This is how early you really need to be at the airport

Are you the kind of traveller who arrives hours early or runs through at the last minute? Refine your airport run with these tips.

Check with your airline

First and foremost, you need to know exactly what the cut off times are for your flight. Every airport and airline will have a point where they close the flight and won’t let anyone else check in. As a general rule, this is 30 minutes before departure for a domestic flight and one hour before departure for an international flight. But (and we cannot stress this enough) make sure you check online or call your airline – sometimes the rules might be different.

Think about the logistics

Now you’ve worked out the absolute minimum time you need, you’ll want to add in some wiggle room. Larger airport will have longer lines and more security, adding extra time to your schedule. Traffic will be worse around peak hour or school holidays, so you’ll need to factor that in. If you’re checking in a bag, as opposed to just travelling with carry on, that will also take more time. There are a whole range of questions you need to ask yourself before setting your ‘leave home’ time.

Airport can be fun 

Modern airport have come a long way and many are actually shopping and dining destinations in their own right. It makes much more sense to arrive earlier and give yourself some time for a browse through the shops, a drink at the bar or a decent meal before you get onboard. For example, Sydney now has a Bistro by Wolfgang Puck, MoVida, Chur Burger and a Coopers Alehouse across its different terminals. And if you’ve got access to a lounge, you’re going to want to make the most of your time there.

Try the app

A new app called TripIt can be your secret weapon. Enter all your travel info into the secure system as well as your address and it will use the ‘Go Now!’ feature to work out your travel time. It takes into account things like traffic, flight status and more, and will then create an automated countdown clock for you to follow. Genius!

So what’s the answer?

We always like to err on the side of caution (plus we quite like to hang out in airports), so these are our suggestions. For domestic flights, we suggest arriving two hours early and for international we suggest three hours. If it’s a really busy travel time (like the Easter long weekend) you may even want to add an extra hour onto the schedule. You can always grab a glass of champagne and watch the planes go by.

This article was written in partnership with Over60.