It’s the sixth largest airport in the world. A 70’s era loop of traffic and chaos. Drivers are brutal. Travelers are confused. Parking is near impossible, and when you do manage to find a spot, it’s not only the price of a modest Midwest home, but inevitably, it’s as far away from your ticketing area as possible. And think about this: LAX has nine separate terminals; Dante’s hell has nine separate circles. Coincidence?
Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve collected the best secrets from frequent fliers for dealing with the madness. Buckle up, we’re ready for takeoff.
1. Cheap Parking
Forget the middle lots. Try Park ’N Fly instead. It’s walking distance to Terminal 1. And if you happen to have a Southwest frequent flyer card, you can save 15% at checkout.
2. Skip Security
Yep, you don’t have to deal with those lines. Just apply for a TSA Pre✓® for $85, or go all out and spend $100 for Global Entry. You get expedited Customs & Immigration, fingerprint-readable kiosks get you to the front of immigration and customs’ lines when entering the U.S., and Pre✓ saves you the hassle of removing your liquids, keys, laptops and other accoutrements.
3. Great Food
Bet you never thought you’d see those words in the same context as LAX, right? We like ink.sack and 800 Degrees at Tom Bradley International Terminal, El Cholo in Terminal 5, Gladstone’s 4 Fish in Terminal 3 and Pink’s Hot Dogs, which is outside security in the Bradley Terminal. But many frequent travelers will tell you the best food is in Terminal 7. B Grill by Boa Steakhouse has a fantastic menu. Try the Camembert Hamburger!
4. Unlimited Drinks
Most airline lounges are expensive, depressing places, where the highlight is day old pretzels. We recommend heading over to Terminal 3, where you can visit the Virgin America Loft. For $40, you’ll get free Wi-Fi, snacks like soba noodles and shrimp Caesar salad and all-you-can-drink cocktails. Try the Mile High Margarita!
5. Avoid Airline Connection Buses
It’s a hassle to travel from one terminal to the next. But if you’re heading from a low-numbered terminal to a higher-numbered terminal, say from 2 to 8, you don’t have to wait endlessly for one of the Airline Connection buses under the blue signs. Instead, take any of the LAX buses. They stop at each terminal, too. Just don’t take one if you’re going from a high-numbered terminal to a low-numbered terminal, or you’ll end up parking in Lot C or Cleveland or somewhere.
6. Shorter Security Lines
Flying United? Skip security at Terminal 7 and head to Terminal 6 instead (they’re connected, don’t worry.) The lines at 6 tend to be much shorter. Remember to walk along outside the terminal, or TSA reps will direct you back to the longer lines. The same holds true for American’s Terminal 4. Maneuver past the airline rep at the Eastern end of the terminal monitoring boarding passes for Priority Access (we do it by saying our companions have Pre✓ and went ahead of us), and you can get in a usually much-shorter security line.
Now you can catch a ride from an UberX or UberXL car using the Uber app from LAX. Just follow signs marked “ride service” to the upper departures level, where drivers will pick up passengers at the curb. Previously, only the more expensive Uber services were allowed to enter LAX for pickups, but now it’s a breeze to catch a ride while paying less. (Passengers seeking a ride in an Uber driven by a state-licensed town car operator — the UberBLACK, UberSUV or UberLUX services — will catch those rides on the lower level, where taxis and limos pick up.)
8. Head East for a Mere $8
Heading to the eastern parts of LA? Take the FlyAway shuttle to Union Station. It only takes about 45 minutes and costs a reasonable $8. Then catch a taxi or Uber from there.
9. Flight Delayed? Time for In-N-Out!
Rather than sit around fuming, indulge in LA’s favorite guilty pleasure. Take the Parking Spot shuttle to Sepulveda, and boom, you’re there.
10. Avoid Traffic
You can use LAX’s levels to your advantage. Think about which level people are more likely to be on at each time of the day (mornings will be heavier on departures, for example), and use the opposite. Bonus tip: On the upper levels the police won’t bug you as much to move along.
11. Secret Passages
When you have to move from one terminal to another, it can be a colossal headache with having to go through security multiple times. But at LAX, many terminals are actually connected behind security through walkways or tunnels. Terminals 5 through 8 can all be accessed from behind security, so that includes United/Continental, Delta and (soon) Alaska Airlines as well as some smaller operators. Though there is a tunnel between American’s Terminal 4 and Terminal 5, it’s not open to the public.