The hard part is over: You've taken the flight and your hotel or rental unit is already booked. But the last leg of your long journey is getting from the airport to your destination, and it pays to have a good plan for that.
There's nothing worse than landing after a long flight and then having to scramble to find a way to your destination. Luckily, there are some easy tools to help you figure out how to get there quickly, easily, and cheaply.
Whether you're looking for the cheapest public transportation, a shuttle, a rideshare, or a private car service, there is no shortage of ways to get to your hotel or Airbnb from the airport. But, some are better than others.
I'm not here to tell you which method of transportation is best – that varies from city to city, month to month, and even hour to hour at some airports. This guide will give you the tools to determine that for yourself and save you from some stress down the line.
Here's how to plan the crucial step of getting from the airport to your destination.
Where to Start Your Search
Ready? Pull up two tabs on your browser next to this one: Google Maps and Rome2Rio.
The first thing you should do is search your route on both sites and see what transportation options are out there.
The second most powerful tool in travel is Google Maps. Google Flights, of course, holds the number one spot on that list. But after you've taken care of your flights, I love using Google Maps to fill in the gaps of a trip.
Google Maps is a great route-finder, a perfect way to explore neighborhoods using street view and 3D satellite images, and it has tons of information on public transportation systems throughout the world, making it the best way to find your way into the city or to your destination using trains and buses. Google Maps is also good at identifying which rideshare companies operate in the area and can give you recommendations on which one of those to use if you prefer to use Uber, Lyft, or a foreign equivalent.
First, put your final destination in the destination search window, and then put the airport in the starting window. Google Maps typically defaults to driving directions, but you can change to public transit by clicking on the little train icon over the search results.
Here, we're going from the Copenhagen Airport (CPH) to the NH Collection Copenhagen hotel close to downtown. It's a journey I just took a few weeks ago, and this is a great example of how public transportation might be the cheapest and fastest way into town.
Once you click over to the public transportation button, you get a map, details about what train you're looking for (color-coded for the train line, too!), and even a list of stops between where you start and end.
If public transportation is your goal, start with a Google Maps search. It delivers real-time train and bus schedules that can help you plan your journey from the airport into the city down to the second.
I've found it's also the easiest interface to use, and you can save and download directions on Google Maps if you're worried about connectivity abroad or at your final destination.
Rome2Rio is an amazing search tool that can help you figure out how to get between any two points on the globe. While Google Maps can provide transit information down to the second, Rome2Rio will show you more transportation options trains, ferries, buses, rideshares, taxis, and car services, with an estimated price and travel time for each.
If you have a long way to travel or are trying to navigate a place with which you're unfamiliar, Rome2Rio might have more, better information for your trip – and can help you zero in on the best option. Plus, you might be able to book it right then and there.
Let's use an upcoming trip of mine as an example again: Croatia. I don't know much about Croatia, and I know even less about its buses and trains. So when I knew I needed to get from Dubrovnik to Hvar on my trip, I punched in both locales into Rome2Rio to see what train it would put me on.
To my surprise, the fastest and most efficient way between the two cities was by sea! Ferries operate pretty frequently between Dubrovnik and Hvar, and that's what Rome2Rio recommended for us.
And when you click on the “Ferry” option, it gives you some times and dates, plus the ability to scroll down and book directly with the ferry company on its website, too.
After a quick search with Google Maps, it's always a smart move to do a search on Rome2Rio, too – especially if you're heading somewhere new or you just want to see all your transportation options in one place.
Finally, it's always good to check the airport's website, just to make sure all of its transportation services are available. For instance, sometimes airports move the rideshare pickup locations or suspend some bus or train services in and out of the airport.
Plus, the airport could offer some good advice on where to most easily find taxis or how to navigate the public transportation system there.
How to Find a Private Car Service or Airport Transfer
Sometimes, after a long journey in the air, it's just nice to have someone waiting for you with a sign at the airport. In many cases, your hotel will be able to arrange something for you (at a slightly higher rate, usually). And honestly, this can be worth it, especially if you have an arduous itinerary or are visiting a place for the first time.
You can also simply Google “car services or transfers from X airport” to find something suitable. If you go that route, though, I'd advise searching the company's name on TripAdvisor to see if they're reputable. Read some reviews! It might save you a huge headache.
But if you're trying to go from the airport to a common travel destination, traditional tour operators like Viator or Airbnb Experiences are another place you can look for airport transfers and car services.
Viator, a tour-booking company owned by TripAdvisor, is a great place to find day excursions, walking tours, and so much more in terms of travel experiences. It's also a little-known sweet spot for booking transfers and car services.
When you put a city into Viator, you can then filter for “Travel and Transportation Services” on the left-hand side of the screen. That will help you find a bunch of listings for car services.
On a trip to Zanzibar, Tanzania last year, my wife and I were not inclined to try and find a cheap taxi at the airport after a 24-hour journey to Africa from the Upper Midwest. Instead, we found a car service on Viator, read some reviews, and booked it. When we landed at the airport, someone was waiting outside with my name on a placard. It was the finest sight my weary eyes had ever seen. Fifteen minutes and $15 later, we were at the hotel. No stress.
You likely already know how to use Airbnb to search for lodging, but using Airbnb Experiences is one of my favorite ways to book tours and transportation, and it can even be used to find you a unique ride from the airport.
To find Airbnb Experiences, click to expand the search bar and navigate to the “Experiences” tab. Once you search for the city you're arriving in, use the tab “Tours” to filter your search. Use the map feature and pick a tour close to the airport, this should give you some options for airport transfers and rides into the city.
For an upcoming trip to Cuba, I used Airbnb Experiences to search for an airport pickup in Havana, and I was surprised by this awesome one!
Once I made the booking, the host reached out to me, got my flight number and Airbnb address, and then confirmed the booking. It was as simple as could be! And it should be a very cool, uniquely Cuban activity to spice up what would otherwise be a simple taxi ride into the city. I'm definitely paying slightly more than the regular taxi rate into Havana from the airport, but the convenience of landing in a place without U.S. cell service and that almost exclusively runs on cash-only purchases is worth it to me.
If you're looking for an airport pickup, especially in style, be sure to browse Airbnb experiences.
When it comes to booking travel, don't sleep on the last leg of your journey: The trip from the airport to your final destination.
Without some careful planning, this could be an expensive nightmare. But thanks to some amazing, free travel tools, it's easier than ever to book a smooth ride from the airport or find the cheapest possible transportation to get you to your destination – and onto the rest of your trip.