How to Greet Someone at the Airport (On-Time And at the Right Spot) [2023]

Getting a greeting at the airport is one of the best feelings in the world, especially if you have been away for quite some time.

Unfortunately, greeting someone at the airport is not always so simple.

In this article, I’ll outline all of the steps you need to take to meet someone at the airport so that both you and the passenger won’t be waiting around.

Factors to consider when greeting someone at the airport

Get your timing down

The most important thing you want to have down is the timing when you’re trying to greet someone at the airport.

This is accomplished by knowing the updated flight arrival time and if there will be any extra waiting time for things like bags or immigration.

Flight arrival time

Obviously, when you are trying to greet someone at the airport you want to consider the scheduled arrival time of their flight.

But as I am sure you’re aware, some flights arrive early while some flights arrive late.

The best thing to do is to get their flight number and then utilize something like FlightAware to keep an eye on the status of the flight. It will let you know if the flight departed early or late and when it is expected to arrive.

You can also use the airline’s app or website but I’ve found FlightAware gives me updated information quicker sometimes. On these apps, you can see information like the arrival gate, which can help you find the right terminal to arrive at.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to also ask the passenger to text or call you once they arrive and take their phone out of airplane mode.

If they have bags, they should be able to tell you which baggage carousel their bags will end up at.

In addition to tracking the flight time, it will help to know a few other things about their travels like if they have checked bags and if they have Global Entry.

FlightAware screen

Do they have checked bags?

You want to make sure that you know if the passengers will have checked bags they need to pick up.

Waiting for checked bags can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes extra depending on how fast or slow things are going.

If you’re planning on greeting this person inside the airport consider greeting them at the baggage carousel so that they don’t have to wait for the bags alone. It’s actually a great place to start catching up if you haven’t seen them in a while.

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Do they have Global Entry?

This only pertains to international flights but if your passenger has to go through customs and immigration in the US, it will help to know if they have Global Entry.

Sometimes customs and immigration could add on an extra 15 to 30 minutes to your waiting time but if they have Global Entry they may be able to get through in something like five minutes.

You will not be able to accompany them when going through immigration or customs but you can typically wait right outside the exit of the customs area.

Head to the right terminal

You’ll need to make sure that you are heading to the right area of the airport which is going to be the arrivals baggage claim area for the terminal that the plane is arriving in.

You can use a flight tracker app to see what gate or terminal the plane is arriving in but some airports have dedicated terminals for specific airlines. You can also follow the signs at the airport to guide you.

You’ll be looking for a parking garage or parking lot that connects to that area.

The parking situation

Typically, if you’re planning on going inside the airport to greet someone you’ll be looking to park in the hourly parking.

A lot of times this is a parking garage or parking lot located adjacent to the airport which makes it a short walk. You’ll be paying by the hour most likely but be on the lookout for garages that allow you to get free parking if you are out of there in 30-60 minutes or less.

If you have someone else in the car who is not going to head in the airport with you and then they can consider dropping you off and then parking in the cell phone waiting lot.

This is a free parking lot usually located within just a few minutes of the airport arrivals.

One thing you do not want to do is to leave your car at the arrivals area.

Even if you are inside the vehicle just waiting for the passenger to arrive, a security guard may tell you to get a move on. This can result in you taking lap after lap around the airport and wasting a lot of gas.

And you should avoid leaving your car unattended in this area at all costs. An unattended vehicle in this area could be considered a major security threat and you could get yourself involved in a pretty messy situation real fast.

Finding your passenger to greet them

Near baggage claim, there may be one main passageway that passengers exit through and that’s where you’ll be looking for your passenger.

Sometimes you can see the sterile zone sign in that area which is a sign stating that exiting passengers can’t return past that point and you’ll see a TSA agent posted there.

You won’t be able to go through that area but you could wait somewhere nearby for your passenger to come through.

Other times, you won’t be able to get that close to the sterile gateway and you will need to wait somewhere near the carousels of baggage claim.

When the airport is busy it shouldn’t be hard to find other people lined up and waiting or holding signs with the passenger’s name. That’s typically as close as you can get.

If the passenger is coming back from an international flight you can locate the customs area and you can wait by the exit near that area so that you can greet them at the soonest opportunity.

Greeting someone at the gate

Although it might seem very old-fashioned, it still is possible to greet someone at the gate but this is definitely something that takes an extra effort.

Gate passes

One way to do this is to get a “gate pass” which is often something that people get with unaccompanied minors, military members, or special needs persons.

This pass allows you to escort someone to and from the gates (where the planes arrive and depart).

You can speak with your airline about getting a gate pass but they will likely limit gate passes to the specific instances above where people need special assistance.

But some airports also offer gate passes which will allow you to get to the gates. These are usually much less restrictive than the ones offered by the airline. You can usually find an online submission form that you will need to fill out prior to your visit. Here is an example from DTW.

Just note that getting a gate pass for international arrivals is often not possible because the passengers have to go through customs and immigration.

Book a fully refundable airline ticket

A more slightly dramatic step would be to book a fully refundable airline ticket that will give you access to the terminal that they will be arriving in.

If you know the exact gate they will be arriving at you could find a flight heading out of that terminal and purchase a fully refundable flight scheduled for a couple of hours after their arrival.

Security lines probably won’t be an issue if you have TSA Pre-Check and CLEAR, especially if you don’t have a carry-on.

As long as you cancel in time, you will not be out any money and you will be able to greet them at the gate when they arrive.

This type of thing is a grey area for airlines and if you do choose to do this you should not make a habit of it.

I would only attempt this in the most special of occasions or as a last resort when you need to be at the gate for someone who will need assistance but can’t get access for some reason.

Greeting someone with flowers or signs

At most airports, it should not be a problem to greet a passenger with flowers or custom signs.

As long as your greeting doesn’t involve any prohibited or “suspect” item, you should be able to bring it with you inside the airport.

This means that flowers should be allowed although try not to bombard the newly arriving passenger with a bunch of stuff they have to figure out how to to hold.

If you’re in need of some inspiration for a clever airport greeting sign, check out this article with lots of ideas.

Final word

When greeting someone at the airport it’s all about timing, figuring out your parking, and then making sure that you are in the right spot. If you want to take your greeting to the next level you can look into a gate pass although that is not always possible.

Denver International Airport Is Full of Conspiracy Theories: Here’s What I Think

From mysterious underground bunkers housing secret government operations to alleged hidden symbols in its artwork, Denver International Airport is a place chock-full of wild conspiracy theories.

But what exactly are these conspiracy theories and how did they come about? And more importantly, is there any evidence to support any of these theories?

In this article, we will take a look at the conspiracy theory surrounding Denver International Airport.

In the first half of the article, I’ll hit on lots of the common conspiracies associated with the airport. But towards the end of the article I’ll get into what I think could be a more legitimate conspiracy theory and offer some evidence to support it.

The beginning of these conspiracy theories

The genesis of these conspiracy theories begins at the time of construction of the Denver airport.

Conception for the design began in the late 1980s and construction began in the early 1990s but it was anything but smooth.

There was disagreement about the location which was 25 miles from Downtown Denver (which was much farther than the previous airport) and the monstrous size of the airport had people asking lots of questions.

Indeed, Denver International Airport is still the largest airport in the US and it’s almost twice as big as the number two airport, Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW).

Once construction began it was a mess for some time. The project was subject to several delays, opening up around 16 months late and it went significantly over budget in the amount of billions of dollars.

Once it did finally open in February 1995, there were several issues with the facilities and an extensive baggage transfer system that was plagued by malfunctions and technical issues to the point that it was ultimately abandoned.

People wondered why this airport needed to be so big, why construction took so long and had so many issues, and why was the project so far over budget.

Related: Denver International Airport’s (DEN) Cell Phone Waiting Lot “Final Approach” Is Insane

Enter the conspiracy theories

One of the main conspiracy theories is that there is an extensive system of tunnels or even multi-level bunkers up to six stories in height below the airport.

Former workers reportedly claimed that there were several multi-story buildings being built below Denver International Airport and other reports talk about contractors only being hired for small portions of the project, presumably to keep them in the dark about the entire scope of the project.

Current airport employees claim that these tunnels and basement layers were all part of the baggage system and needed for the trains that run through the airport although some believe that there is more to the story.

Some suspect that these tunnels and potential bunkers could be used for some type of post-apocalyptic shelter.

They believe that the shelter would be used for high-ranking government officials, the ultra elite, or even members of the New World Order (NWO), a secretive and powerful global organization that allegedly seeks to control world events and impose a totalitarian regime.

One of the most talked about clues that ties Denver International Airport to the New World Order theory is that the dedication capstone for the airport features the Masonic Square and Compasses, which are well-known symbols of Freemasonry.

Image by K W Reinsch via Flickr.

For those unaware, the Freemasons are the oldest fraternal organization in the world, perhaps starting during the Middle Ages. They are not a secret society per se but more of a “society of secrets.”

They have a presence in Denver including an active temple in the mountainous ghost town of Nevadaville, west of the city.

Freemasons, which were involved heavily in the formation of our country and design of our capital, are often the subject of conspiracy theories that link them to secretive global organizations like the New World Order.

To make this even more intriguing to conspiracy theorists, the capstone also mentions “New World Airport Commission” right underneath the icon.

Some theorists view the mention of “New World Airport Commission” as cryptic reference to the NWO, as they suggest that such a commission doesn’t exist and never did.

During my own research, I came across some proof of their existence but nothing very concrete.

Now let’s zoom out for a second, literally.

If you were to look at the runway layout of Denver’s airport from the sky you could connect the dots in such a way that you see a resemblance to a swastika.

It’s definitely not a perfect alignment so you have to use some level of pattern hunting but at a quick glance it’s hard not to see some resemblance.

Some theorists claim that the swastika is a symbol of the NWO, suggesting that the same shadowy forces behind the Nazi regime are also working towards establishing a new totalitarian world order.

It doesn’t help that some of the artwork has links to the Nazis.

Leo Tanguma’s three-paneled mural titled “Children of the World Dream of Peace” featured in the airport has a terrifying Nazi-looking soldier with a gun terrorizing people. And there’s also a quote from a child who died at Auschwitz nearby.

Photo by Higher Forces via Flickr.

The multi wall mural is said to tell a story of humanity “moving past its aggressive tendencies, and defeating the ecological challenges we face.” While that version focuses on hope for the future, others have interpreted it as symbolic of an impending cataclysmic event or NWO takeover.

The sinister artwork continues when you step outside of the airport and see the infamous Mustang sculpture that has earned the nickname “Blucifer,” after being erected in 2008.

It’s a 32-foot-tall blue horse statue with glowing red eyes that have been interpreted by some conspiracy theorists as representing a demonic or sinister force, which some believe is an expression of the occult practices that groups like the illuminati are allegedly involved in (there’s no proof of this, of course).

Photo by Mike Sinko via Flickr.

Some have even linked Blucifer to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, further fueling apocalyptic conspiracy narratives.

At this point, the conspiracy theory begins to expand into a realm that gets into the supernatural.

The artist of the statue, Luis Jiménez, was killed while working on the horse after a piece of the sculpture fell on him and severed an artery.

