INSIDER SECRET: Even if the airport you’re flying out of is busier than usual, access to expedited security lines with Global Entry or TSA PreCheck helps ensure a smooth, relaxing experience at the airport.
For those who are looking for a smooth travel experience, book a flight that leaves early in the morning. The simple reason? Airports are typically less busy in the morning.
Of course, there are exceptions, but I’ve found that even LAX (the fourth busiest commercial airport in the world in 2018, according to NBC Los Angeles), was not very busy when I was there around 6 a.m. back in November and January.
Arriving early means that you’ll be able to find parking more easily, avoid traffic, get through security more quickly and find your gate more easily without feeling rushed by others.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you need early-morning transportation to the airport, as well as the perks of an early flight.
Thanks to technology and ride-share services like Uber and Lyft, you have plenty of options for getting to the airport, if you’re not calling a cab, driving yourself or getting a ride from a friend or family member.
Make sure these services are available in the morning — and this vary, depending on the city.
For instance, you can probably find an Uber at any time of the day or night in a busy place like New York City, but that might not be the case in a rural area.
Uber or Lyft apps allow you to schedule a ride in advance. You can specify a time, date and location for a driver to pick you up.
If you are driving yourself, you can reap the benefits of light traffic in the early morning, and find parking more easily.
As an added bonus, your shuttle from the parking area to your terminal at the airport should be less crowded.
It’s simple math. Arrive at the airport early in the morning. Fewer people allows you to breeze through security because the lines will be shorter.
That said, it’s not a guarantee. Lines will depend on the airport and time of year you travel. For instance, when I flew out of Seattle last November, the airport was already packed at 6am, and it took others about 30 minutes to get through the regular security lines.
Fortunately, I was eligible for expedited security thanks to my membership in TSA PreCheck, and was through security in under 10 minutes.
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck is usually a guaranteed time saver. Of the passengers with these memberships, 92% waited less than five minutes, according to TSA data compiled in June 2019.
And the best part is you can get the application fee reimbursed with one of the top credit cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.
If you happen to have spare time before your flight, airport lounge access through Priority Pass can further enhance your airport experience.
Airport lounges are a great place to relax before a flight. Depending on the location, you can also enjoy food, snacks, beverages and even a place to shower. So if you left your house early and didn’t quite get a chance to freshen up, you can do this once you arrive at the airport.
You can get complimentary Priority Pass airport lounge access on some of the best credit cards with airport lounge access. Purchased separately on the Priority Pass website, a pass that provides unlimited access costs a whopping $429. My advice? Pick up a credit card that offers this as a perk because you’ll save a ton of money.
To complete the smooth travel experience at the airport, look into priority boarding for your flight. You’ll have a chance to settle into your seat without feeling rushed by others, and you can have peace of mind that, as one of the first groups to board the plane, you’ll be able to find overhead cabin space for your luggage.
Many credit cards offer priority boarding as a perk just for being a cardholder. And, although specific airline policies differ, members of the military should also be eligible for early boarding, as well as those who have booked seats in business or first class.
If you’re looking for a smooth travel experience, consider booking a flight early in the morning. Most airports aren’t busy at this time, so you’ll be able to more easily find parking and speed through security lines on your way to your flight.
Even if you won’t be driving yourself to the airport, you can always get a lift to the airport through ride-share services like Uber and Lyft. Once you arrive at the airport, you can speed through security quickly with TSA PreCheck, and have time to relax in comfort in an airport lounge.
Let us know how you feel about booking early-morning flights in the comments below.
This story was originally written on Million Mile Secrets. For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.