When departing Ireland via Dublin we met a surprising number of people who had missed their flight the day before due to not allowing themselves enough time to clear all the security points and US Preclearance. Please allow yourself at least 3 hours to depart Ireland from Dublin Airport to the US when traveling from late May thru end of September.
Unlike many international airports with many multiple terminals, the Dublin airport has two, aptly named Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.
Terminal 2, which opened in 2010, serves Aer Lingus, US carriers Delta, US Air, American Airlines, and United as well as Eitad and Emirates. All other airlines will arrive in Terminal 1. (A third terminal has been proposed to help manage increased traveler numbers.)
The following tips are specific to Terminal 2, though I imagine Terminal 1 is much the same.
Dublin Airport Arrival Tips
If you're arriving from the US (which is the only experience I have had), it's likely you have flown over night and are tired as sleeping well on planes is something mastered by very few people.
After deplaning, everyone rushes toward immigration, anxious to begin their vacation. But that rushing is likely to result in a wait in the slowly snaking queue. I recommend taking a few minutes to ‘reset' after your flight.
As you walk the long corridors toward immigration, you'll pass a few restrooms.
Continue past the first one as it is likely to be busiest. But stop at the next one.
Spend a few minutes to freshen up; change clothes, brush your teeth, touch up your makeup… Do a bit to re-create your morning routine as this will help your body adjust to the time difference and beat jet lag.
Feeling more human, make your way on to immigration. Join the queue and prepare for a bit of a wait, though the line moves quickly. If you happen to be from an EU country you'll barely have any wait at all.
As you wait, you may be tempted to dig out your cell phones. Don't bother- phones and cameras are not allowed in the customs area and, if you are seen with them, you will be asked to put them away.
If you appear to have taken a photo with your phone it will be checked and, most likely, deleted.
Have your passport out and open to the photo page, ready to be stamped. The agent will ask about your stay – where you will be , how long you will be in the country. Just answer the questions and you'll be on your way.
After clearing immigration you enter the baggage hall. If you had a wait in immigration your bag will probably be ready to pick up.
Exit the secure area to the Arrivals Hall.
Pick Up Your Rental Car
If you are renting a car, you'll find the rental companies across the skybridge of Terminal 2 (Irish Car Rentals, Hertz, Budget, Avis, Europcar).
If your rental company isn't there it can be found in Terminal 1, on the lower level (Thrifty, Enterprise, Dan Dooley, Sixt).
The car rental agents are very helpful and can tell you the best way to get out of the airport to begin your journey.
Take notes if you need to, or draw on the map, if they give you one – there is nothing worse than beginning your Ireland vacation by getting lost! (Save that experience for the picturesque countryside.)
Rental car pickup is off site, so find the agency's shuttle to be taken to your vehicle.
Bus and Taxi Transport
Bus and taxi transportation can be found at the lower level of both terminals, just follow the signs.
If you are taking a coach into Dublin, splurge on the Aircoach. Clean and roomy, it costs only a few euro more than the other options and offers more drop-off points.
Enjoy your Ireland vacation!
Dublin Airport Departure Tips
Dublin is a fickle airport to depart from.
I've had times when we have breezed right through to VAT turn in, picked up a couple last minute gifts, wandered through the tax free shop, and made it through security in minimal time.
But most times check in can take 30-45 minutes and I've had to queue to drop off my VAT.
So, err on the side of caution when flying out of Dublin airport and allow yourself 3 hours, at the least, for flight check in, security, VAT return, and any tax free shopping.
Flight Check in at Dublin Airport
The Terminal 2 Departure Hall is a crazy place.
Look for your airline and have all your papers in order – tickets and passports.
You'll go through a pre-check before you can actually check in for your flight, so be ready to tell the screener all about your amazing vacation- where you went, what you did, who you traveled with.
If you are traveling with very young children they will pass through this with you, but if your children are a bit older they will be interviewed separately (at 9 & 11 mine each had their own interview). Tip – have mom go first and dad bring up the rear, with the kids in between. A pre-screen sticker is added to your passport here- this is important later (keep reading)
Now you're in line to check in to your flight. If luggage is being checked in under your children's tickets be sure they know which bag is ‘theirs'- this, also, is important later.
Thankfully your load lightens as your checked bags are taken here.
Security Screening #1
From the departures hall, catch the escalator or elevator to the Security Screening Departures level. Stand in line and wait your turn.
Again, you'll need your ticket and passport to enter the screening area.
Liquids and computers need to be removed from your bags. I've been asked to remove my shoes here, but more recently, I been allowed to keep them on. Follow the lead of passengers in front of you or ask if you aren't sure. With the new pre-screening at check in this line had very little wait, which was a relief after the nearly hour-long queue we had just escaped.