People interpreted this to show that the sculpture was cursed and potentially the entire grounds as some reported that the airport was built on ancient Native American burial grounds (although that doesn’t seem to have been substantiated at all like many other claims).

There are even more claims about things like the airport being home to a FEMA concentration camp, the airport’s design resembling KKK hats, and a host of other theories that continue to get more ridiculous the further you go.

But for the sake of not letting this article get too ridiculous, I’ll avoid going too deep into every theory.

So what does the airport have to say about all of this?

Denver International Airport has happily embraced the conspiracy accusations and harnessed all of its marketing power.

Stroll through the airport today and you’ll see several innocuous references to the tunnels and the New World Order.

But they have made some official responses to some of the accusations.

They have answers for pretty much everything which isn’t that difficult considering the nonexistent level of evidence for most of these claims.

The tunnels are for the trains and baggage system, the “swastika-ish” runway layout was the best way to safely design multiple runways, and the artwork is just artwork. As for the aliens and lizard people, I think they just leave those alone.

Some of the answers have not been fully satisfactory such as what does it mean that the freemason symbol is prominently featured on the capstone and what exactly was the New World Airport Commission?

But put the New World order stuff in the back of your mind for a second and consider some of the military history of Denver and how that could relate to all of this, as I think it makes a far more compelling conspiracy theory.

The real conspiracy: a new government headquarters

There is talk that if something were to happen to Washington, DC, Denver would serve as a logical inland replacement. Indeed, something similar was reportedly introduced to Congress by former US Representative Tom Tancredo.

Why would Denver make sense?

First, you have the fact that Denver is located far away from both coasts offering more protection from maritime threats.

There’s also the Denver Federal Center, which is a massive center encompassing an area of about 670 acres. It houses 90 buildings, including one with “a fallout protection factor of 1000… designed to withstand the worst nuclear attack.”

With over 4,000,000 square feet of office, warehouse, lab and special use space and 28 different federal agencies on-site, it is the largest concentration of federal agencies outside of Washington, DC.

Then there’s the fact that not too far away in Colorado Springs, you have NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), which is responsible for the aerospace warning and defense of the airspace over North America.

And this is just one of the five major military installments in the area that support “many of the most important defense and intelligence missions in the world including missile warning, space control and missile defense, and operation of the worldwide global positioning system (GPS) network.”

But there are even key military sites very close to the airport where cutting-edge military aviation technology has been going on for a while.

If you know a lot about Denver’s history in the military you also know that it was home to one of the leading military surveillance schools and bases in the world in the first half of the 20th century.

It was called the Lowry Air Force Base and over the decades the base played a major role in the defense of the United States.

From training for the Boeing B-29 Superfortress (which dropped the type of atomic bomb tested at the Trinity Site) to photographic intelligence courses, it housed many of the Air Force’s most important training programs. (You can learn more about these at the Aurora History Museum).

The base officially closed on 30 September 1994, just a few months before Denver International Airport opened. Interesting timing….

Nowadays, Buckley Space Force Base is active and is located only about 10 miles south of the airport.

It’s home to a number of important things, including the highly secure Aerospace Data Facility-Colorado, which is a major data center for the United States government. It’s where we collect, process, and disseminate intelligence information from space for national security purposes.

So, if the US had to pick a location as an emergency replacement for Washington DC, wouldn’t it make sense to go with:

  • 1) a current capital city (lots of existing government infrastructure)
  • 2) a city the highest concentration of federal government agency sites outside DC;
  • 3) a city very close to some of the most important defense headquarters and away from coastal threats
  • 4) a city with apparently numerous fall out shelters
  • 5) a city home to the largest airport in the country

When you start to think about the high concentration of federal headquarters and the talk about it being a second capital to Washington DC, it does start to make you wonder if certain provisions were taken so that this giant airport could be utilized as some type of hub in the event of a rapid change in political headquarters.

There’s also the curious basement of the Denver Mint. It’s said that the Mint sits on an enormous amount of gold although trying to get an accurate estimate based on publicly available information seems to be pretty difficult.

If there is this unbelievable amount of gold underneath the Denver Mint then could there be other things of great value and what type of security could be down there?

Could there be any link between the Denver Mint with the airport? Perhaps it’s protecting valuable resources that could be used in such a harrowing time?

Another curious thing is that just next door to the Denver Mint near Civic Center Park there is a government building with a sign outside the indicates yet another fallout shelter.

Could that be a bunker that is linked to the Denver Mint and perhaps to other sites?

So what do I really think?

Personally, I’m not really big on conspiracy theories in general. I mean, they can be fun to talk about but as far as devoting serious mental energy into them that’s usually not a direction I choose to go.

I tend to be intrigued by a select few conspiracy theories that evoke a “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” situation in my mind. For example, I do not believe for a second that we know all there is to know about the JFK assassination. There’s simply too much “smoke.”

In the case of the Denver airport, it does feel like there could be something more to this site and its surroundings but again my theory would be more along the lines of it being outfitted to help facilitate some sort of quick relocation of government headquarters.

There is a lot of top-secret military action in the area (related to practically all of the country’s most crucial defenses) and with lots of the government facilities concentrated in Denver it’s not hard to think that there could be some type of contingency plan in place in the event of a catastrophe at our national headquarters on the East Coast.

Perhaps Denver’s airport, the largest in the country by far, would play a key role in this type of disaster scenario and it’s been equipped for such a day?

Maybe beneath the airport there are facilities like war rooms, lodging quarters, and communications rooms that would be used in the event of some type of disaster scenario.

Remember the Denver Federal Center with the fallout protection mentioned above?

It also stores water in a 5,000 gallon water tank (with back-up from an underground well), has food and lodging facilities, a communications center in a “metal box” room shielding sensitive equipment from electromagnetic pulses, and houses below-ground antennae.

Would it be that far-fetched to think some of those same things could exist under the airport?

To be clear, I don’t buy into any of the lizard people, aliens, or any of the super far-fetched things which I would also lump the New World Order under.

The obvious and undeniable connection to the Freemason society is interesting, though.

Given the reported legacy they have with building and utilizing clandestine underground tunnels and structures, perhaps they were somehow involved in planning out the ultimate subterranean structure were it to be needed in dire times.

If the talk about Denver becoming a secondary capital is true then it would certainly makes sense that the Freemasons, who were a huge part in the design of the country’s capital, would be involved on some level.

Kind of makes you think.

Denver International Airport’s (DEN) Cell Phone Waiting Lot “Final Approach” Is Insane

Cell phone parking lots are excellent for providing a free waiting area while waiting to pick up passengers. Usually, these lots are small and at best may have basic amenities like nearby restrooms.

However, at Denver International Airport, they take the concept of cell phone waiting lots to the next level. In this article, I will provide a detailed overview of Denver International Airport’s (DEN) cell phone waiting lot, known as Final Approach.

What is DEN’s Final Approach?

Final Approach is the designated name for the cell phone waiting lot located near Denver International Airport (DEN). It offers a range of amenities you wouldn’t typically expect to find at a cell phone parking lot including: a food court, gas station, restrooms, convenience store, and car wash.

How close to the airport is Final Approach?

Final approach is located approximately three miles west of the Jeppesen Terminal.

On our visit, it took us about seven minutes to get to the terminal to pick up our passenger from the time that we exited the cell phone parking lot and we encountered minimal traffic.

So if you have the passenger text you when they are exiting the plane, that would be a good time to start to head over to the pick up terminal unless they have checked bags they need to pick up.

In that case, you want to probably wait until they tell you that the bags are starting to come out or better yet until they retrieve their bags. Like most other airports, they don’t allow you to wait around at the pick up area.

Related: Cell Phone Waiting Lot Airport Guide: What You Need to Know

What do they have at Final Approach?

When you visit Final Approach, you’ll find a spacious parking lot with 253 spaces, a large gas station, a convenient store, and, most importantly, the Final Approach food court.

There’s a partition between the main parking lot and the area with all of the dining options and the gas station but it is still adjacent to those facilities so you could easily walk over from the main parking lot if for some reason you can’t find parking in front of the facilities (which I think would be rare).

Denver's (DEN) Cell Phone Waiting Lot

The food court houses various restaurants including Dunkin’ Donuts, Aunt Annie’s, Schlotzsky’s, and Tia’s (a New Mexican restaurant). Some restaurants open up as early as 7 AM so you have a few different breakfast options.

Denver's (DEN) Cell Phone Waiting Lot final approach
Cell Phone Waiting Lot final approach food court
Cell Phone Waiting Lot final approach food court

Inside the food court, you’ll discover a multitude of tables and flight information screens, aiding you in keeping track of the status of your awaited flight. They even provide free Wi-Fi for your convenience.

Cell Phone Waiting Lot final approach food court

If you prefer to enjoy the outdoors, there are picnic tables available, perfect for a pleasant day.

Cell Phone Waiting Lot final approach food court outside

Adjacent to the Final Approach food court, you’ll find a convenience store called Rocket, accompanied by a large Phillips 66 gas station.

Cell Phone Waiting Lot final approach gas station
Cell Phone Waiting Lot final approach gas station

The convenience store also features a Wendy’s, boasting one of the largest drive-through entry signs I’ve ever seen. It remains open until midnight so if you’re visiting when the other places are closed (around 8pm), this may be your only option.

Inside the convenience store, you’ll encounter travel-themed decor with Colorado-themed outdoor accents.

Cell Phone Waiting Lot final approach convenience store

It’s one of the more upscale and equipped convenience stores you’ll come across, offering a convenient pit stop for snacks or beverages while awaiting your flight.

Cell Phone Waiting Lot final approach convenience store

The restroom facilities may not be on par with Buc-ee’s, but they certainly surpass the standards of your typical gas station convenience store. And there’s also a car wash outside.

Cell Phone Waiting Lot final approach car wash

Additionally, Final Approach serves as an ideal location to refuel your rental car before returning it. Hopefully, you didn’t pre-pay for your gas as that is often a rip-off!

From the parking lot near the convenience store, we were able to do some plane spotting. However, the departing flights were not very frequent, and we only caught glimpses of a few Southwest flights. Nevertheless, anything to help pass the time is always welcome.

Cell Phone Waiting Lot final approach plane spotting

One important tip for Denver International Airport is to clarify the terminal from which your passenger will be arriving.

There are separate terminals for the west and east, and although specific airlines are assigned to each, it’s possible for your passenger to end up in the wrong terminal, resulting in a long detour to reach them.

So, make sure to confirm the terminal with them to avoid any confusion and unnecessary driving on your part.

Final word

If you ever need to wait to pick up a passenger at Denver International Airport, the cell phone waiting lot is the ideal spot to be. It surpasses the typical cell phone waiting lot as it offers multiple dining choices, a spacious gas station and car wash, and a pleasant convenience store.

Arizona Airports Guide: Which Airport Should You Use?

When it comes to flying into and out of Arizona, you have quite a few options.

While the state is pretty large (6th largest overall), the airports are clustered mostly in the middle of the state which makes it practical for a lot of people to have different airport options to choose from.

In this guide, we will break down the major airports in Arizona and give you some insight into which airport might be best for you based on where you need to go and how you’d like to get there.

