Know Before You Go Series: Los Angeles International Airport

04/26/2011 06:06 pm ET | Updated Jun 26, 2011

In February, we launched the first two installments of GateGuru's "Know Before You Go Series" (Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and Chicago O'Hare International Airport). The "Know Before You Go Series" is designed to reveal exclusive insider tips and valuable insight from experienced travelers "on-the-ground" to help you better navigate airports. The "Know Before You Go Series" pulls information and data reviewed from hundreds of thousands of GateGuru users, and provides a top-line summary on the good, the bad and the ugly of today's largest airport hubs. With this said, it only makes sense to next feature the 3rd busiest airport in the US and 6th busiest in the world, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Now, let's take a look at Los Angeles' busiest airport with "Know Before You Go Series: Los Angeles International Airport."

1. To date, the reviews of LAX from GateGuru users have not been very positive -- in fact the airport's rating in GateGuru is currently in the bottom 20% of all airports. GateGuru users describe the airport as "outdated" and "dirty" and they mention that "baggage claim is a mess". The good news is that LAX is doing something about it. Just last year, a major renovation project was completed for the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Around the same time that project was finishing up, another project in the International Terminal broke ground which will demolish the existing gates and add two new concourses with over 1.25MM square feet of shops, lounges and restaurants. Additionally, it was recently announced that Alaska Airlines is taking the lead in a major overhaul of Terminal 6 (parts of which haven't been touched since it opened in 1961!) starting in 2012. Overall, lots of improvements are coming to LAX over the next few years, but for now, the airport isn't exactly a pleasure to be in.

2. Connections and layovers at LAX for international flights are fairly common, but oftentimes your arriving and departing flight can be out of different terminals. While moving between terminals, you will also need to go through security screening again, in most cases. As such, when booking an international trip that has a connection at LAX, make sure you have at least 90 minutes (2 hours is even better) to get to your next flight. If it is going to be tight, we suggest you check in with the folks over at the FlyerTalk forums, which has an entire thread dedicated to helping answer this question for travelers going through LAX.

3. GateGuru users also bemoan the long security lines at LAX. User reviews, as well as our own user generated wait time data, indicate that security lines of 30 minutes are not uncommon. As such, make sure you get to LAX extra early especially during high congestion periods. Another great tip is to know the layout of the terminals. While most terminals are not connected, Terminals 6, 7 and 8 are all connected via walking corridors. So if you are at one of these terminals and the security line is extremely backed up, don't hesitate to use GateGuru to see the wait times at the other terminals. If the other terminals have shorter wait times, head on over, as you will be able to get back into your assigned terminal post-security.

4. If you are using LAX as your arrival or departure airport, you know that it isn't just security lines that can take a while -- cab lines and the drive to / from the rental car facility also take a significant amount of time, so be prepared. One expert told us that at the airport, cab lines are a minimum of 20 minutes, oftentimes being longer than 30 minutes (the exact quote was "Cabs in LA are like unicorns!"). Not taking a cab? Rental car pickups aren't exactly a picnic either. The rental car stations are at least 30 minutes away from the airport, so make sure you factor that in when planning your day-of travel.

5. The good news is that if you are at LAX with a long layover, there are two amazing things you can do. The first is to hang out and grab a drink at the Encounter Restaurant. The Encounter Restaurant is located at the center of LAX, about a 10 minute walk to / from all terminals. While the food is not anything to write home about, the drinks are great and most importantly the ability to watch planes touch down and take off at LAX is the real gem (it is like you are in the air traffic tower!). The other fantastic option on a long layover is to head to In-N-Out, located less than a 5 minute drive from LAX! To top it off, the real insider secret is that In-N-Out is located right next to a parking structure called Parking Spot that provides free shuttle service to and from the airport! For complete directions on how to get to the In-N-Out from LAX in under 10 minutes, check out this great article from our friends at Gadling.

6. Finally, what good is a trip to LA without a few celeb sightings! One GateGuru user pointed out that Terminals 3 & 4 tend to be the hot ones for the most celeb sightings. So if you do happen to be flying out of either of these terminals, head out extra early. If you do that, are able to drop off your rental car and get through quickly, then sit back, relax and enjoy the celeb scenery show -- you earned it!

We hope you liked the third installment of "Know Before You Go". What are your go-to tips at LAX? Leave them in the comments for other readers.

To see tips such as these, as well as other information about over 115 domestic and international airports, download the award-winning, free GateGuru iPhone app. Want to share more tips for LAX or any other airport? Download GateGuru and leave it for the rest of the GateGuru community.