Tips for McCarran International Airport

By TripIt

January 05, 2015

So, your travels have brought you to McCarran International Airport! Although you always hope travel will be quick and painless, sometimes you’ll find yourself in the airport longer than planned, having to navigate the lay of the land with little luck.   We did some research and tapped our pool of travel experts to find out the best tips for McCarran International Airport.  

Departures and Arrivals

McCarran has 110 aircraft gates spread across two separate terminals. They both have their own facilities, such as parking garages, ticketing and check-in areas, baggage claims, security checkpoints, and shopping and dining options.   Terminal 1 is home to many of the domestic carriers, where you’ll find airlines including American, Delta, Southwest, Spirit Airlines, and US Airways. It consists of the A, B, C, and D gates, but keep in mind that you’ll need to take an automated transit system to get to the D gates.   Terminal 3 (yes, Terminal 3 is the second terminal) is home to all of the international carriers, as well as some other domestic carriers. Airlines you’ll find in Terminal 3 include Air Canada, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Alaska, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, United, and Virgin America.   Expert Tip: United and Hawaiian use Terminal 3 for ticketing, check-in, and baggage claim. However, you’ll need to take an automated transit system to Gate D from Level Zero (the ground level) of Terminal 3 to get there.  


There are five security checkpoints at McCarran. In Terminal 1, there are three: the A/B checkpoint, the C Annex, and the C/D checkpoint. The A/B checkpoint for flights operating out of the A and B Gates has eight screening lanes, the C Annex has 13 lanes, and the C/D has 17.   Expert Tip: Savvy travelers flying Southwest who aren’t checking luggage should consider using the two screening lanes at the C/D checkpoint for Gate C to hopefully enjoy a quicker wait time at security.   In Terminal 3, there are two security checkpoints: the Level 2 checkpoint and the Level Zero checkpoint. The Level 2 checkpoint has 14 screening lanes for both domestic and international airlines. According to the McCarran International Airport website, the Level Zero checkpoint isn’t yet open, but will have 17 screening lanes for airlines departing from Gate D.   Clear and TSA PreCheck are both available at McCarran. You’ll find both Clear and TSA PreCheck lanes in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. TSA PreCheck is currently available for the following airlines: Air Canada, Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, United, US Airways, and Virgin America.  


What’s the point of being in Sin City if you’re not going to indulge? Even if you can’t leave the airport, there are plenty of options to keep you well fed. If chain restaurants aren’t your thing, then you’ll definitely want to try Village Pub located at the E Gate in Terminal 3, which is a small, family-owned business. They’re well known for their fish and chips and their fried chicken, so be sure you’re wearing your stretchy pants. La Tapenade Mediterranean Café and Las Vegas Chophouse & Brewery are also great Terminal 3 dining options.   If you’re looking for slightly healthier fare, Terminal 1 is your best bet. Fresh Market on the go has plenty of salads and healthy snacks to tide you over before your flight. Flatbreadz is another option where you can find some lighter fare on the menu, such as soups, salads, and sandwiches.   For a caffeine fix, there are no shortage of Starbucks between both terminals, but you can also swing by the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in either too—a favorite of celebrities(note: you can actually get an almond milk latte here). If you’d prefer an adult beverage to calm yourself before your flight, Corcoran’s Irish Pub is a quiet place to grab a pint or catch the game. For something a bit more upscale, stop by the Jose Cuervo Tequileria for a premium margarita.  


If you need to boot up your laptop and get to work, McCarran International Airport is equipped with free Wi-Fi throughout all public areas.   If you’d rather save the work for later, you’ll be surprised how much there actually is to do at McCarran, including the most visited museum in all of Nevada (technically speaking, because many people don’t even know they’re visiting it!). At Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum, which is located in Terminal 1 on Level 2, you can check out the history of general and commercial aviation in southern Nevada.   Since it’s Vegas, you can of course test Lady Luck on one of the many slot machines scattered throughout the airport, and if you hit it big, there are plenty of high-end shops to spend your new fortune on. My top picks include Michael Kors in Terminal 3 at the E Gates, Crabtree & Evelyn at the D Gates, and Brookstone in Terminal 1 at the C Gates. If you want to pamper yourself, visit the Xpress Spa for a massage or a mani/pedi. There’s one at the C Gates in Terminal 1, the D Gates, and the E Gates in Terminal 3.  


When you arrive to McCarran, there are many options for transportation into the city, depending on your preference and budget. More than 10 cab companies provide service to and from the airport. Lines for cabs can be long, depending on the time of year and time of day you arrive, so be prepared with your Kindle or a fun game to pass the time. Also keep in mind that some cab companies won’t accept credit cards and that there will be a $2 surcharge on all fares departing from the airport. Additionally, only 5 people max are allowed in a car, so plan accordingly if you’re traveling with a larger group. In Terminal 1, you can catch a cab from the east side of baggage claim, outside door exits 1 through 4. For Terminal 3, you’ll find them on Level 0. The average fare for a ride to the Strip is around $15 to $25 dollars, depending on where on the Strip you’re being dropped off. That being said, fares will reflect route taken, traffic, and location of final destination.   If you want to ride in style, check out the walk-up limo service. In Terminal 1, you’ll find them on west side of baggage claim outside door exits 7 through 13, and in Terminal 3, they’re outside Level 0 on at the west end of the terminal.   Right now, Uber doesn’t pick up on the Strip or at the airport, and Lyft isn’t currently operating in Vegas. However, there are plenty of other options to get you where you need to be, including shuttles, the RTC bus  (take the WAX or the CX), and rental cars. To pick up your rental car, you’ll need to hop aboard the blue-and-white McCarran Rent-A-Car shuttle, which departs approximately every 5 minutes from the ground transportation area of each terminal.   So there you have it—your crash course in McCarran International Airport. Whether you’re coming or leaving, you now have all necessary details and tips and tricks to make your travels stress-free as possible, and maybe even enjoyable. Have any tips on McCarran International Airport? Share them in the comments below.