List of major airports in Arizona (w/map)

First, here’s a list of the major airports in Arizona.

  1. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX): Located in Phoenix, this is the largest and busiest airport in Arizona.
  2. Tucson International Airport (TUS): Tucson International Airport is located in Tucson and is the second-largest airport in Arizona.
  3. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA): Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is a smaller airport located in Mesa, just east of Phoenix.
  4. Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG): Flagstaff Pulliam Airport is located in Flagstaff, in northern Arizona.
  5. Yuma International Airport (YUM): Yuma International Airport is located in Yuma, in southwestern Arizona.
  6. Prescott Regional Airport (PRC): Prescott Regional Airport is located in Prescott, in north-central Arizona.
American Airlines taking off at PHX.

Who should use PHX

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) is by far the busiest and most equipped airport in Arizona.

The great thing about Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) is that it is centrally located among the major cities in Arizona.

It’s right in the heart of Phoenix but also roughly in the middle of Tucson, Sedona, Flagstaff, and Prescott. Basically, you can get to all of the popular cities within about two hours.

This is why flying into PHX can make exploring Arizona so easy.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) is one of the top 10 largest airports in the US and the only airport in Arizona that offers an extensive selection of airport lounges.

They have a Delta Sky Club, Amex Centurion Lounge, Escape Lounges, Admirals Clubs, and quite a few others. So if you want that premium airport experience when heading out of Arizona, you likely will want to fly out of PHX.

PHX is an American Airlines hub so you can expect to have lots of options when flying American Airlines or American Eagle. Southwest Airlines also has a pretty large presence here along with Frontier Airlines, so you do have some budget options out of Phoenix.

Popular destinations out of PHX include: Denver, Colorado; Las Vegas, Nevada; Seattle/Tacoma, Washington; Chicago–O’Hare, Illinois; Los Angeles, California; Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; San Diego, California; and Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Minnesota.

If you want to fly to Hawaii (HNL), you’ll have a few different options from PHX with nonstop flights on Southwest, American, and Hawaiian Airlines, including their lie-flat product.

They also have a nonstop flight to Anchorage, Alaska.

You’ll have different options for heading to Canada and Mexico including some of the vacation hotspots like Cabo and Cancun. You can also hop across the pond on a nonstop flight to London with British Airways or American Airlines.

However, if you’re trying to get to lots of different international cities in Europe or Asia or elsewhere, you will likely have to connect to a larger gateway airport on the West Coast or East Coast (or in London).

While PHX is one of the busiest airports in the US, it doesn’t have the same level of international reach that other airports in the top 10 do. (Geography probably plays a large role in this.)

Scottsdale, near Phoenix, does have an airport called “Scottsdale Airport.” This is a small municipal airport located 9 miles north of downtown Scottsdale. While small, it’s a very busy single-runway airport serving lots of smaller jets and also has US Customs available during certain hours so that international visitors can come through.

Who should use TUS

Tucson International Airport (TUS) is much smaller and less busy than Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX). In fact, PHX serves about 14 times the amount of traffic!

This makes TUS ideal for people who prefer a simpler and less hectic airport experience. You can quickly get in and out of this airport which makes it ideal for short and easy trips for those living in or visiting the Tucson/Pima County area.

This airport is served largely by American Airlines but also by a lot of the hubs of all the legacy carriers. This means that you usually should not have much trouble finding at least one nonstop flight from the hub cities for United, American, and Delta.

However, if you are trying to fly to a non-hub city, you’ll likely have to work with at least one connection. Southwest also serves a lot of destinations out of Tucson.

Tucson International Airport (TUS) entrance

This airport does not have airport lounges like PHX. If you have a Priority Pass membership that comes with restaurant access, you can enjoy a free meal at one of the airport restaurants but for now the actual lounges (other than the Military Liaison Office) are nonexistent.

The international flights out of TUS are limited. Because of that, you will have to connect to a larger airport in order to fly on long-haul flights across the Pacific or Atlantic or to get down to places like Hawaii, Alaska, or South America.

So you can go about scheduling your longer flights in a few different ways.

One way is for you book a connecting flight through a neighboring airport like PHX or LAX. With LAX offering so many more international flights than PHX and being such a short hop from TUS, it’s often easy to utilize that airport as your gateway for long-hauls.

Another option is to simply drive to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) when they serve your destination. Depending on which side of Tucson you’re coming from, this drive could be as quick as one hour and 30 minutes. (An Uber ride would cost you about $130 to $150 for a basic vehicle from Tucson to PHX.)

It’s a pretty scenic drive with mountains to admire along the way and is particularly beautiful to do around sunrise or sunset so it’s not a bad drive. Traffic between Tucson and Phoenix is not usually an issue along I-10, unless there’s a major accident.

You can find lots of airport hotels nearby PHX which makes it easy to take advantage of some of those cheaper, early morning flights.

Tucson International Airport (TUS) flight tower

Who should use AZA

Phoenix–Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA) is located in Mesa, Arizona, 20 miles (17 nmi; 32 km) southeast of Phoenix. This means that it is in prime location for those who live in Phoenix but also for those willing to drive a couple of hours to get to the airport from places like Tucson or Flagstaff.

If you want to utilize ultra low cost carrier Allegiant Air to get around the US then AZA could be a good option.

Typically, you would be hopping between smaller cities and airports like Idaho Falls, Idaho (IDA), Knoxville, Tennessee (TYS), Laredo, Texas (LRD), McAllen, Texas (MFE) Medford, Oregon (MFR), etc. However, occasionally Allegiant Air will serve a large airport such as MSP.

If you can fly without a carry-on bag on Allegiant Air, then you can take advantage of some super cheap rates to get around the US from Phoenix–Mesa Gateway Airport. For example, you could get to Houston for $44 or to Minneapolis for $59. So Phoenix–Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA) could be one of the cheapest airports in Arizona.

For most of your international flights, you likely would want to head to PHX or a different airport as discussed above. However, you can find routes from AZA to certain Canadian destinations with airlines such as WestJet and Lynx Air.

Who should use FLG

Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) is located a couple of hours north of Phoenix in the city of Flagstaff.

It offers significantly fewer options for flights compared to all of the options above.

At the time of this writing, you only have nonstop flights to Phoenix and DFW via American Airlines. You can book connecting flights to/from lots of other airports (flying on American Airlines most likely) but the prices may be pretty high compared to just flying in/out of Phoenix.

If you can deal with the higher prices and possibly a couple of connections, the convenience of flying into Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) can be worth it for some. It will save you a two hour drive from Phoenix and it also puts you only about 1.5 hours from Grand Canyon National Park.

It’s worth noting that if you’re headed to the Grand Canyon, you might be tempted to fly into Grand Canyon National Park Airport, located in Tusayan, which is the closest airport to Grand Canyon National Park. This is largely an airport used for air taxis, tours, and charter flights, though. It has extremely limited commercial flights, so don’t expect a legacy carrier to get you there.

Flying into Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) can also make it easier to explore other areas of northern Arizona. For example, if you wanted to visit Page (Antelope Canyon), Monument Valley, Petrified Forest National Park, and other similar spots it could make sense to fly into FLG.

Bottom line: If you are pressed for time and want to explore these areas then heading into FLG could be better than dealing with the extra drive time (and possibly traffic) to and from PHX.

Related: Review: El Tovar Hotel, Amazing Grand Canyon Lodge!

Flagstaff pine tree woods

Who should use YUM

Yuma International Airport (YUM) is similar to Flagstaff in that it is a very tiny airport that only has extremely limited nonstop flights (Dallas/Fort Worth and Phoenix–Sky Harbor), so you’ll likely be connecting from those places on American Eagle.

One difference though is that YUM is a joint use airport (civilian and military flights) operated in conjunction with the U.S. Marine Corps.

It’s about a 3 hour drive from Yuma to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), so it’s definitely within driving distance for some but not exactly a quick little road trip.

Some people might consider driving to San Diego International Airport (SAN) for longer flights since that airport is a little bit closer than PHX.

Yuma Arizona

Who should use PRC

The smallest airport on this list, Prescott Regional Airport (PRC) is home to lots of training flights from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Guidance Aviation and North-Aire. While the flights are very limited here at PRC, it does offer nonstop service with United Airlines to Denver and Los Angeles.

This allows people to travel with minimal connections to far-flung destinations when going with United Airlines and their partners. For example, you could fly from Prescott to Tokyo with only one short connecting flight to LAX. Not bad for such a tiny airport.

LAX airport

Arizona airport codes

If you’re looking for a list of the major airports in Arizona with their corresponding IATA and ICAO codes, here you go:

  1. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX/KPHX)
  2. Tucson International Airport (TUS/KTUS)
  3. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA/KIWA)
  4. Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG/KFLG)
  5. Yuma International Airport (YUM/KYUM)
  6. Prescott Municipal Airport (PRC/KPRC)
  7. Grand Canyon National Park Airport (GCN/KGCN)
  8. Kingman Airport (IGM/KIGM)
  9. Show Low Regional Airport (SOW/KSOW)
  10. Lake Havasu City Airport (HII/KHII)


What is the closest airport to Sedona, Arizona?

Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) is the closest commercially served airport to Sedona but Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) offers many more flights and will be more convenient for those willing to drive a little farther.

How many many airports are in Arizona?

Arizona has a handful of main airports which include:

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX/KPHX)
Tucson International Airport (TUS/KTUS)
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA/KIWA)
Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG/KFLG)
Yuma International Airport (YUM/KYUM)
Prescott Municipal Airport (PRC/KPRC)

Is there an airport in Scottsdale, Arizona?

Yes, there is an airport in Scottsdale (SCF) but it is not used by commercial airlines.

What airport is closest to Scottsdale, Arizona?

The closest large airport to Scottsdale is Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).

Final word

For the most part, when you travel to or from Arizona, you will be utilizing Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) or Tucson International Airport (TUS). Because these airports are relatively close to each other, you may want to opt for one over the other depending on your destination and travel preferences.

The outlier airports can also come in handy when flying low cost carriers or when shaving driving time but they can require more connections and other times be more expensive.

Prepaid Parking at the Airport: How Much Can You Save?

If you regularly park at the airport you may have wondered questions like how much cheaper is the park-and-ride parking versus the airport terminal garage or is it worth it to reserve or pre-pay for your parking?

In this article, we took a look at the 35 busiest airports in the US to see what type of prepaid parking options they offer and whether or not those options would be worth it.

Below, we will break down some of the savings (and non-savings) that you may encounter when going the pre-paid route.

Prepaid parking at the airport worth it?

Prepaid parking at the airport can be worth it if the airport offers a discount or if finding an open spot can be challenging during busy times. In fact, looking at the 35 busiest airports in the US we found that discounted reservations for airport terminal parking garages could save you about 29%.

However, you need to be aware that some airports increase the price for reservations, slap on reservation fees, and have cancellation cut-offs 24 hours outside of your arrival time.

Keep reading below for more details!

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

What you need to know about prepaid airport parking

Some large airports don’t offer reservations

You would think that in the year 2023, all large airports would offer the ability to reserve parking spots.

Maybe it’s because parking is just not an issue for a lot of airports but after analyzing 35 of the busiest airports, we found that 34% of them did not offer reserved parking.

