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Despite the beauty of sunny Southern California, all of us feel the need to get away sometimes. If you have some flexibility in planning your next trip, you will find that there are a great number of options out there to make flying more convenient and hassle-free, and often more cost effective. If you live around the Los Angeles area, Los Angeles International Airport is not your only option! There are also two other great airports located within driving distance, Ontario Airport and Burbank/Bob Hope Airport. Each of these airports has their own unique benefits.
When planning your next trip, take time to check the prices to fly out of each of these airports. Surprisingly, LAX is not always the cheapest! Often times, flying out of the smaller airports can be more convenient, too.
LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (LAX)
Sometimes, particularly if you are flying out of the country, LAX is the best or only option. When this is the case, there are a few things you can do to make your trip smoother.
First of all, when it comes to parking at the airport, you have more than one option. You don’t have to park directly at the airport. The best option by far is the FlyAway. There is a FlyAway bus that leaves from Van Nuys and one that leaves from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Tickets for the FlyAway bus are just a few bucks. The Van Nuys FlyAway has a multi-level parking structure where you can park long-term for a fraction of the cost of parking at the airport. If you live in the San Fernando Valley, it is also usually easier to find a friend to give you a ride to the Van Nuys FlyAway than it is to get someone to brave the traffic around LAX. If you live in the more metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, you can always take the bus, train, or subway to Union Station, and take the FlyAway from there. FlyAway buses leave about every 15 minutes, but if you just can’t plan an extra few minutes, there are still various options close to the airport. Several of the hotels nearby the airport offer reasonable rates and free shuttles. If you do decide to park in one of the LAX lots, park in LOT C. It is always cheaper than the others.
Once you are at the airport, the one major benefit to LAX is the variety of shops in the terminals. You can find more information about what restaurants are available in the terminal you will be flying from at http://www.lawa.org/lax/food.cfm. Several of the restaurants, such as Chili’s and California Pizza Kitchen, offer meals to go. They will package it nicely for you, with plastic silverware, napkins, wet-naps, and condiments, so that you can eat it on the plane. Considering that most of the airlines no longer provide a meal, I highly recommend spending the money to do this, especially if you are flying to the East coast. Besides, while you are eating your Chili’s baby back ribs, your neighbor eating his pretzels will be looking at you and realizing how incredibly smart you are.
ONTARIO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (ONT)
You may be asking yourself, “Where is Ontario International Airport?” Well, it’s not too far outside of Los Angeles. Just past Pomona on the 10 freeway, when you consider traffic, getting to Ontario often takes about the same amount of time as getting to LAX.
Even if you are flying out of the country, do not rule out Ontario Airport due to the limited flights. Just be more creative in your searching! If flying to Europe or the Middle East, it can sometimes be cheaper to fly from California to the East Coast (often New York or New Jersey), and then from the East Coast to Europe. Besides being cheaper, I can say from personal experience that two sets of five-hour flights are much, much more comfortable than one long ten-hour flight from California to Europe.
If you do decide to make the very wise decision of flying from ONT, you will find that parking here is generally cheaper than the lots at LAX. The lots right at the airport are fairly reasonable, and there are parking lots offsite with free shuttles as well, such as Park ‘N Fly, which offers a discount to AAA members.
You will probably find that ONT is a fairly calm airport, with less people and shorter lines than the others. A bit of advice regarding food: If you had planned on eating on your way to the airport, try to stop sometime in Pomona or Claremont. Your options for places to eat become less varied as you get closer to the airport. In fact, once you exit the freeway for the airport, you should pretty much plan on eating at the airport. The food options at ONT are not as great as LAX, but there are some. You can always pack yourself sandwiches in your carry-on luggage, especially if you are not sure how much time you will have in the terminal.
BURBANK / BOB HOPE AIRPORT (BUR)
Burbank Airport is especially great for shorter trips, such as ones to Las Vegas, Sacramento, Phoenix, or San Francisco, but there are some direct flights from Burbank to the East Coast and other places in the country. If you are flying internationally, it may be possible to catch a connection through Burbank, but it will most likely be more expensive. Because Alaska Airlines flies out of Burbank, you can often find decent rates from Burbank to Seattle.
As far as parking goes at Burbank Airports, your best bet here really is to park in the Airport’s economy lots, not offsite. The cheapest one is always Lot A. As of this publication, Lot A is only $7.00 a day, which is a few dollars cheaper than the other lots. There are shuttles about every five minutes, which drop you off right at the terminal.
Security at Burbank Airport is a piece of cake, but they are particularly picky about cigarette lighters. Don’t try to carry your cigarette lighter on the plane. They will look for the cigarette package in your purse or carry-on back as it goes through the X-Ray, and then they will search through your stuff to find your lighter. If you smoke, plan on other means to light your cigarette.
Take my word for it when I say not to plan on eating at the airport. The good thing about Burbank is that you really don’t need to get there two hours ahead of time. It has never taken me more than 30 minutes to get through all the lines and security. So don’t plan on arriving super early and eating at the airport. Your options are extremely limited (I believe there is one independent caf├⌐ and a bar in each terminal), and the prices make amusement park food look cheap. Trust me when I say that it really is best to eat before you get there. Even if you have a shorter flight, such as Phoenix or Sacramento, it could be delayed, so you want to be prepared for anything.
When boarding at Burbank, remember that there are two sets of stairs onto the airplane. If everyone is filing in at the front, it could be to your advantage to head to the back of the plane and board that way, especially because those overhead bins are usually less crowded in the back.
Always keep in mind that when travelling, whether it is from aspen to vail or anywhere else, it is important to book your transportation and accommodation ahead of time. This, of course, will help your travel experience easier and more convenient.
Whichever airport you chose, try to plan ahead and save yourself time by checking in online whenever possible. Most airlines offer online check-in, usually up to 24 hours before your departure. This step can save you precious time in lines, and in some cases can assure you the much desired window seat. Happy travels!