The key differences between those who get to the airport 100 hours early versus as the flight’s boarding


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Whether it’s a wedding, a vacation, or a holiday weekend that’s approaching, any travel plans requiring niceties with a TSA agent leaves us to wonder: “How early should I get to the airport?” Sure, there are the widely held guidelines of arriving for domestic flights two hours early and international flights three hours early—but we’ve all kind of embraced our own twist on these recs.

There are airport habits we were taught, ones we adopted, and still more that have come with age, crippling anxiety, and memories of missed flights. But, whatever your arrival style may be, we (unscientifically) broke down what it says about your personality. Check it out below:

You get to the airport, oh, about 100 hours before boarding

If you don’t live a hero’s journey away from an airport, this means you have deep worries about flying. That obviously includes getting to the airport on time, but you may also have anxieties about, y’know, shooting thousands of miles into the sky on a winged tin can. So while there is a level of preparedness to admire about being so early, fear is what’s really driving you to be there at 7 a.m. for an afternoon trip. I’m going to go out on a limb and say your travel companions really hate you when your flight gets delayed.

You get to the airport three hours before boarding

This essentially means that you made the mistake of calling your parents in the days leading up to your vacation, and they badgered you into being a rule-follower. Now you’re stuck with a frustrating amount of downtime, which you spend looping around the food court. Enjoy Hudson News! Enjoy that Benefit makeup vending machine! Enjoy Chilis To-Go! Enjoy the fun revelation that for some reason THERE IS NO STARBUCKS IN THIS TERMINAL. Ugh.

You get to the airport one hour before boarding

You have a good sense of how to cut it close, but not too close. Even if the security line is slow (aka the security line is a security line), you usually have enough time to hit up the bathroom and grab a coffee before you depart.

You arrive at the gate as your flight is wrapping up the boarding process

You overslept or are generally not known for punctuality. Also, let me guess: Are you the friend who never responds to text messages? Because I’m getting that vibe.

You track your flight for 12 hours leading up to departure

Your primary worry is the timeliness and smoothness of your flight. Chances are, you’ve already mapped out which seats are available if yours isn’t assigned (who isn’t living that Basic Economy life these days?) so you can request the best one from the gate agent. And ever the nervous passenger, you’re keenly aware of the weather forecast so you can brace yourself for any potential turbulence. Whatever this trip is for, you’ve put a lot of emotional stock in the flight going well.

In the security line, you forget to have your ID ready/shoes off/water bottle thrown away, despite TSA regulations

You are human. And maybe also a nervous people pleaser who will probably apologize for this eff-up profusely to the TSA agent and passengers in line behind you. It’s fine, just put your electronics in the bin and move along, sweetie.

You tearfully beg the TSA agent not to confiscate your expensive (full-size) face serum

You’re a real beauty maven with a 12-step skin-care routine. You’ve packed meticulously to make sure every minute of this trip will be Instagram-worthy. So of course you didn’t bother taking two minutes to read about how you CAN’T CARRY ON LIQUIDS OVER 3.4 OUNCES, omg.

You BYO meal to the airport

You are a mom or you have fantastic mom ambitions by being the caretaker of your travel group. Yes, everyone with you may gripe about making the pre-airport pit stop to pick up the food (and still arriving, as expected, three-plus hours early). But they’ll thank you when they aren’t starving during the wait and don’t have to make do with the sad packets of pretzels mid-flight. Also, you’re thrifty bordering on cheap.

You show up starving and begrudgingly spend $12 on a shrink-wrapped turkey sandwich on white bread

You are not a real adult, and that realization hurts you as you eat half of your practically rotting sandwich before throwing it out. It was either this, or a $5 stale croissant.

You’re in a fight with your partner about your very different airport arrival styles.

Maybe he checked in early and you only checked in this morning and now you have different boarding letters and he’s willing to wait with you but he’s pissy about it, and it’s like, “Well, SORRY, Luke, I’m not a Pan Am flight attendant robot. I only fly twice a year. How am I supposed to know how Southwest Airlines works?!”

Just me? Anyway, this means it’s either your first big vacation together (ding ding!), or neither of you will be okay until you’re finally relaxing in your Airbnb tomorrow morning. Also, one of you is bound to say “I told you so” about something in the next two hours.

When you get back to the grind, we have some tips on how to make your weekends feel like a (successful) vacation. Better yet, here’s how to gloss up your boring business trip so it barely even feels like work. 

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