Personally, I’ve never struggled to find an open parking spot somewhere within the vicinity of a large airport, so reservations have never really been needed (we usually go for pretty early flights).

However, that may not always be the case at some airports and it might help you sleep at night knowing that you have a reserved spot at some of the busier airports.


About 40% of the 35 busiest airports advertise a discount for reserving or pre-paying for your parking in advance. Below are some examples of the savings that you can capture if you pre-pay for terminal parking.

AirportTerminal Daily RatePre-paid Rate
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)$60$35
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)$27$9.50
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)$60$36
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)$40$29
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)$30$26
George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)$24$21
Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport (MSP)$30$28
LaGuardia Airport (LGA)$55$39
San Diego International Airport (SAN)$32$21
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)$29$26
Tampa International Airport (TPA)$20$18
Oakland International Airport (OAK)$24$19

As you can see, sometimes these can offer you some really good savings like at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), and LaGuardia Airport (LGA).

At some of those airports, you could be saving close to 50% just by booking ahead!

At other airports, your terminal parking savings are probably going to just be a few bucks but can still add up especially on a longer trip.

The savings for park-and-ride reservations were not as common or dramatic as the savings for terminal parking. This was especially true for airports that charge you a reservation fee because the savings were already so slim.

Still, some of the rates dropped significantly like at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) where are the daily max rate dropped from $35 to $14 or at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) where it dropped from $12 to $4.50.

So don’t sleep on the savings for park-and-ride reservations!

Reservation fees

One thing to look out for when doing prepaid parking at an airport is a potential reservation fee. Sometimes these can be pretty insignificant but other times they can really eat into the savings.

At Austin–Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), going through the reservation process showed an $8 reservation fee.

Sometimes these reservation fees can be a lot smaller but still cut into the savings on a short trip.

For example, consider the uncovered economy parking at PHX that requires a tram to get you to the terminal. This goes for $14 per day but if you book online you can get a 14% discount but they force you to pay a $2 booking fee.

So if you were flying out for one night for a quick business trip, your total parking cost would be the same whether you reserved or were a drive up.

Another airport with a reservation fee is Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY).

Price goes up?

Believe it or not sometimes the price actually goes up whenever you pre-pay online.

For Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW), the parking reservation fee is $10 per space, per day. So not only would you be paying more but significantly more if you chose to reserve your parking.

This was the same situation at O’Hare International Airport (ORD), so there is something about those Chicago airports….

I suppose it could be worth it to pay more if these airport parking garages often fill up but most airports do not charge extra for reservations.

Airport parking reservations will cost you in Chicago.

Notice and Refunds

If you want to reserve your parking, chances are you will have to make your booking a certain amount of time in advance.

The different time windows we encountered were 24 hours, 12 hours, two hours, and one hour but each airport may have their own booking window.

The notice time frame does not always coincide closely with the cut-off for making a change or cancellation.

For example, JFK requires you to reserve 24 hours in advance but the cancellation policy states:

You may cancel your Booking at any time up to 1 hour before the beginning of the Booking Period (your Booking arrival time) and receive a full refund. There will be no refunds for changes made less than 1 hour before the beginning of the Booking Period (your Booking arrival time).

It seems that the cancellation deadline for your reservation may often be one to two hours prior to your scheduled arrival time but always check the terms and conditions of your booking to verify. Some may require you to make your changes 24 hours out.

Promo codes

Lots of airports have promo codes that you can enter to save. So it probably is worth doing a quick search to see if you can find any recent and currently valid promo codes.

Final word

Some airports offer some very good savings when pre-paying for your parking. As long as you are mindful of the deadlines for canceling or making changes those savings can definitely be worth it.

But don’t ever assume that just because you are reserving or pre-paying that you will actually be saving money as reservation fees and price increases can sometimes force you to pay more for your parking.

16 Airport Hotels Located Inside or Adjacent to Airport Grounds

Airport hotels can be extremely convenient whether you are departing extra early or arriving extra late.

There are lots of airport hotels but some of them are special because they are located on the grounds of the airport or adjacent to the airport, making them basically attached to the terminals.

These type of properties offer unrivaled convenience for travelers and in this article we will take you through 16 different airport hotels located across the country.

Factors to look at when staying at an airport hotel

If you’re thinking about staying at an airport hotel located on the grounds of the airport, here are some of the different factors you want to look at.

Dedicated TSA security checkpoint

It’s not common to find but a small percentage of airport hotels will offer hotel guests a dedicated TSA security checkpoint.

You basically roll out of bed, take your luggage with you, and you’ll be able to get through what should be a much less hectic security checkpoint all thanks to your status as a hotel guest.

It’s a great VIP experience but as mentioned it’s not very common to find. It’s also not clear to me if you will be able to take advantage of things like TSA Pre-Check or CLEAR when these lines are available. My guess would be that the former would be available but maybe not the latter?

Runway views

Most hotels located on the grounds of an airport are designed to provide runway views and sometimes the views can be pretty stunning with things like panoramic windows from a presidential suite.

There are a few airport hotels that may only offer airport views (which essentially is just a few of the “tarmac”) but either way, be prepared to pay a premium for the better views.

Direct access to airport terminals

Some airport hotels will have access to all of the terminals but in other situations you may have to take a tram or a shuttle bus to get to some of the terminals.

(Access could mean taking a covered walkway directly to a terminal or having to walk through a couple of additional terminals to get to where you need to be.)

Obviously, the convenience factor goes down if you have to hop on a shuttle so make sure you have clarity on exactly what terminals you can get direct access to.


Some airport hotels will offer your standard parking options such as valet and self parking.

Other times, you may need to utilize the garage parking for the airport, though. Sometimes you can get a discount on the airport parking so be sure to look into that.

Related: Are Airport Hotels Good Options? (Pros & Cons)

List of airport hotels

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

Grand Hyatt DFW


  • 2 Queen Beds
    • $355
    • 23,000
  • Executive Suite
    • $480
    • 35,000
  • Presidential Suite
    • $1,420

Let’s start off our list in Dallas, Texas with the Grand Hyatt DFW Hotel located inside DFW International Airport Terminal D. Owned by the airport, it’s only steps away from TSA checkpoints (no dedicated TSA line) and it’s super convenient with direct access to all terminals.

It’s also a great airport hotel because you can get runway views and they even have a presidential suite, although that might cost you a pretty penny.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

Denver International Airport (DEN)

The Westin Denver International Airport


  • 2 Queen Beds, Traditional Guest Room
    • $293
    • 52,000
  • 1 King Bed, Runway View, Corner, Junior Suite
    • $526
  • 2 King Beds, High Floor, Renewal Suite
    • $1,214

The Westin Denver International Airport is the only hotel connected to Denver International Airport’s Jeppesen Terminal. This is another hotel offering runway views from some rooms.

It should only take you a couple of minutes to get into the airport and there is no designated TSA line. You can take advantage of valet parking for $39 or go for self parking in the airport.

The Westin Denver International Airport

O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport


  • 2 Double Beds
    • $234
    • 50,000
  • Family Suite – One King Bed
    • $332
    • 84,000
  • One King Bed Room with Separate Parlor Room
    • $763
    • 191,000

You can get from your flight to your room in the Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport in 10 minutes or less according to the hotel.

This property is located on the grounds of Chicago O’Hare International Airport and it has an underground tunnel that can take you to Terminals 1, 2, and 3. Need to get to terminal five? Just take the shuttle.

The hotel does not have a dedicated TSA line but some of the rooms should impress with runway views. Valet parking is available although it is expensive at $75 so you might want to just park in the airport garage.

Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport

Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport


  • 2 Queen Beds
    • $297
    • 18,000
  • 2 Queen Beds Studio Suite
    • $452
  • 1 Bedroom Suite
    • $702
    • 13,500 + $351

All you will need to do is take an escalator ride from the main terminal to get to the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport.

Located between terminal A and terminal B, this is one of the most convenient airport hotels you’ll find. That is, unless you need to get to terminal C which will require a tram ride.

Some rooms boast runway views as does the hotel restaurant, making this a great selection for plane spotters. Compared to other hotels, parking can be pretty affordable at $12 a night. There is no dedicated TSA line for this property.

Miami International Airport (MIA)

Miami International Airport Hotel


  • Twin Single Room
    • $129
  • Queen Room
    • $229
  • Jr. Suite
    • $369

From the Miami International Airport Hotel, you can get direct access to the airport as the hotel sits inside Miami International Airport Terminal E, 2nd Level.

There is no dedicated TSA line but you will be within walking distance to all of the terminals making this a convenient stay. Some of the rooms offer great runway views although the hotel does not have the best overall reviews.

There is also no dedicated parking, so you will have to utilize the airport parking garage and unfortunately they don’t offer a discount for hotel guests.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

Houston Airport Marriott at George Bush Intercontinental


  • 1 King Bed, Guest Room
    • $215
    • 29,000
  • 1 King Bed, Airport View, Guest Room
    • $239
  • 1 King Bed, 1-Bedroom Suite
    • $371

If you have an early flight or late flight at George Bush Intercontinental, consider staying at the ultra convenient Houston Airport Marriott at George Bush Intercontinental.

It’s directly connected to the airport via an underground tram which you will have to take to get to all of the terminals. You can get airport views but you won’t have the greatest (or any) runway views. Still, some of the rooms like the Bi-Level Loft are unique and reasonably priced.

Expect parking to run you about $20 a day and there is no dedicated TSA line.

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

TWA Hotel

Price for Overnight:

  • Standard King
    • $225
  • Executive King Suite
    • $342
  • Howard Hughes Presidential Suite With Runway View
    • $750

Price for Daytripper:

  • Standard Room
    • $149 (4 Hours)
    • $209 (8 Hours)
    • $269 (12 Hours)
  • Deluxe Room
    • $149 (4 Hours)
    • $209 (8 Hours)
    • $269 (12 Hours)

The TWA Hotel has become one of the most popular airport hotels in the country. You can find it at Terminal 5, and you will need to take an air train to all other terminals. Like most airport hotels, there is no dedicated TSA line.

Some rooms boast runway views including the Howard Hughes Presidential Suite.

What’s interesting about this property is that you can book hourly rates so that you can rest up on long layovers. They also have facilities like a rooftop pool which you can access even on day rates. Keep in mind that reservations may be required for some of these facilities.

Parking is a bit pricey at $50 per day plus an extra $10 if your vehicle is larger than something like a Honda CRV (smaller crossover).

Here are details for parking.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

Grand Hyatt at SFO


  • King Bed
    • $387
    • 23,000
  • Junior Suite | King Bed
    • $537
    • 17,500 + $269
  • Executive Suite | King Bed
    • $887

Directly connected to the AirTrain (which has access to all terminals), the Grand Hyatt at SFO is a great airport hotel when in the Bay Area.

You can get runway views as well as views of the Bay that you can take advantage of in beautiful corner rooms. Like other properties, it offers soundproof windows which should help you get some much-needed rest.

Expect to pay about $40 per day for valet parking or self parking.

