I travel pretty much every week for work, so I have some pretty strong opinions about traveling into and out of LAX and what the best/fastest/least douchey options are. With Thanksgiving coming up later this week, the usual hecticness involved at LAX is sure to increase, so I figured I’d post some tips to make travel a little smoother for those of us who are insane enough to travel the week before Thanksgiving. I also posted some of these tips at the NYC Metroblog, but with tips specific to NYC, so I’m going to give you some LAX info.
1. Park off-airport. If you’re driving yourself, there are a number of off-airport parking lots to choose from, some of which are LAX-operated and some that are separate commercial parking lots. WallyPark and the Parking Spot are usually good choices, but apparently all of them are busy during holiday weekends and at least the Parking Spot strongly suggests making a reservation ahead of time. If someone is dropping you off, have them drop you off at the arrivals level and then take the escalator or elevator down to check-in. You’ll avoid a bunch of traffic that way. Oh, and have them pick you up on the departures level when you come back. Everyone else will be crowding around the arrivals level and you’ll breeze right on out.
2. Know the security restrictions. In case you haven’t traveled in the past few months, you should know that there are new restrictions on liquids in your carry-on. You are allowed to have liquids, gels, and lotions in containers that are 3 oz. or smaller, and all of these containers must be in a single, one-quart, clear zip-top plastic bag. The TSA website has some more information on this requirement. At security, you must take the baggie out and put it in a bin for separate screening (which is, IMO, fucking ridiculous, since no airport in the U.S. has the backscatter x-ray technology required to discern what the hell is in the container anyway. But I digress). In my recent experience, the screeners at LAX do a pretty okay job with not being douchebags about liquids, but just make sure you’re prepared because you don’t want to be that guy who is holding up a line of 30 people because you’re arguing about keeping your 7 oz. cologne bottle.
3. Get there early. I know, I know, everyone says this. But if you are traveling at peak times (morning or evening), especially on a holiday weekend when the terminals will be full of infrequent travelers who are not used to all the security measures, security will take a while. So plan to be there 2 hours before your flight departs, 3 if you’re traveling internationally. I’d expect that the international terminal at LAX won’t be as busy as the other terminals, but most of you are probably traveling on domestic flights anyway.
4. Check in online. If you have an electronic ticket with most airlines, you can check in online if you know your record locator number or if you bought the tickets under your frequent flyer account. It will save you a bunch of time at the airport because you won’t have to stand in the long check-in lines. If you have a bag to check, you can check it outside with the skycaps at most airlines, which will save you some time, but be aware that many airlines are charging a fee for this service now (usually $2). The lines for baggage check inside Terminal 4 (the American Airlines terminal), for example, are really freaking long, especially at times when there’s a Qantas flight departing, so the outside curbside check-in can save you a bunch of time.
I’ll be traveling out of LAX on the 20th, and I will post once I get there to keep our readers and fellow authors up on the chaos I’m sure will be ensuing.