It’s coming up on travel season. And, whether you’re taking the last trips while the weather is still good, planning a fall break, or even pre-planning for those truly winter holidays, there’s a good chance you’ll need to navigate the Philadelphia International Airport pretty soon.
If you have somehow managed to avoid flying out of or into the travel hub, color us impressed. It’s the only international airport that serves Philly and the region, and has grown from flying 14,000 passengers a year in the 1940s to 30 million today.
But as anyone can attest, traveling is more often than not a pretty stressful and exhausting experience, which means an airport experience can make or break one’s impression of an entire place. Like any airport, The Philadelphia International Airport leaves much to be desired, but with ongoing improvements, things are looking up for this South Philly transit hub.
Whether you are a seasoned traveler or a newbie, this guide—covering how to get there, where to stay and eat, and survival tips—will help you navigate the airport with minimal stress.
How to get there
Depending on timing, hailing a car-sharing ride to the airport can cost up to $50. So if that price tag is out of the question or getting dropped off isn’t in the cards, consider taking the train. The SEPTA airport line runs seven days a week, from 5 a.m. and midnight between Center City (30th Street Station, Jefferson, Suburban, and Temple stations) and the airport, stopping at all terminals. You can buy a QuikTrip ticket from a kiosk at the airport train station for $6.75 ($9.95 for non-Center City stops).
Of course, you can also drive and park, if you’re willing to shell out bigger bucks: Prices range from $11 to $44 for up to 24 hours in either economy parking or garage parking. The lots and garages are run by the airport so there are shuttles that can transport you to your terminal.
Where to stay
Need a place to crash for the night near the hotel? There are plenty of options in the surrounding vicinity, from Hiltons to Marriotts. If you want to get away a bit from the airport, there’s also the Courtyard at the Marriott at the Navy Yard, which only about six miles from the airport.
If you have a longer layover, take advantage of the extra time and explore Philly. Center City is only about 10 to 20 minutes from the airport, and like we said, an easy train ride. Here are some options around the main Center City train stations that offer direct rides back to the airport:
By Jefferson Station, the options are also endless, with three varieties of Marriott Hotels lined along Market Street within two blocks. But if you want to check something truly special, walk across the street from the station to the Loews Hotel. It’s in the historic PSFS Building, designed by George Howe in 1933 as the first International skyscraper in the country. Plus you can check out the brand new Fashion District in Center City while you’re there.
By Suburban Station, which is just two stops away from Jefferson Station, consider the Aloft Hotel across the way on North Broad. It sits in the historic Liberty Title building and offers guests old-world architectural details, a bar, a terrace, and big views.
Near 30th Street Station, try the Study Hotel in University City. The 212-room hotel is a quick walk from the station and located right between University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University campuses. Guests will find modern designs and good grub at the hotel’s restaurant Co-Op. Even closer to the station is the AKA University City. It’ll cost you more per night, but who else can say that they’ve taken a dip in the tallest indoor pool this side of the Schuylkill?
Where to eat
Our friends at Eater Philly have the ultimate guide to eating at the airport, broken down by concourse. But for a surprisingly good foodie experience, head to concourse b. It’s a local foodie destination with hundreds of iPads installed at each restaurant to order your food. There are USB ports and outlets at teach table, too, so you can charge up while you grub.
If you happen to be an American Express Platinum or Centurion card holder (or know someone who is), you’re in luck: The swanky Centurion Lounge in Terminal A features an Israeli-inspired menu designed by Zahav chef and James Beard Award winner Michael Solomonov, but it’s only open to Amex premium customers.
The Philadelphia International Airport officially opened in 1940, under the name Philadelphia Municipal Airport. But the massive swath of land had played host to air transportation long before that, when the city provided 125 acres of land in 1925 for aviators in training of the Pennsylvania National Guard. Two years later, the heralded pilot Charles A. Lindburgh touched down here and officially dedicated the site as the Philadelphia Municipal Airport.
By the 1930s, plans were in play to build upon the airport, after the city bought a 1,000-acre site called Hog Island from the federal government to the tune of $3 million. But the Great Depression meant that the city had to put a cork in it for a few years.
Finally, in 1937, construction began on the airport, and it officially opened its doors in 1940. Five years later, it was renamed the Philadelphia International Airport when it started offering flights overseas.
- Picking up someone but have time to kill? Don’t bother paying for parking or waiting curbside at the gate—there’s a cell phone waiting lot at the airport that’s free. You can camp out there for up to 60 minutes and there’s a handy digital screen of all of the flights and their arrival statuses.
- Pet gotta pee? There are designated “Pet Ports” in every terminal where furry friends can relieve themselves. There are also special spots by certain baggage terminals. Here’s a full list.
- Yep, there’s free WiFi throughout the airport, available to anyone with a smartphone, laptop, tablet, etc.
- If you want to catch up on reading but don’t want to buy a book and add to your baggage, check out airport’s Virtual Library Hot Spot in Terminal D/E. You can use the free WiFi to access e-books and podcasts via the Free Library of Philadelphia.
- If you prefer to nap in peace, find a Minute Room between terminals A and B. There are 13 private suites, each equipped with a sleeping sofa, pillows, blankets, and a TV. The cost of a catnap depends on how long you snooze.