Grand Hyatt at SFO

Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport (MSP)

InterContinental Minneapolis – St. Paul Airport


  • Classic Room
    • $180
    • 30,000
  • 1 King Bed 1 Bedroom Suite Sofa Bed
    • $270
  • 1 King Bed Junior Suite Sofa Bed
    • $279

InterContinental Minneapolis – St. Paul Airport is one of the stand out airport hotels because it offers a dedicated TSA line for hotel guests.

Unfortunately, probably due to shortage of staff, this line has not been opened for a little while but hopefully it will return to service soon.

Some rooms post runway views and the property has direct access to terminal one via a skybridge-connection. If you’re headed to terminal two, you will need to hop on the shuttle. There is on site parking for about $30 per day.

InterContinental Minneapolis - St. Paul Airport

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)

The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport


  • 2 Double Beds, Traditional Guest Room
    • $278
    • 37,000
  • 1 King Bed, 1-Bedroom Junior Suite
    • $381
  • Bedroom 1: 2 Double Beds, Bedroom 2: 1 King/Murphy Bed, Runway View, 2 Bedroom Suite
    • $543

The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport is located within McNamara terminal of DTW Airport. If you want to enjoy runway views here you will need to book a premium room, which could include one of the different types of suites available.

This is also one of the airport hotels with a dedicated TSA line but it is only available in the mornings for Delta flights or for passengers with only carry-on items. Parking is available on site for guests at about $30 per day although the rates are much higher for non-guests.

The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)

Hilton Boston Logan Airport


  • 1 King Bed Room
    • $193
    • 53,000
  • 1 King Junior Suite
    • $452
    • 173,000
  • Executive Suite-top Floor Panoramic View
    • $888
    • 339,000

The Hilton Boston Logan Airport is connected via a covered walkway to Boston Logan Airport terminals A and E.

If you need to get to another terminal then you can simply hop on the free 24 hour shuttle. Some of the rooms have runway views, including the executive suite with panoramic views, although there is no dedicated TSA security checkpoint.

Self parking is available for around $50 in valet for close to $60.

Hilton Boston Logan Airport

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

Philadelphia Airport Marriott


  • 2 Double Beds, Guest Room
    • $215
    • 38,000
  • 2 Double Beds, Runway View, Guest Room
    • $224
  • 1 King Bed, Runway View, Guest Room
    • $234

The Philadelphia Airport Marriott is connected via a skywalk to Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) Terminal B & C. From there, you can get to the other terminals. At this property, you’ll find rooms with runway views including some that go for under $250 per night.

There is no dedicated TSA line and parking is just under $30 per day but if your car is over 6 feet it may have to be parked in another lot going for closer to $40 per night.

Philadelphia Airport Marriott

Tampa International Airport (TPA)

Tampa Airport Marriott


  • 1 King Bed, Guest Room
    • $283
    • 39,000
  • 1 King Murphy Bed, High Floor, Hospitality Suite
    • $538
  • 1 King Bed, High Floor, Presidential Suite
    • $680

Ultra convenient with access to all terminals, Tampa Airport Marriott is located inside Tampa International Airport (TPA).

There is no special security line for hotel guests but they do have cheaper parking at around $25 per day for self parking and $30 for valet. You can also find rooms with runway views, including the presidential suite on a high floor which you can get for under $700 per night.

Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)

Hyatt Regency Pittsburgh International Airport


  • 1 King Bed
    • $190
    • 9,500
  • Executive Suite
    • $240
    • 7,250 + $62
  • Junior Suite
    • $240
    • 7,250 + $62

The Hyatt Regency Pittsburgh International Airport has rooms with runway views and direct access to all terminals with no shuttle required. There is no dedicated security checkpoint and all parking is in the airport garage.

If choosing to park here, you may want to park in the long-term parking as it is the closest to the property and will only run you about $16 per day.

Hyatt Regency Pittsburgh International Airport

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott


  • 2 Double Beds, Guest Room
    • $271
    • 37,000
  • 1 King Bed, Concierge Lounge Access, Suite
    • $507
  • 1 King Bed, Concierge Lounge Access, Corner, Suite
    • $516

Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott is located on the airport grounds at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). You can hop on the shuttle to all of the terminals and on site parking is $20-$30 depending on how long you will be there. You can get airport views from your room but they do not have runway views.

Portland International Airport (PDX)

Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel


  • 1 King Bed, Guest Room
    • $224
    • 23,000
  • 2 Queen Beds, Club Lounge Access, Guest Room
    • $254
  • 1 King Bed, 1-Bedroom Suite
    • $518

The Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel is located on the grounds of Portland International Airport.

In order to get two other terminals, you will need to take a shuttle which are available 24 hours a day and may be on demand.

The hotel has a lot of rooms with runway views although there is no dedicated TSA line. On site parking will run you about $15 per day.

Final word

It’s hard to beat the convenience of airport hotels and luckily they can offer you more than convenience. Some of them are actually quality properties with nice suites and great runway views that can be perfect for av-geeks.

19 Ideas on What To Do When Bored at the Airport

If you are like a lot of travelers, you like to get to the airport early to make sure that you don’t miss your flight and aren’t overly stressed to make it to the boarding area in time.

But sometimes this leaves you at the airport for hours with essentially nothing to do.

In other cases you might just have a long layover and be forced to pass the time until your connecting flight arrives (hopefully without getting delayed).

If you’re wondering what are some things to do when you’re bored at the airport this article will give you some unique ideas of ways to pass time.

Minimizing your airport boredom

Before getting into the tips on how to pass time at the airport, consider that you are often in control of how much time you are spending at the airport.

The common recommendations of arriving two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight don’t always apply to everyone equally.

For example, if you have no checked baggage and CLEAR/TSA Pre-Check, you can sometimes cut those recommendations in half.

If you are on a long layover, it may be possible to leave the airport and explore the nearby area thereby relieving your boredom for some time.

So if you find yourself consistently bored at the airport just consider that you might be able to make moves to reduce that boredom by a large degree.

With that said, let’s get into the tips.

Related: What Time Does the Airport Open? What 24 Hours Really Means

Entertain yourself at the gate areas

Let’s start with the most basic form of airport entertainment before we get into some of the more interesting stuff.

When you get through security, you typically head to the gate area.

This is the area where you will board your flight and there are usually rows of seats for you to sit on and wait for time to pass.

If you are committed to staying in the gate area I would suggest to find a seat located near a power outlet or USB port so that you can power your electronics.

Sometimes this means sitting at a seat in a gate area several gates away from your gate and that is perfectly fine so long as you have the awareness to remember your flight may be boarding at a different time.

I would avoid plugging your device directly into the USB port unless you have some sort of charge-only cord or a USB protector (read more on that).

At this spot, you can watch movies, listen to music, read a book, etc.

Here are some tips to get the most out of your entertainment:

  • Set a reminder 48 hours prior to your flight to download movies or playlists since the free Wi-Fi at airports often is not that great.
  • Remember, lots of streaming services allow you to download shows and movies for off-line viewing
  • Consider watching movies or documentaries based on the destination you’re visiting to get yourself a little bit more hype about your trip.
  • Get some decent quality noise canceling headphones that fit over your ear. These are much more comfortable when traveling and can help drown out noise like crying babies.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Take advantage of an airport lounge

My number one way to pass time at the airport is to spend time at an airport lounge. The quality of airport lounges can vary dramatically based on the type of lounge you’re visiting.

I typically prefer American Express Centurion Lounges and lounges from the major airlines: Delta, United, and American. Some Priority Pass lounges can also be pretty nice as well.

Some of these lounges may require a special membership (often available via credit card) but other times you can purchase a day pass probably ranging from $25 to $60.

Sometimes you can get one or two guests in with you for free but other times you have to pay per person.

The biggest thing I look for is a lounge that is not crowded. I’ll sometimes choose a lesser quality lounge if it has substantially less people in it because it is easier to move around and find comfortable seating.

Another benefit of airport lounges is typically the bathroom will be much cleaner than the public bathroom in the airport terminal. This is especially true if you are visiting a business class or first class lounge.

The Wi-Fi should be better in these larges and I have been able to download movies for flights without much issue at many lounges.

Take a nap in Minute Suites

Minute Suites are similar to airport lounges but they are smaller little rooms that can provide you with an area to rest and even snooze away in privacy.

You won’t get the full airport lounge experience with a broad range of dining and drinking options but you can get peace and quiet and possibly even a shower to use.

You can find them at the following airports:

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Airport (ATL)
  • Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI)
  • Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
  • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)
  • LaGuardia – Minute Suites Express (LGA)
  • Nashville International Airport (BNA)
  • Philadelphia International (PHL)

Walk it out on an airport track

Another way to pass time and also burn off some calories is to simply walk the airport.

Walk up and down each terminal and concourse and you’ll be surprised how much time (and possibly calories) you can burn during this process.

Some airports might even have official pathways or “tracks” for you to easily follow throughout the terminals. For example, Phoenix Sky Harbor has a two-mile, post-security “Fitness Trail” in Terminal 4. MSP has a 1.4-mile walking path at Terminal 1.

Tip: To make things even better a few of these airports will have bag-storage concession so you don’t actually have to walk around with your luggage.

Brush up on a new language

When you’re sitting around waiting for your flight to an international destination, this can be a perfect time to brush up on your language skills.

If you’re using an app simply plug in your headphones and get to work on remembering some of those common phrases. According to experts, you can retain 10-20 words per study hour, so waiting for your flight can give you enough time to get a few basic words down.

Journal and make sense of your travel experiences

Traveling is the perfect time to reflect on what’s going on inside your head.

You may be put out of your comfort zone and exposed to new things that will make you re-think some of your values and beliefs, both big and small.

When waiting at the airport, this could be the perfect time to start making sense of your new experiences and integrating them back into your normal life by way of journal entries.

Sometimes taking a close look at why a certain experience made you feel a certain way can be very illuminating and help you grow as a person.

Maybe you had an inspiring encounter with nature or perhaps you faced one of your fears on your trip.

I’ve found that journaling during or directly after travels is the best time to write things down because the memories are very fresh and easy to recollect.

Debrief your trip

This relates to journaling but is done with your travel partner.

After trips, Brad and I always discuss notable moments from each destination. We talk about our favorite hotels, favorite meals, tours, and all of the craziness that we often encounter in between.

It’s a lot of fun to recall both the good and the bad moments and while you are waiting at the airport this could be a perfect time to do something like this.

Check into an airport hotel

Some airports have hotels attached to them and these can be the perfect hotels to check into for a few hours. Sometimes you can book special day rates which basically just give you several hours to relax in the hotel.

Since the structure will be connected via a skywalk or tunnel you can easily get back to the airport terminal although you will have to go back through security so keep that in mind.

Play hide and go seek

Release your inner child and indulge in a game of hide and seek to pass time on those long layovers. If you are worried that you’ll be looking for hours on end you can limit the “hide zone” to a certain terminal or concourse.

I’ve never played hide and go seek in an airport and can’t really see myself doing it but for the right type of person in the right type of mood, I could see this actually being a great way to pass time.

Explore unique attractions

Some airports are known to have interesting attractions that can help you pass some time.

For example, the airport in Phoenix has a museum in different terminals. At Vancouver International Airport, there is a 30,000-gallon aquarium.

Popular international airports take attractions to the next level and you might be able to find some seriously entertaining and cool attractions to visit.

