Travel Basics 100: Get Your Airport Right

I started this blog to inform people about those seemingly “minor” details of traveling that can significantly affect a trip. Most extensively, I’ve talked about visas. In this post, I will talk about the importance of knowing your arrival and departure airports.

Many search engines and travel sites will give you the option to search for airports in an entire city area or search for “all airports”. With these search results, you can’t really get a sense of the distance between airports and your intended destination. More importantly, you can’t tell how far away from the actual city these airports are!

Google Search Screenshot
Google Search Screenshot
Expedia Search Screenshot
Expedia Search Screenshot

Using New York as my primary example, there are three prominent airports that you can fly into or fly out of. There’s JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark. JFK and LaGuardia are nowhere near each other, and Newark is actually in a different state. It’s in New Jersey. Of the three airports, JFK is best connected to the New York City mass transit system. However, while getting into the city from JFK is relatively straightforward, getting back to the airport can be more tricky. There are different A train routes that all go towards the direction of the JFK airport, but only the route going towards Far Rockaway actually stops at the airport. As you can see, things can be complicated. And it could be frustrating to figure this all out after a long flight.

Google Maps Screenshot of NYC Airports
Google Maps Screenshot of NYC Airports

To help avoid a potentially messy situation, when you’re planning for a trip, check the distance between airports and potential lodging. For me, I usually skim hotel and Airbnb prices for dates I’m considering for my trip. Once I find affordable dates, I’ll check to see how close those places are to local mass transit and the city airports. If there’s limited or no public transportation, I’ll figure out taxi and shuttle fares. Then, I book my trip. I personally don’t book trips on airfare prices alone. This is because sometimes the “more expensive flight” might work out to be cheaper once you factor in transportation costs between the airport and your lodging. Don’t let initial price tags fool you into believing you’re getting a deal when you’re really not.

Figuring out airports isn’t just a New York City problem. It’s also been important for my travels to Tokyo and London. And, it will likely be something that you’ll have to deal with too in your travels. Additionally, if you love finding deals like I do, you may unintentionally end up with two different airports for arrival and departure. This is especially likely to happen if you have on filters to find the cheapest flight options. Since I pretty much always have this on, I’ve ended up with two different airports booking through Google Flights, Expedia, and directly on airline websites. For this reason, I always have to triple check my airports because showing up to the wrong airport could mean the end of my trip. Or, it could mean paying hundreds for a seemingly small mistake.

Google Flights Screenshot of London Airports
Google Flights Screenshot of London Airports
Google Flights Screenshot of Tokyo Airports
Google Flights Screenshot of Tokyo Airports

In a previous Travel Basics, I listed “confirm that you have ALL the correct information for your trip” as one of the things you should do a few days before you travel. This includes confirming your airports and their locations. I know several people who have shown up to the wrong airport or didn’t realize how far out their airport would be, and in both cases, ended up missing their flights. Picking the wrong airport – this seemingly small detail – could have enormous implications for your trip. Whenever you’re flying, make sure you get your airports right.

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