When your work revolves around travel, you establish some personal preferences, on-the-road routines, and strong opinions. For our new Travel Showdown series, travel advisors, industry leaders, and Virtuoso staff are facing off over some of travel’s most divisive topics – from packing methods to room service. This month, two Virtuoso Life editors debate the true meaning of a punctual airport arrival.

What time should you get to the airport?


The Early Bird Gets the US Weekly
My most frequent recurring dream involves being late for a flight – and all the sweaty, frantic indignities that accompany said nightmare scenario. Which is definitely part of the reason I am perpetually way too early to the airport. Flight departs at 10:10 a.m.? I’m the eager beaver clearing security at 8:15.

It’s not only the dread of a missed plane that motivates me, though. It’s also the surplus of spare time and – don’t laugh – the intrigue of the airport. Airports have come a long way since the days of TCBY and Burger King wastelands. If I’ve finagled a lounge pass, gratis snacks and Champagne await just beyond the checkpoint. Otherwise, I leisurely squander my bonus time stocking up on snacks and gossip magazines, buying beauty products I don’t technically need, and shopping for souvenirs to bring home (Please! Give me an extra hour at Heathrow, Zurich, or Reykjavik!). I might even stop for a meal (looking at you, JFK Terminal 4 Shake Shack).

I recognize extreme earlyness is not for everyone, but if you’re traveling with me, you can swan up to the gate at the last minute, secure in the knowledge that I’ve been saving you a seat since before preboarding announcements were even a whisper on the intercom.
– Marika Cain, managing editor, Virtuoso Life

Departure Hall at Keflavík International Airport
Scandinavian design (and shopping) at Reykjavik’s Keflavík International Airport. (mikeuk/Getty Images)

Leaving (Last Minute) on a Jet Plane
Let me just preface this – and jinx myself before the entire interworld – by saying I have missed two flights in my entire life, both having nothing to do with airport arrival time. Outside of rush hour, I have my doorstep-to-gateway routine down to an hour, with time to grab a cold brew and a salad at Floret’s SeaTac outpost. It was 15 minutes less before everyone and their service dachshund had PreCheck.

Here’s what stresses me out: Surrounding myself with stressed-out people for longer than necessary. Airports are weird places: lines, tinny intercoms, TVs flashing cable news chyrons, complainers, sleep-deprived kids (I have one!).… I don’t need to sit elbow to elbow with a guy balancing an Egg McMuffin on one knee while yacking into his phone just so I can juice up at the sole remaining power port, no matter how relaxing that sounds to some. One (ahem) early-arriver colleague occasionally worries for me, texting “You here??”

Make no mistake, airports are getting better. But they’re still one of the few places you arrive at with the lone goal of leaving as soon as possible. Until more offer rain-forest walks and waterfalls like Singapore’s new Jewel Changi Airport, I’ll take that extra hour for another cup of coffee at home, or maybe to write and hide a note for my daughter to find after I’ve disappeared for a week.
– Justin Paul, senior editor, Virtuoso Life

Top Photo: baona/Getty Images