Some of those that stand out include:

  • Nine-hole golf course at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)
  • 25 meter indoor lap pool – Hamad International Airport in Qatar (DOH)
  • Indoor Garden — Terminal 2 of Incheon International Airport (ICN)

Plane watch

If you can get a seat or afford to stand by the windows in the terminal, you can always plane watch.

Watching planes land and takeoff can actually be kind of entertaining and peaceful.

Try to take your plane watching to the next level and identify the planes by looking up the fleet of different airlines.

You can use a flight software like FlightAware to track the aircraft and see if you were correct with your identification and also check where the plane is headed.

Organize and edit your travel photos

If you have access to your laptop or some other device another great way to pass time is to simply edit photos. If you just finished up a trip this is a perfect time to do that.

You can start by organizing your photos in your phone or camera. Delete all of your duplicate photos, poorly exposed shots, photographs you just don’t care for, etc.

Try to create a system such as favoriting your good photos so that you can round them up easy. You might even want to create albums for different parts of your trip.

Sleep at the Gate areas?

If you want to sleep at the gate areas that can be something that comes with risks.

The first risk is obviously that you could miss your flight. If you have an alarm set you should be good to go but if you don’t trust yourself then maybe a nap at the airport is not the best idea.

One thing to be careful of is falling asleep when the seats are empty.

It’s possible that your gate area could become extremely crowded while you are asleep and you will look very inconsiderate taking up several seats for your nap and forcing other people, potentially elderly or disabled people to stand.

Another risk is that someone could get into your luggage and take your belongings. So try to sleep with your bags connected to you in some way so that you might be alerted if that happens.

And finally, some airport staff members don’t allow you to sleep and they may come around poking you to wake up which can be an unpleasant experience. This actually once happened to me in Chicago!

Do some people watching

I’m not really into people watching because quite frankly I think it’s a little creepy.

However, a lot of people love to sit back and just watch other people to see how they move around and interact with others and the environment.

Hit up local bars & restaurants

Bars and restaurants are a common favorite for people trying to pass time at the airport.

A lot of times, the prices are jacked up pretty high so people don’t like to order a lot of items. The plus side is that sometimes these places will have outlets so that you can also get some work done while you are enjoying your meal.

I always look out for those local restaurants in the airport so that you can actually enjoy something unique from that region.

For example, at Austin airport you have the following options:

  • Salt Lick Barbecue
  • Tacodeli
  • Dan’s Hamburgers
  • Mad Greens

There is a debate of whether or not you should post up at your spot for as long as you want whenever there are a lot of crowds at the airport so you’ll have to use your own judgment on that.

Look for unique shops

Airports typically have a lot of the same type of shops including those shops that you see you’re basically every airport.

Beyond the local souvenir shops and the shop selling you expensive chocolates and perfume, sometimes you can run across interesting shops you don’t expect to see.

For example, Milwaukee Airport has a used bookstore, the Renaissance Book Shop.

Get a shoe shining

If you think your dress shoes are in need of a good shining, consider sitting down for a good old fashioned shoe shining.

You can find these stations at a lot of airports and there typically are a couple of chairs that are elevated off the ground quite a bit like a king’s throne that obviously stand out as shoe shining stations. Other times they may be located in “shoe hospital.”

The entire process should only take a few minutes and typically these are pros working the stations. Expect to pay somewhere between $6 and $10 depending on the type of shoe or boot.

Relax in a spa

Spas can be one of the most relaxing ways to pass time at the airport. You can find them in a lot of different places and here are some of the more common types you might encounter:

If you are visiting a business class or first class lounge, there’s a chance you might be able to indulge in a spa. In fact, sometimes you can even get a free complimentary session depending on the type of ticket you have.

Socialize with another traveler

A lot of solo travelers like to socialize with other travelers since they are spending so much time alone.

An easy way to enter into a conversation is to simply find a bar seat or table at a restaurant next to someone else who appears like a solo traveler.

If they don’t appear to be busy or preoccupied with anything you can always hit them with the, “So where are you heading out to?” and they will usually be happy to carry a conversation for a little while.

Final word

Passing time at the airport does not have to be an agonizing experience. If you come prepared with entertainment and or work that needs to be taken care of and can lock down the seat, you shouldn’t have much issue passing time.

And if you can do a little bit of research, you can often find little attractions and interesting shops to check out to also help you spend a little bit of time.

But my number one recommendation would be to get on board with airport lounges by obtaining some type of lounge membership because that will almost always be the most comfortable way to pass time.

What Time Does the Airport Open? What 24 Hours Really Means [2022]

Are you thinking about arriving at the airport extra early or perhaps even staying at the airport overnight but wondering if the airport will remain open?

Airport hours are not as straightforward as you might think due to all of the different facilities and services that are offered.

In this article, we will try to clear up some of the confusion and tell you everything you need to know about what time airports open.

What time does the airport open?

Most major US airports are open 24 hours. However, this doesn’t mean that you can roam freely throughout the airport at all hours of the night and take advantage of all of the facilities. Instead, different facilities have a range of operating hours and certain portions of the airport may even be inaccessible. Keep reading below to find out more!

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

What does it really mean when an airport is “open 24 hours?”

Most of the large and well-known airports in the US are open 24 hours. This means that in theory you should be able to enter the check-in area of the airport at any hour of the night or morning.

This doesn’t mean that there will be any staff or crew at the check-in desks. It just means that you can probably access the general area of the airport where you find the check-in desks and baggage drop off.

Once agents do set up for check-in, airlines are usually pretty flexible with allowing you to check in for your flight several hours before departure but that’s assuming you are not checking any luggage.

As for when you can drop off your luggage, that’s usually 3 to 4 hours prior to departure depending on if you are flying domestic or international (sometimes an airline may make an exception).

Airport police and maybe a few shops or restaurants are probably the only services that will be available at all hours of the night.

There are some reports online of airports stating they are open 24 hours but still locking the doors during the late hours.

It’s possible that this could be more common when an airport has smaller terminals that remain less active (open) than their main terminals.

But for the most part you should be able to walk in through the main doors of the terminal in the wee hours of the night like 2am.

This does NOT mean that you will be able to walk freely about the airport though.

First, as you’ll see below, security checkpoints typically are not open 24 hours a day so you won’t be able to get through to the gates.

Second, if you are already airside (past security) a common practice that airports have is that when all of the flights are done for the night, they clear out the gate areas.

This means that if you were hanging out in the gate area late at night you would be ushered to the pre-security check-in area for the night. In other words, you are forced to remain landside.

You could remain there and then you would need to go through security when it opens up in the morning if you were trying to get back to the gates.

This is the same situation you would find yourself in if you arrived at the airport very late at night/super early in the morning.

Spending a few hours landside may sound doable in theory but speaking from experience, it’s usually not a very pleasant way to spend a few hours.

Landside areas of the airport can be very uncomfortable places to get rest as they can be dirty, loud, exposed to the public, etc. Also, due to the pandemic it’s not so easy to find seating anymore.

It would be much better to find a nearby airport hotel for the night than trying to rest or sleep landside in most cases. The hotels usually offer shuttles to the airport that begin running very early in the morning.

Related: How Early Should You Get to the Airport?


TSA security does not operate 24 hours a day in the vast majority of cases. Instead, the security checkpoints will be open based on when flights begin and end.

This usually means that the checkpoints begin to open at around 3:30am to 4am and then shut down around 30 minutes prior to the last flight which is when check-in usually ends for the flight.

Some TSA agents will remain near the sterile area of the airport to corral traffic from late incoming flights but they only allow for one way traffic heading out the airport at that point.

Each terminal may have its own unique security checkpoint hours so be sure to verify the hours for the particular terminal you’ll be arriving at (see links below).

In some cases, you may be able to hop over to a different terminal in order to get through security earlier.

I’ve done this a number of times and while sometimes a TSA agent looks at me funny or tells me that I’m going to have to switch terminals, they usually let me slide through.

If you have TSA Pre-Check, be aware that sometimes the Pre-Check lines do not open up until a little bit later.

I’m guessing this is done just because lines are less of an issue super early in the morning but when that occurs sometimes you can get TSA Pre-Check “Lite” which grants you some of the Pre-Check perks but requires you to go through the standard security line.

You can find reports of TSA sometimes shutting down a little bit early and giving passengers very little breathing room when it comes to running late for flights. For that reason, you should really try to avoid running late when you are taking one of the last flights out of the airport.

Also, it helps if you check-in online so that the airline will not shut down the check-in area before giving you all of the time you have (including the grace period) to check in.

Restaurants and shops

Just like security checkpoints, the restaurants and shops within the airport will have a range of operating hours.

At big airports, you can find a small number of restaurants and stores that will be open 24 hours. For example, I’ve seen Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway restaurants open 24 hours a day. It’s also not uncommon for some of those newsstand stores to remain open 24 hours.

For the most part, the venues open 24 hours will be located in the largest and most active terminals of the airport.

Coffee shops like Starbucks and Pete’s coffee may open up pretty early such as around 5am as do some restaurants.

However, a lot of times the restaurants and stores will not open until a little bit later such as around 7am to 8am. Some may not even open until lunchtime.

So if you are arriving extra early to the airport you may want to grab some food before you arrive at the airport because your dining options could be very slim.

If the restaurant is open until the evening then sometimes they might remain open until about 8pm or 30 minutes prior to the last flight.

So if you are cutting it close and arriving at the airport for one of the last flights of the night, you also might want to get food ahead of time.

And if you need to use one of those currency exchange kiosks, those usually don’t open until the morning around 7am.


If you’re wondering what time your airport lounge will open and close you’re going to have to check with that specific lounge because open hours for airport lounges can vary pretty dramatically.

This is the case even whenever you are dealing with the same airline and the same terminal, such as with United at IAH Terminal C.

Occasionally, you can find an airport lounge that remains open 24 hours but this is usually pretty rare in the US.

A lot of airport lounges open up between 5am and 7am. For example, a lot of American Express Centurion Lounges do not open until 7am.

Legacy carrier airline lounges like Admirals Clubs and United Clubs, usually open earlier such as around 5am to 6am and sometimes even earlier. For example, quite a few Delta Sky Clubs open at around 4am or 4:45am.

Sometimes if you are flying out of a terminal dedicated to an airline and home to a lounge for that airline they will sync up the hours so that they open up extra early for the first flights.

Of course, if you arrive at an airport lounge very early you can expect for certain facilities to be closed such as the bar, food made to order, or perhaps other services like the spa.

You can expect the airport lounges to start shutting down around 7pm to 8pm although some remain open closer to midnight.

If you are at one of the airline lounges closing earlier than others, but you still would like to spend some more time in a lounge, ask the agents at the front desk if there are other lounges for that airline remaining open and they should be able to direct you there.

I’ve definitely bounced around between two and three airport lounges in a single night before.


Parking areas, especially those garages or lots connected to the airports, will remain open 24 hours.

But if you are doing offsite parking you may need to check on the hours because they may not always be running shuttle buses throughout the night.

