Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport may be the smaller of D.C.’s two commercial airfields, but its service to the nation’s capital makes it a frequented location. Situated on the Potomac River’s west bank, DCA is closer to the capital than Dulles and a lot more convenient. Reagan National is known as a hub for American Airlines, as well as a popular spot for short-range shuttle flights to New York and Boston. If you are using Reagan Airport for your travel needs, we have some helpful pointers you’ll want to make your trip a stress-free occasion.

How Early Should I Arrive for Domestic Flights at Reagan National?

According to the TSA, passengers should arrive two hours before their scheduled domestic flight. A two-hour window allows passengers to check-in, check their bags, navigate security, and reach their gate with enough time for leisure. Two hours also accommodates any setback or emergency that may occur.

Reagan National suggests a 90 to 120-minute window as conditions change depending on traffic. During a certain time of day, the airport sees lulls which make 90 minutes optimal for reaching your flight. Reagan can get quite busy, however, and in some cases, 120 minutes is just long enough.

During summer and holiday peaks, wait times can be longer than normal. As Reagan services urban areas throughout Boston and New York, it sees a lot of traffic during these seasons. According to the TSA, morning peak times are between 5 and 8 a.m. Monday through Sunday. Evening peak times are between 3 to 7 p.m., Sunday through Monday, and between 1 and 2 p.m. on Saturdays. It is suggested that passengers avoid these times to reduce lengthy security lines or allow another hour if they cannot be avoided.

How Early Should I Get to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport for International Flights?

Reagan Airport is not an international airway, but does host certain international flights. Reagan is only used for international jet flights of a business nature, or for countries with certain U.S. Customs and Border Protection clearance. Flights from Canada, the Caribbean, and Bermuda fly into Reagan, but those particular flights can only land. International passenger flights fly out of Dulles. If you happen to be one of the few that utilizes Reagan for international business departures, then it is recommended you arrive three hours prior to your flight.

A three-hour window is a general rule of thumb for international flights. It is meant to compensate for checking-in, checking baggage, and navigating security, as well as passing through customs. Reagan is not an international airport but it still has custom services. So allowing three-hours to navigate customs is wise as one never knows what to expect.

How Early Should I Check My Bags at DCA?

Baggage should be checked two hours prior to domestic flights and three hours prior to international flights. Mostly, this is because airlines do not accept baggage any earlier. The latest a passenger can check their baggage is 45 minutes before their scheduled flight. Any time in between is perfectly fine.

As Reagan is not an international airway, most passengers will be dealing with domestic travel. If you happen to be catching a flight during a peak period you may want to allow more time for lengthy lines. It is recommended you check in online if your airline provides this service. By doing this, you reduce the amount of time it will take to check your bags.

What Time is Security/TSA Open at Reagan National Airport?

Terminal A checkpoints at Reagan open up at 4:30 a.m. Terminal B and C checkpoints open a little earlier at 4 a.m. The earliest flight times out of Reagan National are around 5 a.m., which provides an hour between the TSA station and the gate for morning travelers.

Can I Check in Online for My Flight at Reagan National Airport?

Absolutely! In fact, most airlines recommend checking in online for your flight at Reagan National Airport whenever possible. It’s a convenient way to save time at the airport, especially during peak travel periods.

Here’s what you need to know about checking in online for your flight at Reagan National:

  • Availability: Nearly all major airlines allow online check-in for domestic flights departing from DCA. Double-check with your specific airline for confirmation, but it’s a widely offered service.
  • Timeframe: The window to check in online typically opens 24 hours before your scheduled departure and closes around 45 minutes before domestic flights (usually 90 minutes for international).
  • Benefits: There are several advantages to checking in online:
    Skip the check-in counter lines: This can be a significant time saver, especially if you’re traveling during busy times.
    Choose your seat (if available): Select your preferred seat from any remaining options on the online check-in platform.
    Print your boarding pass at home or download it to your mobile device: Avoid the need to print one at the airport kiosk.

How to Check In Online:

The process for checking in online will vary slightly depending on your airline. Generally, you’ll need your confirmation code or ticket number and your last name to access the online check-in portal on the airline’s website or app.

Here are some tips for a smooth online check-in experience:

  • Check your baggage allowance: Be sure to review your airline’s baggage fees and restrictions before checking in online. If you have checked bags, you may need to print bag tags during online check-in. Find out our tips to help limit extra baggage fees.
  • Have your travel documents ready: Keep your passport and any other required travel documents handy in case you need to refer to them during the online check-in process.

By checking in online for your flight at Reagan National Airport, you can streamline your airport experience and ensure a more relaxed start to your journey.

Don’t Forget to Pre-Book Your Airport Parking

By Pre-booking your parking at Reagan National Airport, you can arrive at the airport relaxed and ready for your flight, ensuring a stress-free start to your journey. Search for airport parking options online at to find the perfect fit for your needs

By answering these common questions, we hope you have a clear picture of what to expect at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Remember, planning ahead is key to a smooth travel experience. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time flyer, this guide should equip you with the knowledge to navigate DCA efficiently.