How to navigate DFW Airport: 6 insider tips from a frequent flyer
Air travel is back to normal after the pandemic, with lots of people traveling again this summer and fall, especially abroad, with a demand for international travel that industry pros say they haven't seen in years. If you're returning to the skies, CultureMap contributing writer and frequent flyer Steve Miller has some tips for navigating your way back through the doors at DFW Airport.
Not only is Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport among the most trafficked in the U.S., it’s also ranked #5 on a list of best airports worldwide. Dallas denizens gladly accept the honor, but with the accolades and the crowds come the inevitable headaches. Parking is a pain, getting in and out of the airport can be a chore and why is every snack or beverage so pricey? And where is the best eating and relaxing in the joint? To traverse DFW’s five terminals and 171 gates, we have a handful of help.
Getting there and back
Riding TEXRail saves money and it’s easier than you think.
We landed one morning at DFW, surprisingly fresh from an overnight from Anchorage via Seattle. Uber showed a one-way rate of $89 to our abode - nearly double the usual price, due to the combination of rush hour and a paucity of drivers. Trinity Metro's TEXRail Line, which runs from DFW Airport to downtown Fort Worth an hour later, is $2.50. From there you can Uber to your doorstep. Uber home cost was $9 from the West End station.
For the best on-site parking, do the math.
The closest and most convenient parking at the airport is Terminal parking, but you’ll pay - $27 per day. Fortunately, DFW Airport reinstated Remote parking in 2022 (although it’s only the South lot, the Remote North lot remains closed). Make sure to book online and use your NTTA toll tag for easy in/out at the lot. A random search gets a rate of $8.36 a day for a week at the remote south lot. Quick math: $100 r/t Uber from Dallas, minimum. Versus $58.50 at the lot. Do that a few times and it adds up. Note: Remote South accepts contactless payment options only - credit cards and NTTA TollTags -but no longer accepts cash.
Secret pickup tips
Pickup and drop off has for decades been a chore at DFW. But we have a method for avoiding the crowds. If you are picking up someone, depending on time, make the connection at the drop off section, which is almost always less crowded. This is especially so in the evening when more people are coming in than leaving. Conversely, when dropping off a passenger, consider the time and perhaps make that move to the arrivals, especially in the a.m., when fewer flights are arriving.
Once you’re inside the airport
Get to Terminal D.
This advice is good only if you arrive early for a flight, or worse, encounter a delay. (And if you’re flying international, you’re already there.) But the food offerings, the layout, the modern design, and the space make this a destination. You can reach it from any terminal since all terminals are connected by tram – a very, very slow-moving tram – which makes the short trek easy. Check the Banh Shop and, yes, the Buffalo Wild Wings in the mezzanine, which has seats overlooking the action on the floor. And the upstairs waiting areas, available at some of the D gates, are excellent for stretching out.
Best place to get gifts.
You’ll never notice it if we don’t tell you; the DFW Employee Store is a great place to score last minute gifts, browse for luggage and other travel accessories, or to look at cool stuff that you probably don’t need. And that includes American Airline swag. It’s located by gate C2, an area that is soothingly sedate on busy days if you want to get away from the noise. Our favorite item right now is the sticker that says, “I ❤️ Airplane Noise”.
Don’t buy the water.
While DFW Airport is unlikely to go the route of SFO, LAX, and the Van Nuys airport by banning the sale of bottled water, we bring our own water container and avoid the 400 percent markup on airport Dasani. We use the plastic cups from Rudy's Country Store and Bar-B-Q. DFW, like many other airports, has over a dozen water refill stations.