How Early Can You Check Your Bags For A Flight?

We all know the feeling of arriving at the airport, bags in tow, and anxiously waiting in line to check in. But what if you could bypass the long lines and check your bags in early? It's possible and can make your airport experience much more enjoyable. 

In this article, we'll explore the policies of major airlines to help you determine how early you can check your bags for a flight. Therefore, you can avoid the stress of carrying your bags through the airport.

Are you ready? Let’s sit back, relax, and explore how to make your next trip a breeze.

How Early Can You Check Your Luggage at the Airport?

How Early Can You Check Your Luggage at the Airport

By taking advantage of early bag drops, you can simplify your airport experience. Credit: @whereistarablo

If you plan to travel soon, you might wonder when you can check your luggage. The good news is that several airlines enable you to check in your bags hours or days before your departure.

The earliest you can check your bags vary based on the airline and airport policies. But in general, the earliest time you can check your bags is 2-4 hours before flight time. Some may allow up to 6 hours, but most international flights won’t accept check-in earlier than that.

No matter when you check your bags, you should give yourself plenty of time to get through security and check in for your flight. Aim to arrive at least two hours before a domestic and three hours before an international flight.

Here are some airlines’ policies to check in advance:

  • British Airways: British Airlines may drop off their luggage at the airport as early as 3 hours before takeoff.
  • Delta Air Lines: Delta allows passengers to check bags as early as 6 hours before the departure time.
  • American Airlines: American Airlines states that passengers can have their bags checked as early as 4 hours before flying.
  • United Airlines: The early bag drop service of United Airlines allows passengers to check their luggage at the airport up to 24 hours in advance.
  • Ryanair: According to Ryanair's website, drop desks for checking in carry-on bags at the airport open 2 hours prior to the scheduled flight.
  • Frontier: Frontier Airlines allows 45 minutes for domestic and 60 minutes for international flights. Remember to check your carry-on bags in these time windows.

Can You Check Bags Early and Leave the Airport?

Most airlines require you to check in completely before leaving the airport with your bags. Leaving may require you to retrieve your bags and check them again when you return. But policies may differ, so confirm with your airline beforehand. 

Remember, leaving the airport can also impact your ability to be present for any last-minute updates, changes, or boarding announcements. For a stress-free experience, it's best to stay until after your flight departs!

If you want to have more time exploring the destination, consider checking in early at the hotels after you’ve landed. Even if you can’t, most hotels and resorts will offer a storage option, either with or without fees.

Can You Check In Luggage The Day Before Your Flight?

Of course! Some airlines do offer the option to check your luggage the day before your flight. It's a convenient way to save time on the day of your departure. However, not all airlines provide this service, so keep in mind to check with your specific airline to see if it's available.

Typically, the check-in counter will be open for a specific window of time, usually in the evening before your flight. You'll need to have your flight information and ID ready, and your luggage will be checked in and secured until your flight.

For instance, British Airways offers an “overnight bag drop service”. All you need to do is grab your travel documents and head to Terminal 3/Terminal 5 between 16:00-22:00 at London Heathrow. (For London Gatwick Airport, it’s 18:00-21:00).

EasyJet also offers a Twilight Bag Drop service, which is free and available for everyone. Say, if your flight depart from London Gatwick Airport (LGW) before 08:00, you can drop off your bags the evening before (between 20:00-22.00).

Can You Check In Luggage The Day Before Your Flight?

Some airlines do offer the option to check in luggage the day before a flight. Image by HelloDavidPradoPerucha on Freepik.

In general, some airlines may charge a fee for this service, so make sure to check ahead of time to avoid any surprises. Additionally, be aware that you will need to retrieve your boarding pass on the day of your flight, as you won’t be able to do so when you check in your luggage the day before.

For those with larger or heavier bags, checking in your luggage the day before can be a huge help. If you are someone who likes to travel light or doesn't have much luggage, this option may not be necessary.

What To Know About Checking Your Bags Early And Hassle-free

Ready to make your travel experience hassle-free? If so, consider checking your bags early! But how exactly does it work? What do you need to know to make it happen? 

Continue reading, and we'll explain everything you need to know about how to check your bags early and make your next trip a breeze.

1. Airport Location and Operating Hours

Did you know that the airport location can actually impact how early you can check your bags for a flight? It's true! That's why it's important to choose an airport that is closest to your destination. The closer the airport, the shorter your travel time, and the more cost-effective your journey will be.

Being aware of airport operating hours helps you avoid arriving neither too early nor too late. For instance, if the airport opens at 9 am, there's no need to arrive at 4 am to drop off your bags.

Moreover, identifying the bag drop counters can help ensure a smooth check-in process. These counters have specific areas for dropping off your bags. Not finding them can cause delays or missed flights.

2. Time Of Departure

The time of your flight's departure can impact when you can check your bags. In general, early-morning flights have later opening times, and late-night flights may have earlier closing times for bag drop-off.