Ahhh, you can relax a bit… You're in The Loop.
VAT return and last minute shopping.
Handle your VAT
It's likely you'll have at least two types of VAT refunds to turn in. Luckily, both can be handled in advance.
VAT refunds that require a receipt should be filled out and placed into the envelope before you arrive at the airport. All you have to do with this is drop the envelope at the proper company. If the line isn't too busy they will check the paperwork to make sure everything is filled out correctly.
If you are using the Horizon Card, be sure your account is set up online before you arrive at the airport. There are multiple kiosks available and you will need to finalize your purchases and refund before you leave.
Sometimes the lines for this are long. And if you get stuck behind someone who hasn't set up an account, the wait can seem like forever. During busy times you will, thankfully, find FEXCO agents offering assistance to help the lines move along.
Last minute shopping
Who isn't tempted by airport shops? You'll find plenty here – all tax free. You will have to show proof of your flight and items may be put in a sealed, clear plastic bag which can not be opened until you are past all security points.
Be sure to watch your time! If you're flying to the US you still have a couple of security steps before you can get to your gate!
And another security screening
Politically speaking, you are now on US soil, so US agents are doing the screening here. Follow all US protocol.
US Preclearance and Declaration of Goods
No waiting at Customs when you arrive in the US! This line can be long and slow moving.
Two lines are available here- one for those with Global Entry, and one for those without.
A note on Global Entry: though it is handy I do not recommend purchasing Global Entry specifically for your trip to Ireland. It doesn't get you through security points any quicker, nor does it keep you from unloading computers and liquids from your bags.
As with the pre-screening at check in, you are interviewed and asked to verify your checked bag. Older kids will be interviewed separately- which is why they need to be able to identify ‘their' checked bag. This almost caused a problem for us as my husband's bag was checked in under my daughter's name.
“She doesn't know her own bag?” the customs agent practically yelled at me. I tried to calmly reply that it was her dad's bag, that the agent had just added bags to each ticket as we checked in, and, for all that is good and holy, she's only 9! Again, have one parent on either end of this process- just in case something like this happens.
Good to know: Aer Lingus recommends that all ticketed passengers be through US Preclearance 2 hours prior to scheduled departure.
Finally at your gate
Once past US screening, the gates are directly ahead. There is quite a bit of seating but the area is very busy as US bound flights wait to board.
You'll find only a handful of coffee shops and stores here, so be sure to make purchases before pre-clearance.
Boarding Your Flight
One final thing… remember that sticker I mentioned in the pre-check at ticketing? If your passport doesn't have that sticker on it you will be asked to step aside for one more round of questioning.
It made my girls a bit nervous to see me pulled aside; thankfully my husband was there to get them safely to the plane while I told yet another officer about our month in Ireland. But, hey, it was a good trip and I'm happy to talk about Ireland to anyone who will listen. 🙂
51st & Green Lounge at Dublin Airport
If you've followed my tips above you may find yourself with a fair amount of time before boarding your flight. The best way to wait comfortably is in the 51st & Green Lounge.
Located past the US departure gates the lounge serves US Preclearance passengers only.
Though entrance is complimentary to business class ticket holders, you don't have to be a VIP to gain entry. Admission is just €35 per person online or €39 at reception.
Our Experience at 51st & Green Lounge
Our Aer Lingus business class tickets allowed entry into the US preclearance lounge, and it was the most relaxing spot I've ever experienced at Dublin Airport.
The reception desk is located at the very end of the US departures gates hallway. After checking in here you enter through a long passageway, every step taking you away from the loud, busy terminal. The large, bright lounge at the end of the passage has plentiful seating, floor to ceiling windows with runway views, and large bathrooms, complete with showers if you want to freshen up be fore your flight.
We chose a small table with cushioned bench seating on one side and plush swiveling chairs on the other. Our table had its own outlet in the center- so handy!
A few people stood near the bar and barista area, awaiting their special concoctions. More travelers were politely waiting their turns through the plentiful buffet.
The food options were impressive. Iced and hot beverages neatly in a row, warm appetizers led to hot soups, cold salads sat beside a charcuterie board, breads, pastries, and cookies perched above coolers of soda.
Comfortably seated with a plate of tasty nibbles, I was able to set my carry on bag to rights again, after the hectic passage through security gates. The peacefulness of the room was a dramatic difference from the bustling airport halls. There was no rush, no anxiety, no hard plastic chair.
If you have an hour or more before you flight I recommend spending it here. Especially if you're flying coach. You're likely to buy food, snacks & drinks in the departures area- why not spend a bit more and elevate your experience?
Handy Links for Dublin Airport
Transportation Options to and from the airport