When should I fly into LAX?
April 9, 2013 10:08 AM   Subscribe

LAX is the closest airport to where I am staying (near USC). Planning on flying in on a Saturday (Mother's Day weekend) and leaving Tuesday. What time should I time my flight to arrive so as to not be in traffic for hours?

This is prompted by seeing this question with the commentary about the traffic.

I am flying in Saturday and would prefer to leave as late as I can swing it, i.e afternoon/night because there are things I'd like to be doing in my town during the day before I leave. I'll need to book a shuttle to and from the airport there. I'm assuming it's going to take hours and hours and hours to get to and from the hotel anyway, but how should I time booking my flights? I don't really have to be there at any specific time to worry about, but apparently I need to worry about this with traffic anyway.

Options for arriving Saturday are 8:30 a.m., 9:50 a.m., 11:35 a.m., 3:35 p.m., 5:45 p.m., and 8:20 p.m.

I am less rigid on when I fly back on Tuesday, other than check out is at 11 so I need to get out of there before then. Options for leaving are 6:30 a.m., 9:25 a.m., 12:30 p.m..

I'd also appreciate shuttle recommendations if anyone has them! My hotel doesn't have one.
posted by jenfullmoon to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (11 answers total)
Best answer: Barring any big events or disasters, etc. traffic from LAX to the downtown on a Saturday shouldn't be too bad. For the least amount of traffic flying back on Tuesday, either the 6:30 or the 12:30 flight would be best. The 9:25 flight will have you driving in the middle of rush hour and that could be a long drive.
posted by parkerposey at 10:20 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Saturday traffic between LAX and the USC area is usually okay before around 3pm, unless there is an accident. Earlier means less traffic.

Tuesday, your best bet is to be on the road between 10am and 3pm.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:21 AM on April 9, 2013

Best answer: Traffic is not that bad here, especially if you're not the one driving and you're not really going all that far.

If you arrive 8:30, you're still looking at morning rush hour traffic, but it might not be all that bad (looking at a Google map with traffic for that route right now -- 10AM local time, so end of rush hour, it seems to be smooth sailing. Google claims it'll take 20 minutes in current traffic conditions.)

If you arrive 9:50 you're golden. This is probably the optimal arrival time in terms of traffic, if for some reason traffic is your only consideration.

If you arrive 11:35, still in extremely great shape traffic-wise.

3:35 is getting into the possibility of some early rush hour traffic, depending on your specific route. I'm not familiar at all with the 105 and rarely am on that stretch of the 110, so I really can't say. My guess is that this is the worst time to arrive.

5:45 is definitely rush hour traffic, though TBH if you're checking bags and such and not realistically leaving the airport till 6-6:30, and then you've got to wait for a shuttle pickup, and then the shuttle has to actually leave LAX, it might not be all that bad.

8:20, you're probably fine.

Returning, I'd pick the 12:30 flight because other options have you getting up to check out of the hotel at ungodly hours. For example for the 6:30 flight, you're realistically looking at waking up at 4 or 4:30. Who wants to do that?
posted by Sara C. at 10:24 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: LAX to USC is a relatively short trip in LA. Even in heavy traffic, it might not take you much more than an hour. In light traffic, it should be around half an hour.

On Saturday, your best bet is probably before noon. Crippling traffic is unlikely, but as the day goes on and people get out for activities, the roads do get more crowded.

On Tuesday, rule out the 9:25 am flight -- you'd be travelling in the thick of morning rush. I've had very good luck arriving at the airport before 6 AM (the roads don't seem to start to get too crowded until sometime between 6 and 6:30). You can probably do OK leaving after 10 too, but I wouldn't leave much later than that for a 12:30 flight, given that you'll want to allow for delays both on the road and at the airport.
posted by weston at 10:34 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Take the Super Shuttle.

And seconding that LAX to USC is a relatively short trip, one that I would make almost entirely on side streets. Just pick whatever flight is the cheapest/most convenient for you.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:42 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think that Sara C's recommendations about times are spot-on, but for a weekday. On a Saturday generally earlier is better, but unless there are accidents/disasters (completely unpredictable) or major events (completely foreseeable) you'll be fine all day. The 110 does tend to slow a little bit as you get toward downtown but it won't be bad.

Tuesday I'd do the 12:30 flight.
posted by andrewesque at 10:58 AM on April 9, 2013

Seconding the Flyaway + Cab. Quickest, easiest, and least expensive option. Any time Saturday should be cool, Tuesday I'd go for the 12:30.
posted by justjess at 12:23 PM on April 9, 2013

The only thing that is going to take hours and hours is the goddamn Super Shuttle circling and circling and going hither and yon before getting you to your destination. I hate that shuttle so much.

I took the Super Shuttle a couple times a few years ago, and we only made two or three stops. But maybe things have changed.

The Flyaway is consistently fast. I don't know how they do it. That bus is magic.

And don't stress out about traffic on Saturday. Sometimes weekend traffic randomly sucks, but it's usually not that bad. You're not driving towards the beach.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 3:46 PM on April 9, 2013

Shuttle will be in the carpool lanes and probably not that bad based on the half a dozen times I've whizzed past USC on the shuttle to and from LAX. Shuttle stops and circles may get you though. Depending on actual closeness to USC, there's a Metro line from downtown that stops right by campus. There's also a USC Tram between campus and Union Station but I don't know if it runs on Saturdays (if you go the Flyaway route to downtown). I know a bunch of people who take the Metro into USC.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:19 PM on April 9, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you! I'm booking for Tuesday at 12:30. Saturday...I'm just gonna go with the "by the time you leave at 6:30 it won't be too bad" 5:45 flight and take it as it goes. I'm more worried about getting back to the airport than from it at this point anyway.

Will probably prefer shuttle over the Flyaway though--I'm leery of trying to figure out multiple methods of public transit while carrying large luggage and I've only been to Union Station once years ago. At least with the shuttle, it's a wait, but I don't have to figure out that stuff.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:28 PM on April 10, 2013

I'm just gonna go with the "by the time you leave at 6:30 it won't be too bad" 5:45 flight and take it as it goes

If you haven't booked yet, there's one more thing worth considering: there's a Dodger's home game scheduled that night (May 11th, right?) at 6pm. While the gamegoers themselves will probably mostly be in the stadium before you leave the airport, the effects on inbound downtown traffic can linger for a while.

If you have already booked (or have reasons to want the flight arriving at 5:45 anyway), focus on the earlier advice that (a) even if there's heavy traffic it probably won't take forever and (b) you won't be driving. :)
posted by weston at 3:20 PM on April 10, 2013

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