Time Of Departure

Checking in advance when your flight takes off to arrive in time. Photo by Matthew Smith from Unsplash

For example, if you have a 6:00 am flight, the bag drop-off counters may not open until 4:00 am. If you have an 11:00 pm flight, the counters may close earlier, like at 8:00 pm. Plan ahead and check with your airline for specific details to avoid any issues.

Keep in mind that some airports have restrictions based on departure times. If you have a midnight flight, you may need to check your bags by 8:00 pm. 

3. Type Of Flight

Domestic flights typically allow for check-in of bags up to 2-3 hours before departure. Meanwhile, international flights may require a check-in time of at least 3 hours due to additional security and customs procedures.

If you have a connecting flight, you may be able to check your bags all the way through to your final destination. Or, you have to collect and recheck them at each stop.

To avoid any confusion, you had better check your airline's specific details about the baggage drop-off times and procedures for your type of flight. By doing so, you can plan accordingly and ensure you have adequate time to check your bags.

4. Airline’s Policies

Airline’s Policies

Be sure to check your airline’s policies before heading to the airport. Photo by Neil Martin from Unsplash

The majority of major airlines permit you to check your bags several hours before your flight departs. The precise time frame may change depending on the airline, airport and destination.

For instance, Delta Air Lines lets you check in within 24 hours of departure. You must notify them of the number of bags you will check.

Another example is United Airlines, which requires you to check your bags at least 45-60 minutes before departure. However, if you are flying from Guam before 9:30, you can check in the night before.

Some airlines also offer early checked baggage drop-off services, which can be advantageous to avoid large crowds or having a lot of luggage. If you are enrolled in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, you may be qualified for early check-in and expedited security screening. 

Storing Luggage At The Airport Without Checking-In

Luggage may become a nuisance on a trip, particularly if you are only in a location for a short time or have a lengthy layover. Fortunately, many airports offer luggage storage services where you can securely store your bags for a few hours or even several days.

Storing Luggage At The Airport Without Checking-In

Storing your luggage at the airport without checking it in offers convenience and flexibility for any adventure. Image by wavebreakmedia_micro on Freepik

Here are some steps to follow:

  • Check Airport Policies

Each airport may have different policies and fees, so do your research on what is available at your airport. Please also note how much to pay for different duration of storage according to the airline's restrictions on weight and bags. 

  • Choose a Luggage Storage Service

Your bags' safety and security are the most important. So, choose a reputable luggage storage service that offers secure facilities, such as CCTV or security personnel. Additionally, label your bags with your name and contact information to ensure that they are not misplaced or stolen.

  • Store Your Luggage

Follow the instructions provided to store your bags. Be sure to label your bags with your name and contact information.

  • Retrieve Your Luggage

You need to return to the luggage storage service and present your identification. Your bags will be returned, and you can continue with your travels. Check if they are damaged and that all your belongings are accounted for.


1. How early can I drop bags at the airport?

Some airlines allow bag drop-off as early as 24 hours before your scheduled flight departure time. Meanwhile, there are also some allowing a few hours before the flight.

2. Can you drop off luggage before check-in?

Good news - many airlines allow you to drop off your luggage before the official check-in time, saving you time and reducing stress at the airport. This service is called "early bag drop" or "pre-check-in bag drop."

Can you drop off luggage before check-in

It's possible to drop off your luggage before regular check-in time. Image by on Freepik

Just keep in mind that early bag drop doesn't mean you can skip security or other airport procedures. To be safe, arrive at the airport with enough time to complete all necessary check-in and security procedures.

3. Do you drop off checked bags before TSA?

Unfortunately, you need to go through TSA security screening before dropping off your checked bags. Once you pass through security, you can drop off your bags at the airline's check-in counter or self-service kiosk if available. 

Plus, don't forget to keep your baggage claim tag safe, as you'll need it to pick up your bags at your destination. And remember to check the TSA guidelines on prohibited items before packing your bags.

4. Is it better to check bags online or at the airport?

Wondering how early you can check your bags for a flight? It's generally better to check bags online before arriving at the airport. Many airlines offer online check-in options, which include the ability to check bags and print boarding passes from home.

5. How early should I get to the airport if not checking bags?

To give yourself some breathing room, you should arrive at the airport 1-1.5 hours before your domestic flight. In terms of the international flight, 2-3 hours before your departure time is better. This will provide you with sufficient time to complete the check-in process, go through security, and navigate to your gate.


Are you looking to streamline your airport experience? If so, an early bag drop might be just the solution you need. By knowing how early you can check your bags for a flight, checking your luggage has never been easier!

With many options available, you can check your bags well ahead of time and avoid any last-minute hassles. Now, head to the airport, and get ready for a smooth travel experience!

Ha Ngan

1 comment

  • Coach Lord

    Great article!

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