Breakdown of main airports in the US

Here’s a breakdown of some of the main airports in the US with links to the security hours and store hours. For airport hours, we found them online and also called and verified their 24 hour status over the phone.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
Denver International Airport (DEN)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
O’Hare International Airport (ORD)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)24 hrsOpen around 4amStore Hours
Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
Orlando International Airport (MCO)24 hrsOpen around 4amStore Hours
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
Miami International Airport (MIA)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)24 hrsOpen around 4amStore Hours
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)24 hrsOpen around 4amStore Hours
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport (MSP)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)24 hrsOpen around 4amStore Hours
Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
Tampa International Airport (TPA)24 hrsOpen around 4amStore Hours
San Diego International Airport (SAN)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours
Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)24 hrsCheckpoint HoursStore Hours

Final word

As you can tell most of the major airports in the US claim to be open 24 hours. This means that you should be able to access the check-in area at just about any time. However, during after hours some portions of the airport such as the gates may be closed off, security will likely not be open, and you will also have very slim to nonexistent options for restaurants and shopping.

TSA Checklist (Tips & PDF) [2021]

If you’re getting ready to head to the airport make sure that you know exactly what to expect when it comes to TSA.

There are quite a few tips that I have to make your experience less stressful and a lot smoother so be sure to check out the tips below and the helpful PDF checklist at the bottom of the article.

Before you head to the airport

Before you ever head to the airport, there are a few tips that you should consider.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

TSA Pre-Check

TSA Pre-Check is one of my favorite travel benefits that I’ve ever used and at this point I’ve probably used it a couple of hundred times.

It allows you to bypass the main security line which speeds up the airport security process a great deal in many cases.

In addition, you can often avoid the invasive full body scanners and you get the following benefits:

  • Shoes can stay on
  • Belt can stay on
  • Light jackets can stay on
  • Laptops allowed to stay in bag
  • Liquids (3-1-1 Rule) can stay in bag

The membership will cost you $85 for four years but you can often get it for free by choosing the right credit card.

You want to sign up at least a few weeks/months before your trip because you will have to attend an in-person appointment in order to register your biometrics.

Also, after you are approved you will need to add your Known Traveler Number (KTN) to your travel itineraries in order to receive the TSA Pre-Check benefits.

The best way to do this is to add your KTN to your frequent flyer profile. That will allow your KTN to be added to your itineraries automatically although sometimes you might have to verify that.

Packing your liquids

How to bring liquids through airport security is one of the most commonly asked TSA questions.

If you were planning on bringing liquids on a plane, you will be subject to the 3-1-1 rule. This rule means that your liquids must be contained within a container no larger than 3.4 fluid ounces (or 100 mL). You can fit as many containers as can comfortably fit within a quart size Ziploc bag.

The rule is straightforward but there are a few things that trip people up.

The rule goes by the size of the container and not how much fluid is inside the container.

For example, if you have a 5 ounce container with only 2 ounces of liquid, that container is still not allowed because the size of the container is larger than 3.4 ounces.

An exception to this is that TSA is currently allowing one oversized liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags. 

Another thing that trips people up is what is considered a liquid?

Some liquids are obvious like water but TSA also considers other substances to be liquids such as gels, creams, pastes, etc. You can read more about these here.

Another issue is with food.

Certain foods will be considered liquids while many other foods are allowed to be brought through airport security. To find out more about bringing food through airport security click here.

If you are planning on bringing alcohol there are also very special rules that you should be aware of. Contrary to what many people think, you actually are allowed to bring your own alcohol on a plane even in liquid bottles.

You just need to be aware of the alcohol content of the beverage and pay special attention to the restrictions for the different types of alcohol.

Pack the right toiletries

If you are taking your toiletries through airport security then you need to be extra careful that all of your toiletries are TSA compliant.

Some of the most commonly asked about toiletries include the following:

The biggest issue is typically that some toiletries violate the liquids rule so as long as you focus on complying with the liquids rule, you’ll usually be good for all of your toiletries.

Prohibited items

You always want to make sure that you are not bringing prohibited items through airport security. And that is not just because you will have to throw them out but some prohibited items can get you into some serious legal trouble.

Sharp items

One of the biggest mistakes some people make is bringing prohibited sharp items which include things like knives, certain types of scissors, and other items.

Some items are allowed like tweezers, small scissors, certain razors, etc. So it’s really important to understand the rules regarding sharp objects.


Explosives are obviously banned from getting through airport security but some people forget this when it comes to items like small fireworks or other explosive type devices such as flares.


If you’re traveling with a firearm then you need to keep these in your checked baggage and you also need to comply with the rules for transporting a firearm which include transporting it in a hard sided case that can be secured.

You can read more about traveling with a firearm here.


If you need to pack medication, the good news is that TSA is actually pretty lenient when it comes to allowing medication.

They allow exceptions to the liquids rule so that you can bring in liquid medications larger than 3.4 ounces and they don’t even require you to have a prescription (although state laws may require that).

Read more about the TSA medication guidelines here.

Coronavirus update

If you are traveling while pandemic conditions are occurring, you’ll want to make sure that you have the following items accounted for:


Most airlines will require you to wear a mask when flying and even when in the boarding area. Some airports might even require you to wear a mask when in the airport so be sure to have one handy.

Social distancing

While waiting in line, you will likely have to social distance so be sure to keep several feet between you and other travelers.

Read more about other TSA coronavirus measures here.

Once you’re at the airport

After you have knowledgeably packed your carry-on item, you are through with the hardest part of complying with TSA rules. But you still need to be mindful about a few things.

Arrive at the right terminal

You need to make sure you arrive at the right terminal so that you go through the proper security line.

In some cases, some airports will not allow you to go through security if you are attempting to go through a terminal that is not the terminal you are flying out of.

If you are trying to visit a particular lounge, such as a Centurion Lounge, you might want to enter a terminal that is not the terminal you will be flying out of.

TSA agents may allow you to do this but be prepared just in case you are not allowed to do this.

Also, you might be forced to re-enter through security when leaving the lounge terminal which is something I would only recommend to attempt if you are knowledgeable about the airport layout and waiting times.

Find your security line

Typically, when you arrive at the airport there will be up to four different options for you to go through security.

Standard security line

There is the standard security line which is open to all of the public. This will typically be the longest line and will sometimes be a very long and winding place that you will have to wait in.

Related: Does TSA Check For Arrest Warrants?

Tip: Sometimes a terminal may have multiple security lines such as a north and south line. So always look around to see if there is a shorter alternative if you are faced with a very long line.

TSA Pre-Check

If you have TSA Pre-Check then you need to look for the TSA Pre-Check line.

Sometimes the line can be a little bit hidden or pushed away to the side so look for the signs and if you don’t find one, simply ask an airport agent.

Just remember that some terminals do not have a TSA Pre-Check line and in other cases it may not be open during certain hours.


If you have CLEAR, look for the CLEAR line and enter that line based on whether or not you have TSA Pre-Check.

Airline priority lines

If you have elite status or if you are flying in a premium cabin such as business class, you may have access to the airline priority screening line. Even when I have this access I usually just choose to go through the TSA Pre-Check line.

Get your ID and boarding pass

In order to access a security line, you will likely need to show a government-issued ID and your boarding pass.

Make sure that you have an ID that is accepted (keep in mind the upcoming changes to the REAL ID Act).

Keep in mind that due to the coronavirus:

  • TSA will accept expired driver’s licenses or state-issued ID a year after expiration.  
  • DHS has extended the REAL ID enforcement deadline to October 1, 2021.

You can pull up your boarding pass with your phone using a mobile app for the airline you are flying on but you can also hold a printed boarding pass.

Try to have those already in your hand as you enter the line so that you do not hold it up and can smoothly get through. If you forgot your ID or realized you just lost it read up on what to do here.

Remove items for screening

When you arrive at the security screening checkpoint, you will need to do the following in many cases:

  • Remove your shoes, jacket, belt, and hat
  • Remove your electronics such as laptops and bulky cameras
  • Remove your liquids bag

The main exception here is if you have TSA Pre-Check.

In that case, your clothing items can stay on and you can also keep your electronics and liquid bag within your carry-on bag.

Depending on the size of your carry-on bag, you may or may not have to place it in a bin.

Comply with additional screening (if needed)

In some cases, you might have to deal with additional screening.

If you have brought certain items such as powders or special items related to disabilities, your objects might need to be screened by a TSA agent. This is typically a pretty painless process that only last a few seconds to a couple of minutes.

In rare cases, you might be subject to SSSS which is a secondary screening process. You will know that you are subject to the screening because you will see the letters on your boarding pass.

In some cases, this can require a lot of time so this is why you do not want to arrive late because it could take you 20 minutes to get through this process depending on how the agents go about your screening process.

If you are consistently subjected to additional screening and don’t believe it is justified, considered applying for a redress number which can take you off certain lists that require more screening.

Collect all of your items

Your final step is to make sure that you don’t forget to collect all of your items after you go through airport security.

After you have dropped all of your items in your bins and walked through the metal detectors, and perhaps received additional screening, it can be a little bit disorienting and you might forget to collect your items.

The easiest way to not forget certain items is to make sure that you placed them inside your carry-on before you push them through the x-ray scanner.

I always make sure to stuff my wallet, ID, boarding pass, watch, keys, and any other every day item into one of the compartments in my backpack so that I always know where to find them.

This is especially true if you are traveling during a hectic time with a lot of people because that is typically when items are lost or stolen. If you do end up losing an item, here are tips for dealing with the TSA lost and found.

Final word

Getting through airport security can be a bit stressful and even intimidating for some people. But if you follow the steps on this checklist, you will know exactly what to expect and be prepared for just about any situation that could arise.

Can You Leave the Airport During a Layover? [2021]

Sometimes, whether by design or necessity, your travel plans involve an extended amount of time in an airport terminal. When your wait time is just a couple of hours, having lounge access can get you through these waiting periods no problem.

But when you have substantially more time or if there is some attraction that you are highly interested in seeing, you are probably going to be interested in leaving the airport grounds.

But the question is can you leave the airport during a layover?

In this article, I will break down everything that you need to know about whether or not it is ok to leave the airport during a layover and I will also spell out all of the things you need to think about when doing so.

Can you leave the airport during a layover?

Yes, in the vast majority of cases you can leave the airport during a layover in the US and even when traveling internationally. However, whether or not you should leave the airport is an altogether different question.

Below, I will cover all of the different factors you want to consider before choosing to leave the airport for a layover. I’ll first cover layovers in the US and then talk about layovers at international destinations.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Factors to consider when leaving a US airport

How much time is needed between flights?

How much time you need on your layover depends on how far you are planning on going, how long you are planning to stay there, and whether or not you are someone who wants to play it on the safe side or cut it close.

TSA advises arriving at the airport two hours before your flight for domestic travel and three hours before for international travel. So the same rule would apply to layovers.

Related: 19 Ideas on What To Do When Bored at the Airport

Playing it on the safe side

If you want to play it on the safe side, you can start by giving yourself at least two hours of cushion for when you arrive back at the airport.

This means you can take your layover time and subtract it by two hours, and that gives you the total amount of time that you could spend exiting the airport and making your way to your destination and getting back.

Of course, some people don’t like to arrive two hours prior to a domestic flight and may cut it closer to one hour.

