The Incidental Tourist

Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)

Travel Photo: Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)

Raleigh Durham International Airport is my usual departure location.  But not always.  I’m located in central North Carolina and depending on the circumstances, I can choose from Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro, Charlotte or Fayetteville.  This allows for a lot of options in flights, but I have to be careful to avoid itineraries where I fly from Greensboro, for example and return to Fayetteville.

That said, RDU is my preferred departure airport.  It’s a nicely appointed regional airport with one long terminal (Terminal 2) for most flights.  Terminal 2 is airy, naturally lit during the day, and comfortable.  The Airport Authority do a good job of promoting the local economy with shops selling local goods (typical of most airports), as well as advertisements from local industry and even a nice sitting area with some very comfy modern furniture provided by a local retailer.

The restaurant situation is pretty good as well, with the typical convenience store fare as well as fast food from places like Five Guys and Brookwood and Brugers and A&W to sit-down fare from Carolina Ale House, 42nd Street Oyster Bar and Gordon Biersch.  There are other places to eat as well and prices run from modest to “No thanks” and the food is fairly high quality.

One word about Brookwood Farms.  Brookwood is a NC based mass producer of Barbeque.  If you’re new to the NC area, please do not mistake Brookwood for proper wood-smoked BBQ.  It’s certainly passable on the go, but you’ll have to venture far from the airports to get good BBQ, and North Carolina has good BBQ a-plenty.

Terminal two is laid out in one long building that makes it great for walking to fill the time with the whole end-to-end walk taking between 5 and 10 minutes.  Additionally, there are more than enough fountains, restrooms and seating areas to catch a break between flights, and unlike larger airports, you can deplane on one end and board on the other in less time than it takes to walk between terminals in most other airports.

Interestingly RDU is, in fact, a true international airport with daily flights to London (LHR), Paris (CDG) and Cancun (CUN) and handles both departures and arrivals.  International flights depart and return via the gates at the end of the D side of Terminal 2 with disembarking passengers making their way to a gallery above the main terminal, over to the center of the building and back down two floors to the Customs and Border Control area at the far end of the baggage return area.

Finally, a word on security.  RDU Terminal 2 only has one security area and all passengers filter through this airside on the departure level just beyond the ticket lanes.  Usually, lines are light in the mornings and evenings, and heavier during the more normal hours.  Sometimes lines can be insanely long however, especially around holidays and college breaks and graduation.  There are 6 major and several more minor universities and colleges in the area so leading up to popular holidays like Spring Break can see triple or quadruple the normal traffic through security.  So plan accordingly if you’re traveling around peak times.

Pre-Check is available to the right of the security check area and usually moves very quickly.  This writer typically gets through security in less than 10 minutes on a busy day, faster than 5 normally.

RDU is a great choice of departure airport if you’re in the area served, or even if you drive a little bit to bypass regional airports to get here.  It’s comfortable and well designed and operated with flights that connect to anywhere you want to go and plenty of amenities to keep you occupied and supply you with gifts for friends and family and colleagues.


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