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The Ultimate Travel Guide to LAX

March 18th, 2019

World Travel

Traveling through small airports can often be complicated enough. But traveling through LAX? For someone who has never done it before, this can be a hugely daunting prospect as you’re faced with overwhelming numbers of terminals, gates, parking areas and a complex that’s so confusingly laid out, it can seem impossible to navigate.

When you're traveling, you’ve got enough to worry about with keeping track of your baggage, corralling any kids who might be with you and trying to make connecting flights on time. Don’t let a complicated airport add one more concern to your list of stress factors.

With our LAX travel guide, we'll help you demystify this airport. We’ll break down things like travel times, amenities, terminals and parking options. By the time you’re finished here, you’ll be ready to take on LAX like a seasoned pro.

LAX: The Basics

Los Angeles International Airport, more frequently referred to as LAX, is located just over 15 miles from the downtown area in Westchester, right alongside the many LA beach communities. Because of this airport’s location both on the West Coast and in a major city like Los Angeles, LAX is a hub for international travel, particularly to and from Asia and the rest of the Pacific. This is in addition to the already enormous number of domestic flights to other parts of the U.S.

As the 5th busiest airport in the world, LAX boasts a staggering total of 1,386 nonstop flights to 88 cities in 44 countries weekly, as well as 373 nonstop weekly flights to 100 domestic cities in the U.S. This adds up to a total of roughly 60 million passengers passing through the airport per year.

With so many passengers traveling through this airport every year, it should come as no surprise that LAX is also home to 90 different airlines. A few of the most common you can fly with into or out of LAX include:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines

If it’s an airline in the United States or that travels to the United States, the odds are very good that it passes through LAX.

Traveling to and From LAX

Figuring out how to get to LAX is the first hurdle you’ll need to overcome on your trip. Remember that when planning for travel to the airport, it’s always better to budget more time than you need than less. If you arrive early, the worst thing that can happen is a long wait. If you arrive too late, you could risk missing your plane.

1. How Early Should You Arrive at LAX?

It depends on your destination. If you’re flying domestic, plan to arrive at least an hour and a half to two hours ahead of time. If it’s an international flight, aim for arriving two and a half to three hours early. This gives you plenty of time to make your way into the airport, find your gate, pass through security and make any last-minute preparations you may need.

It’s also worth noting that there are currently enormous construction projects underway at LAX that are scheduled to last until 2024. This complicates transportation to and from LAX; often, it takes 45 minutes to reach the airport from the freeway exit because of traffic delays due to the construction. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of travel time to get around this traffic. Even the fastest route to LAX will likely take far longer than it looks like it would take on a map.

2. What Is the Average Travel Time to Reach LAX?

It is difficult to quote an average time to reach LAX as there are so many variable factors at play. LAX airport traffic is notoriously bad and can depend on things like the time of day, the day of the week and any accidents that may have occurred that day. Therefore, any average travel times should always be taken with a grain of salt.

To help you plan your travel, however, here are some rough estimates that may give you some idea of expected travel times in LA:

  • From LAX to downtown LA, expect a travel time of somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes.
  • From LAX to Anaheim/Disneyland, plan for a trip of roughly 45 to 90 minutes.

3. How Should You Travel to LAX?

If you’re from a smaller city, you may take it for granted that driving yourself is the best way to reach an airport. In a large city like LA, though, with so much traffic and construction factoring into the decision, there are many more options available to you.

As you plan your trip to LAX, choose from the following options.

  • Driving Yourself: This option involves you taking your own car to the airport and parking it there until your return. This may be an option for those experienced in LA driving, but is not a good choice for those who have never driven in the city before. If you do decide to drive your own car, the best LAX parking is central parking, located near the terminals and costs $30 per day. The economy lots are $18 a day.
  • Rental Cars: With this option, you’ll still be driving yourself, but you’ll use a rental car. This is a better option if you’re looking to avoid leaving your car at LAX. However, it is also not advised for those inexperienced with LA traffic and will require you to take an LAX airport shuttle from the rental car drop-off to the terminals.
  • Car-Pooling: To save on parking costs, you may plan to have a friend drop you off and pick you up. There are some perks to this option, but also downsides. Most notably, if your ride is picking you up at the airport, they will not be able to wait at the curb. They’ll need to either continuously circle or park in the Cell Phone Lot where you’ll have to hike to reach them.
  • Taxis/Rideshare: Pay someone else to drive you to or from the airport. This will take the same amount of time as you driving yourself would take, but you won’t have to endure the stress of driving through traffic.
  • Hotel Shuttles: If you’re staying in a hotel near the airport, your hotel may offer shuttle service directly to LAX. This isn’t always the case, however, and can be difficult to count on as it isn’t universally offered.
  • SuperShuttle: SuperShuttle picks you up at an address of your choice and drives you to the airport, or vice versa. It takes you directly from your door to the terminal entrance, without having to transfer to a different bus or shuttle anywhere along the way.