Cutting it close

I know that there will always be some of you who are okay with cutting it very close when it comes to getting back to the airport in time. But even you people should know that many major airlines in the US require all customers to be on board the aircraft 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time for domestic flights and no later than 30 minutes before your scheduled departure for international flights.

This means that the absolute latest you could be at the gate is usually 15 minutes before departure (in some cases it could be 10 minutes). If security is not long and you already have your boarding pass on your mobile device you could arrive to the airport around 30 minutes prior to your departure and maybe make it to the gate in time but that would still be pushing it.

That is because you would have to be assuming that everything goes smoothly at security and that you don’t have any hiccups. For example, imagine that you got hit with secondary screening (SSSS) and you had to go through that whole process. In that case you would most likely miss your flight due to the extended amount of time needed for the screening.

So if you are coming back to a domestic airport I would try to give yourself at least 45 to 60 minutes prior to your departure time to be safe, even if you are prone to cutting it close. If you are coming back for an international flight, I would give yourself 60 minutes to 90 minutes at the bare minimum.

Related: Are Airlines Responsible for Missing Connecting Flights?

Calculating the time needed

You really need to factor in every aspect of your travels during a layover to get a precise idea of how much time you have.

So let’s say that you have a five hour layover and you want to play it safe so you are subtracting two hours immediately from the layover so that you are back at the airport with the recommended amount of time.

So now you have three hours to deal with. 

Let’s say that you are flying back into the country from Dubai, connecting in Chicago, and that you want to go see the Willis Tower during your layover.

Here is how you would break down your time.

Immigration and customs

If you are arriving back into the United States, you need to consider how long you might have to wait to get through immigration and customs. Immigration is the first station that you go through upon entering a country. This is where you get your passport scanned and/or stamped and you have to explain to a CBP agent that you are not a drug mule.

Sometimes these lines can be outrageous depending on the location and the timing of your arrival, though typically your wait time will be around 20 minutes.

Sometimes that average time won’t apply and it can be very difficult to predict how long these lines will be so you need to always try to be conservative when planning out how much time you will need to get through customs and immigration. You can find data on average wait times here.

In order to expedite your way through customs and immigration, you should invest in Global Entry. That pass could save you a good 20 to 30 minutes when making your way through immigration so it is a very wise investment. The application process takes a little bit of time and you will have to schedule an interview but it is totally worth it. Plus you can get this for free by utilizing credits that come with a lot of credit cards.

One thing to remember, if you are dropped off at the side of the airport that is far from the exit you also have to think about the additional time it will take you to walk from your gate to where you can get through immigration and customs. This could easily add 5 to 15 minutes in a lot of cases, depending on whether or not trams are involved.

So back to our Chicago example, let’s say that you have Global Entry and you will give yourself five minutes of time to get through immigration. 

Checked baggage

If you are connecting on a domestic flight chances are your bags will arrive at your final destination so you won’t have to worry about your checked baggage.

But if you are switching airlines or you opt to have your bags received at the layover airport then you will obviously have to think about the time needed for checking your baggage as well.

In our Chicago example you are arriving back from outside the country, and since Chicago is your point of arrival back into the country, you will have to pick up your bags there and re-check them for your connecting flight.

So now you need to allocate some more time for how long it might take to pick up your baggage which could be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes (you still always have to be prepared for those unfortunate times when the bags take even longer to come out).

So you are already looking at about 25 to 40 minutes that it could take for you to get through immigration and to claim your checked baggage.

Related: Tips for First Time Flyers


If you are flying domestically this does not apply to you but if you are coming in from an international flight you will have to go through customs after you pick up your luggage.

Sometimes they just wave you through especially if you have Global Entry so in this case let’s just say there is not really a line and you get through in about five minutes. But note that I have seen US Customs’ lines that have taken upwards of 30 minutes.

Getting out the airport

Now you need to think about how much time it will take to get out of the terminal and find your form of transportation whether that is a taxi, Uber, or public transport.

If you are planning on utilizing public transport do not wait until you arrive at the airport to figure out your routes. You should have everything figured out before you ever step foot off that plane because if you wait until the last minute, it’s going to be a lot more stressful and you will be burning up valuable time.

And I’m not just talking about routes, you also need to look at things like how to add money to your subway cards and things of that nature because those can be less than straightforward, especially when traveling abroad.

For our Chicago example, let’s just say that we are using an Uber.

I did a test run on Google Maps and found that the time from ORD to the Willis Tower was 37 minutes in the middle of the day. So if you tack on five minutes for the waiting time for the Uber that is 42 minutes one way and 84 minutes there and back.

So let’s take a look at all of the time that we have used so far for this five hour layover:

  • 2 hour cushion for a comfortable arrival back in time
  • 5 minutes getting from gate to immigration
  • 5 minutes getting through immigration/Global Entry
  • 15 minutes waiting for baggage
  • 5 minutes for customs
  • 84 minutes for Uber ride there and back

So you are looking at ~3.8 hours of time that is taken away from all of the above. This leaves you with about 1.2 hours to spend at the Willis Tower which means you need to look at wait times for the Willis Tower and whether or not you need to purchase something like an express pass.

And that is usually what you will need when trying to visit tourist attractions on a short layover: priority lane or express passes. These are usually much more expensive than the general admission tickets but they will be worth the cost in many cases.


Since we are giving ourselves two hours of cushion we already factored in the arrival time for security, but it is still worth mentioning how problematic security lines can be.

Sometimes TSA security lines can be ridiculously long so it really helps if you have something like TSA Pre-Check which will allow you to breeze through security. You often only have to pass through a traditional metal detector (as opposed to the invasive full-body scanners) and you also get to enjoy the following benefits:

  • Shoes can stay on
  • Belt can stay on
  • Light jackets can stay on
  • Laptops allowed to stay in bag
  • Liquids (3-1-1 rule) can stay in bag

Another program that you can look into is CLEAR which allows you to shortcut the lines even more (although it is more expensive). You can find our full review of CLEAR here.

If you had both TSA Pre-Check and CLEAR, then you could easily put that travel time cushion to 1.5 hours, even if you were traveling during a busy time.

The cost involved

A lot of people get focused on the amount of time they have for leaving the airport and getting back and forget to think about the cost. Some destinations can be very expensive to get from the airport to the major tourist areas.

In the Chicago example, I priced the Uber X for $32.21 so you would be looking at around $64 for the round-trip plus a tip so let’s call that an even $70.

So you have to ask yourself is it worth $70 to only potentially spend about an hour in downtown Chicago?

I guess that depends on how much you like good views and deep dish pizza but to some people it would just not be worth it.

Your luggage

If you have ever dragged around a lot of luggage through a subway system and through bumpy city sidewalks and streets, you know how unpleasant that experience is.

So if you are planning on venturing outside of the airport you need to have a plan for your luggage. I would suggest looking into checking your baggage to the final destination if possible so that you don’t have to worry about your luggage. This will usually be the default.

Some airports have lockers that you can use for your luggage so that can be a way to store it while you are out. You might be spending anywhere from $6 to $15 per day for the locker.


Lounges are designed to make layovers tolerable and even enjoyable in some places. Before you decide to head outside of the airport, make sure you have done some research to see what lounges are available in that airport, if any.

You might be able to spend less money getting admission into a lounge and have a nice relaxing experience versus paying more money and having a stressful and rushed experience trying to get to the city and back. If you are interested in lounge programs, I would suggest to look at Priority Pass Select.

Some airport lounges may put time limits on how long you can spend in the lounge. However, these time limits are generally more liberal when it comes to passengers on a layover.

If you get lucky, you might find an airport lounge that has a nap room but you can get a couple of hours of sleep but again there are generally time constraints on those rooms. So if you really wanted a good amount of sleep, you would be better off purchasing a hotel room or nap room.

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Factors to consider when leaving an international airport

When you’re thinking about leaving in international airport for a layover there are a couple of additional factors that you need to consider.

Even higher prices

The cost to head from the airport to the city center in some major cities can be much higher than you are used to in cities in the US.

I think a prime example of this is leaving from Heathrow to London city center. If you were trying to hop in a cab From London Heathrow to the city center (let’s say to go check out Big Ben), it could cost you about £44 one way. So with a tip (I realize tipping isn’t a big thing in the UK but I still do it) that is about £90 round-trip and that comes out to about $120 — almost twice the price it would cost to get from Chicago’s main airport (ORD) to it’s downtown area.

That’s a lot of money especially if you only have a couple of hours to explore the city.

The good news is that a lot of major international cities have public transportation that runs directly to the airport that you can take it advantage of. So in the case of London you could hop on the Tube or something like the Heathrow Express.

Just note that some of those public transport options can also be time consuming, especially if you have to deal with connections at different stations.

Specific boarding restrictions

Many international airports will have specific restrictions for how early you must arrive at the gate. I talked about the 15 minute and 30 minute requirements stated above for US airlines, but the restrictions for some international airports can be even more restrictive.

Here are a few examples to note of how early you must arrive at the gate before flights.

  • Brussels (BRU): 60 minutes
  • Dublin (DUB): 30 minutes
  • Koror (ROR): 30 minutes
  • Kosrae (KSA): 60 minutes
  • Kwajalein (KWA): 60 minutes
  • Lima (LIM): 30 minutes
  • Majuro (MAJ): 60 minutes
  • Pohnpei (PNI): 60 minutes
  • Sydney (SYD): 60 minutes
  • Truk (TKK): 60 minutes
  • Yap (YAP): 60 minutes

Note that some airports even require you to be there 90 minutes prior to departure.

Transit visas

One of the biggest issues when traveling abroad is whether or not you need a transit visa.

Visas can get confusing when it comes to layovers because countries have very different policies. Below are a few examples of different transit visa policies that you might run into.


When on a layover in the UK, you might be able to get a 48 hours visitor in transit visa which will grant you access there for up to two days.


If you are traveling through China whether or not you can get or need a transit visa may depend on how long you plan on being outside of the airport.

If you were transiting through for 24 hours or less you could get a temporary permit that allows you to leave the airport and explore China for 24 hours. If you were transiting through certain cities, you could get a permit that allows you to leave the airport for 72 hours.

Of course the eligibility for these permits depends on what country you are from so you’ll always need to do your research. But this just illustrates how some of these visa rules and exceptions can work.


If you want to visit Moscow, you may need a transit visa just to exit out of the airport even for only a few minutes.

Vaccination Implications

In order to step foot in certain countries, you might need proof of certain types of vaccinations. For example, if you are arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission with a connection more than 12 hours, chances are you may need proof of yellow fever vaccination. So be mindful of how your connection could affect your status in other countries.

Spending time on a stopover

The difference between a layover and a stopover is generally that a stopover is a much longer amount of time spent in a given location. Typically a stopover is going to be 24 hours or longer and a layover will not be more than 24 hours.

Some airlines like to encourage visitors to visit their hub destinations.

So they may allow you to take a stop over that is several days which obviously means you can leave the airport and explore the country for a while. Some of these airlines include the following:



Final word

In most cases, you should not have an issue leaving the airport. However you need to make sure that you have taken all of the relevant factors into consideration such as the amount of time and money it will take you to get your desired location along with potential needs for visas or other immigration and customs needs.