How Early Should I Arrive at BWI Airport?

Time flies and so do you. Except you only fly after you arrive to the airport, park your car, drop off your bags, pass through security, check in, and buckle up.

Not everyone has the luxury of sitting at Obrycki’s A-Bar several hours ahead of a flight. In reality, many travelers have to decline the pre-flight cocktail and famous crab cake sliders. Thankfully, a mathematical mindset, a smart phone full of handy resources, and careful planning can help you avoid missing your flight, or experiencing a long self-induced layover.

Science says 2-hours is safe

How early should I arrive at the airport is one of the most common travelling questions there is. In fact, the debate has even sparked scientific research to provide some sense on the best time to get to the airport.

In his book How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, University of Wisconsin math professor Jordan Ellenberg writes that your airport arrival should be timed to minimize both your chance of missing the flight and your chance of having too much excess time. Not quite rocket science, but it gets better.

Ellenberg expands on his concept of “not too late and not too early” with a fancy quantification method. His scenario calculates that people that arrive 2 hours before their departure, miss flights 2% percent of the time. Whereas those that arrive 1 hour before their departure, miss flights 15% percent of the time. Simply put, science says play it safe and get to BWI two hours ahead of your flight.

Use resources to plan and stay informed

The days of “living in the dark” are pretty much over. Thanks to the Internet, email, smart phones, and mobile apps, BWI travellers can stay informed to maximize their time.

Know BWI security wait times

Beyond science is security, also known as a complicated variable. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), shares the sentiments backed by science and also recommends arriving up to 2 hours ahead of departure for domestic travel and 3 hours ahead for international.

BWI has seen its share of sluggish security checks due to an ever-growing number of passengers combined with a lack of staffing for the TSA. Past issues have been addressed with expansions, and the TSA boasts a typical wait of 15-minutes or less, but you just never know. Log jams happen; people somehow still forget to take the change out of their pocket, and departure gates shift. So, it’s always good to scope out the security scene ahead of time.

Worried about BWI security wait times? View Security Wait Times on the TSA website to see recent updates. Just enter “BWI” and search, then choose Baltimore-Washington International. The log caches a couple weeks worth of reports, which are all provided by fellow travelers to give you additional insights.

Check BWI departures

Most airlines have their own mechanisms to keep you informed to help you determine when you should arrive. Southwest Airlines, for instance, has developed a mobile app which gives travelers the ability to check in, view their upcoming flight details, and much more. You can even setup text notifications. Don’t want to download the app? Southwest has that covered too—sign up for one-time flight status messaging online. It only takes a few minutes and can save you a bunch of time.

Consider BWI Off Site Parking

The last thing you need when you’ve already taken some time to learn about BWI’s security wait times and checked the scheduled departures is to run a risky game of parking lot roulette.

Nothing is more frustrating than circling an airport parking lot looking for space when you’re already running late for a flight. You can avoid this common annoyance by reserving your parking before leaving for the airport. Having a parking plan in place beforehand can make or break your efforts to arrive on time to BWI.

As an alternative to on-site parking, Econopark Express provides off airport options for both short and long term airport parking. With low parking rates, free shuttle service, guaranteed parking, baggage assistance, and more, we take the stress out of parking at BWI, saving you time and money.

Granted, you can consider parking and departure times and security times and be two hours early and something can still go wrong. There are things like the weather and traffic and travel companions (pets, toddlers, and family members that act like pets and toddlers) to consider.

But chances are despite those things everything will be okay, because you invested the time and energy in making sure you will get from point A to point B with as little hassle as possible.

Because we all know time flies. And, when it comes to travelling to and from BWI, so do you.