SuperShuttle pricing is also highly affordable and will save you both stress and gas money. Note that the prices shown here reflect 2019 rates, and may vary depending on different factors:

  • Between LAX and Disneyland — shared rides start at $44
  • Between LAX and Hollywood — shared rides start at $29
  • Between LAX and Downtown LA — shared rides start at $19

LAX Terminals Guide

The key to getting around in LAX is all about understanding the overall layout of the various terminals. Once you have a solid grasp of this, it isn’t too difficult to figure out how to get around.

LAX is home to eight basic terminals and one international terminal known as the Tom Bradley International Terminal, or TBIT. Rather than being connected to one central building, the terminals are largely separate entities. Moving between two different terminals will often require you to exit and reenter security. Because of this, you’ll want to plan for extra time if you want to leave your terminal to eat or shop.

What Amenities Are Available at LAX?

Because each terminal is its own separate entity, each comes equipped with different sets of amenities. If your terminal doesn’t have the conveniences you’re looking for, you can always visit a different terminal — although you should keep in mind that you may need to pass through security to do so.

Some of the amenities to take note of include:

  • Nursing Rooms: Every terminal in LAX is equipped with at least one nursing room.
  • Pet Relief Stations: Pet relief stations can be found in every Terminal except Terminal 8.
  • ATMs: Bank of America ATMs can be found on both departure and arrival levels at every terminal in LAX.

Terminal 1

Terminal 1 is located at the northeastern corner of LAX and handles all the international departures flying with Southwest Airlines. All dining options are found past the security checkpoint and include:

  • California Pizza Kitchen
  • Cassell’s Hamburgers
  • Chick-Fil-A
  • Pei Wei Asian Diner
  • Reilly’s Irish Pub
  • The Coffee Bean and Leaf Tea
  • Trejo’s Tacos

If you want to do some shopping or kill some time while you wait for your plane, the following businesses are also available at Terminal 1:

  • Be Relax
  • Brookstone
  • Kiehl’s
  • MAC Cosmetics
  • SOL Surf
  • Treat Me Sweet

Terminal 2

Unlike Terminal 1, which exclusively handles Southwest Airlines, Terminal 2 handles flights from multiple airlines. If you find yourself passing through Terminal 2, your flight will likely be with one of the following airlines:

  • Aerolitoral
  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeromexico
  • Delta Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • WestJet: Check-ins only, travelers will then take the shuttle to Terminal 3 where they will depart from.

While in Terminal 2, there are plenty of dining options, as well as a Starbucks before security. Once you pass through security, enjoy options such as:

  • BUILT (Custom Burgers)
  • Fresh Brothers Pizza and Sandwiches
  • Jersey Mike’s
  • SeaLegs Wine Bar
  • SLAPFISH Modern Seafood Shack

For shopping and passing the time, browse the following shops and businesses found past the security checkpoint in Terminal 2:

  • CNBC Smartshop
  • In Motion
  • Spanx
  • Univision

In addition to these restaurants and shops, Terminal 2 is also home to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. This lounge features a relaxed atmosphere away from the bustle of the airport terminal, delicious food, chic facilities and service that makes you feel like an exclusive guest at a private club.

Terminal 3

Terminal 3 plays host to several different airlines. It’s home to about half of Delta Airlines flights, as well as departures with WestJet, although these travelers will check in at Terminal 2. Furthermore, passengers with Avianca, Copa and Interjet will all check in at Terminal 3, but will eventually depart from the international terminal.

If you’re looking to grab a bite in Terminal 3, you’ll have to wait until you’re past security. Once you do this, choose from restaurants and cafes such as:

  • Ashland Hill (and Bar)
  • Deli & Co
  • Earthbar
  • La Familia
  • Panda Express
  • Shake Shack
  • Starbucks

When passing the time in Terminal 3, you can stop by one of these stores or businesses:

  • Hudson LAXpress
  • Hudson News
  • Moshi
  • Soundstage Market

Terminal 4

Terminal 4 is home to about half of the traffic from American Airlines. Additionally, travelers to Terminal 4 will want to know that a new connector has been added that leads directly to TBIT.

