it. Another way is to embrace airports as a travel experience all on their own. An airport begins, continues, or ends a journey.

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Airport Adventures from Bucharest to JFK

I arrive at Bucharest’s Otopeni International Airport (OTP) and follow the exit signs that lead to the tourist bureau. I haven’t booked a room for my stay in advance, so I need to check on available budget hotels. Sadly, the tourist office is nowhere to be found. I finally locate an information counter to determine…

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