Rare is the American traveler who hasn’t heard of major U.S. airports such as JFK, O’Hare, and LAX. In fact, giant airports so dominate the air travel scene that many travelers aren’t even aware of their smaller, often friendlier cousins.
While they may not offer as many flights or services as many destinations as their larger counterparts, small airports offer a number of benefits, including easier airport navigation, smaller crowds, and greater efficiency at all stages of the air travel experience, from baggage handling to security lines, customs, and pick-up and drop-off. If you’re ready to give the small airport experience a try, you can’t go wrong at any of these stellar options.
1. Bellingham International Airport, Bellingham, WA
Bellingham is beloved among its passengers: The airport has obtained a 93 percent approval rating and is frequently listed as one of the best small airports in the country. The airport promises quick access to a number of major attractions, including Seattle, Vancouver, the San Juan Islands, the Olympic peninsula, and all the gorgeous scenery and outdoor recreation opportunities on offer in the Pacific Northwest. In exchange for a calm atmosphere and friendly service, those seeking a more urban experience will face down a 90-mile drive to Seattle and a mere 50-mile drive to Vancouver.
2. Blue Grass Airport, Lexington, KY
Anyone heading to the southern U.S. will do themselves a favor by booking a flight into Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport. Short lines, virtually no crowds, and a laid-back atmosphere pervade the airport, which boasts fairly easy access to a number of cities including Indianapolis, Louisville, and Nashville. It also offers service from major airlines including Delta, United, and U.S. Airways. If you’re due for a headache-free air travel experience, the southern charm at Blue Grass airport is hard to beat.
3. Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, Manchester, NH
T.F. Green Airport (below) isn’t the only small airport in the Boston region to woo its passengers. Manchester-Boston Regional Airport ranked 27th overall in a survey of the best 100 airports in the U.S. (in spite of being much smaller than the other top-ranking airports on the list). The airport’s location surely has something to do with it: It’s less than an hour’s drive from Boston. Manchester-Boston also earns accolades for its amenities, including ease of access, friendly staff, comfortable seating, a stellar car rental facility, and relatively light vehicular traffic.
4. T.F. Green Airport, Warwick, RI
Warwick’s T.F. Green Airport faces some competition from Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, but that hasn’t prevented it from earning its own fan base. If you’re not partial to crowds, avoid the lines at Boston Logan International Airport and head to T.F. Green instead. The small airport offers quick access to Providence and Boston via a dedicated train station as well as easy access to beautiful Cape Cod. The airport is clearly designed with passengers’ convenience in mind—it’s easy to navigate and has even set up a train service to Foxboro to accommodate Patriots fans.
5. Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, Wichita, KS
Wichita’s airport consistently lands at the top of small airport rankings: One passenger survey ranked it as the fourth-best small airport in the country and recorded an 89 percent approval rating. The relatively new terminal ranks particularly well in categories such as arrival, parking facilities, check-in, terminal appearance, security checkpoints, amenities, cleanliness, rental car facilities, and concessions. In short, there’s little not to like!
As these small airports prove, bigger isn’t necessarily better. Seeking out regional airports can provide you with a more pleasurable travel experience and an opportunity to explore new parts of the country—giving truth to the adage that the journey matters just as much as the destination.