Dining options in Terminal 4 include a Starbucks before security, as well as the following restaurants once you’ve passed security:

  • 8 oz. Burger Bar
  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Food & Bounty
  • Homeboy Café
  • La Provenance Patisserie and Café
  • Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza

After you’ve eaten, pass the time and shop a little at places like:

  • Entertainment Weekly Newsstand
  • Hudson Booksellers
  • Moshi
  • See’s Candies
  • Sunglass Hut

Terminal 5

At Terminal 5, located across the parking areas from Terminals 3 and 2, you’ll find several different airlines coming and going. If you’re passing through Terminal 5, you most likely have a flight with:

  • American Airlines
  • American Eagle
  • Jetblue
  • Spirit
  • Sun Country

Terminal 5 is also home to plenty of delicious eateries, such as:

  • Coffee Corner
  • Farmers Market To Go
  • Ford’s Filling Station
  • Lemonade
  • Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market & Bistro
  • Rock & Brews Concert Bar & Grill

Forget to pack a few last minute essentials? Hanging around on a layover with nothing to do? Check out stores and convenience stands like:

  • The Hollywood Reporter
  • LA Times Newsstand
  • Magic Johnson Sports
  • Mattel Experience
  • See’s Candies

Terminal 6

Terminal 6 is no stranger to hustle, bustle and huge amounts of traffic. Over half a dozen airlines use this terminal as their home base in LAX. Terminal 6 is where you’ll need to head if you’re flying with any of the following airlines:

  • Air Canada
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Boutique Air
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Horizon
  • Mokulele Airlines
  • Thomas Cook
  • Viva Aerobus
  • XL Airway France

There’s plenty to eat here in Terminal 6. In addition to a Starbucks before security, you can choose from restaurants such as the following after security:

  • Earthbar
  • Peet’s Coffee
  • Point the Way Café
  • The Habit Burger Grill
  • Wahoo’s Fish Taco
  • Wpizza by Wolfgang Puck

Restaurants aren’t the only things you’ll find in Terminal 6. You can also pass the time by popping into places like:

  • Access Hollywood
  • Los Angeles Magazine News
  • MAC Cosmetics
  • M. Fredric
  • See’s Candies

Terminal 7

Located directly across the parking area from Terminal 1, Terminal 7 is home only to about half of the flights from United/United Express. This is still a substantial number of flights, however, and results in a terminal that’s just as busy as the others.

If you’re looking to dine in or grab some food quickly in Terminal 7, try popping into places like:

  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Loteria! Grill
  • Rolling Stone Bar & Grill
  • The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
  • The Counter: Custom Built Burgers

Terminal 7 is also home to plenty of newsstands, stores and businesses that make excellent ways to pass the time as you wait for your plane. You might visit:

  • Bartel’s Harley Davidson Store
  • Book Soup
  • Hudson News
  • Hugo Boss
  • Pier No. 7

Terminal 8

The last of the domestic terminals, Terminal 8 can be found in the southeast corner of the airport complex, just next to Terminal 7. Like Terminal 7, it’s solely dedicated to United/United Express Airlines and accounts for about half the traffic from United.

When you pass through Terminal 8, you can easily grab a quick bite at places like:

  • Carl’s Jr
  • Corona Bar
  • Engine Co. No. 28
  • Panda Express
  • The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

If there’s still time for a bit of shopping after you eat, feel free to spend some time browsing stores and newsstands such as:

  • E! News
  • People News

TBIT (Tom Bradley International Terminal)

The final terminal at LAX is the Tom Bradley International Terminal, or TBIT. As the name suggests, this terminal is responsible for most, although not all, of LAX’s international travel. While not an exhaustive list, a few of the international airlines that pass through this terminal include:

  • Air China
  • Asiana
  • Air New Zealand
  • Air France
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • El Al Israel
  • Hong Kong Airlines
  • Japan Airlines
  • Norwegian Air
  • Philippines Airlines
  • Qatar Airlines
  • Scandinavian Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines

Because so many different countries and airlines rely on this terminal, it makes sense that this terminal would be the largest of them all. All gates and sections of this terminal lead back to the Great Hall, a new central area where restaurants, shops and lounges are located and where passengers can relax between flights, or while waiting for their plane to arrive. The complete list of restaurants is extensive, and there are a variety of shops and newsstands to choose from as well.

For the travelers looking to sit, rest and relax between connecting flights, there are also several new lounges that have recently opened and can offer a respite from the chaos of the general airport scene.

Let SuperShuttle Simplify Your Travel Plans

Navigating LAX isn’t impossible. If you’ve done it once, the second time becomes easier, and the third time is easier still. Nonetheless, there are still numerous headaches surrounding a trip to this bustling airport. From driving through traffic and construction to get there, to reaching the terminals from your parking places and navigating the terminals once you arrive, it’s a lot to manage.

Let SuperShuttle ease the load on your mind as you embark on your next trip. Book a shared ride or non-stop with us, and we’ll make sure you get directly from an address of your choosing right to the door of your terminal — with no extra hassle.

Book your ride today to learn just how easy travel can be.

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