Traveler and RDU Info: Everything you Need to Know about this NC Airport in Raleigh + Durham

If you need RDU info in one place that’s easy to understand, we have you covered. As a traveler arriving or departing from this airport, or dropping a friend off or picking him or her up from a flight, this will help you understand the times you need to arrive, the airport layout, parking, dining, and more.

General Information about the Raleigh Durham Airport

This wonderful airport has two easy-to-navigate terminals. It is located in the north-central area of the state next to North Carolina’s capital, Raleigh. It’s incredibly easy to get to from major highways and a pleasure to fly in and out of.

RDU has been our home airport for over 7 years and we love it. It’s just 20 to 30 minutes from downtown Raleigh and about the same distance to downtown Durham. It’s only 45 minutes or so to Chapel Hill, and 30 minutes to Cary. It is the closest airport to the state’s famous “Research Triangle” area.

Raleigh and Durham are two separate cities in NC, even though they’re often mistaken for one and even hyphenated in some instances. The airport is between the two cities. The city RDU is actually located in is called Morrisville, NC.

RDU is near major restaurants and hotels, and it’s easy to park there and roll your luggage into the terminals. It’s a delight to fly out of here and into this airport and every time we travel in a crowded, dirty airport we yearn for our home base RDU.

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Traveler and RDU info for the Raleigh Durham NC terminals. Photo inside Terminal 2.

Raleigh Durham Airport Code: RDU

The airport that is closest to Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Knightdale, Clayton, Garner, and Cary in North Carolina is RDU. The other major airport in North Carolina is in Charlotte (code CLT), which is a 2.5-hour drive southwest from RDU. (Charlotte is very close to the South Carolina border, near York County, SC.)

There are smaller airports in North Carolina, like an airport in Asheville, NC (code AVL) in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is closest to cities like Boone and Blowing Rock. There is a regional airport in Fayetteville, NC (code FAY), amongst other small airports across the state.

Raleigh Durham Airport Parking

“Official” RDU Parking

RDU airport has several parking options: Premier, Central, Express, and Economy.

Their Premier is closest to the terminals, right across the walkway that connects the lot to the building. Next is Central, which is next to Premier.

Express is like the Fast Park & Relax option below, but costs a little more since it’s technically on RDU property.

Lastly, Economy parking is the least expensive option at $10/day, but the frustrating thing about it is that the shuttle runs every 20 minutes, and it costs more than Fast Park & Relax. 20 minutes is a long time to wait for the next shuttle if you just missed it. If you park with this option you need to add at least 40 minutes to your commute time to be safe.

Take our advice: if you want the best option for less than $10/day, with door-to-door shuttle service, park at Fast Park & Relax, referenced below. Better yet, sign up for their rewards and park there all the time at locations across the United States.

You can see how full the RDU lots are on the RDU website, which shows a real-time percentage of fullness/emptiness.

“Unofficial” RDU Parking: Fast Park & Relax

Our favorite parking is offsite at Fast Park & Relax.

You cannot beat the price and service. Both are great and for less than $8/day. Their shuttle bus takes you as close to door-to-door as you can get from your car to the airport. You need to add approximately 10 to 15 minutes extra time to park here so there’s time for the shuttle bus to get you to the airport terminal.

During peak times, you want to consider reserving a parking spot at the Fast Park & Relax RDU airport location, which you can do online ahead of time.

If you sign up for an account and their rewards card, you’ll even earn free parking. That’s exactly what we do! You can park at various Fast Park & Relax locations across the United States and get rewarded for it.

Cell Lot at RDU

One of the best airport inventions of the 21st century was cell lots! This is where you can safely wait for flights to arrive if you’re picking up a loved one or a friend at the airport.

RDU has a cell lot. When you approach the airport look for signs to follow to the lot, which is a 3-minute drive from the terminals.

Its address is: 1000 Trade Dr, Morrisville, NC 27560

Shuttle Service and Transportation to RDU

You can get to RDU airport on public transportation, including local and intercity buses. Check travel times and options on RDU’s website. Be sure to add about 30 minutes just in case there are delays.

If you want to book a private car or shuttle service, several are available to book online.

Rental Car Companies at RDU Airport

RDU has the following rental car companies:

  • Advantage
  • Alamo
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Dollar
  • Enterprise
  • Hertz
  • National
  • Payless
  • Thrifty

Be sure to check for the best price on Kayak.com.

Free shuttles to the rental car offices leave from the pickup location outside of baggage claim at each terminal.

RDU International Flights

There are limited direct flights between RDU and international destinations. For example, the Paris and Raleigh route from Delta will return in the spring of 2022. We took that flight a few years ago and it was awesome!!! Dan even gets complimentary access to the Delta lounge at RDU from his Platinum American Express, which is a great credit card with beneficial travel perks.

Currently, there are direct flights from RDU to the following international destinations:

  • Toronto, Canada
  • Cancun, Mexico

Our fingers are crossed for the direct international flight routes to increase as Raleigh and Durham’s popularity continues to rise and things go back to the new normal post-pandemic. Hopefully, we’ll get direct flights to places like London and Amsterdam. Our fingers are crossed!

RDU Departure Terminals

The Raleigh Durham airport is divided into two terminals. Currently, the only airline that utilizes Terminal 1 is Southwest. All other airlines depart and arrive to Terminal 2.

Airlines that Fly from RDU Airport and their RDU Departure Terminals

Major airlines fly into and out of RDU airport.

This includes the following airline at Terminal 1:

  • Southwest

The following airlines are at Terminal 2 at RDU:

  • Iceland Air
  • Allegiant
  • Air Canada
  • American Airlines
  • Delta
  • Frontier
  • JetBlue
  • Spirit
  • Sun Country Airlines
  • United

Food and Beverage Options at RDU Airport

We love that there are so many local options in the RDU airport, especially in Terminal 2.

Terminal 1 dining options:

  • Starbucks: By Gate 7
  • Char-Grill: A local Raleigh staple, with burgers, shakes and beer. (There’s one near where we live in downtown Raleigh!)
  • ACC American Cafe: Bar and sit down restaurant with sandwiches, flatbreads and other entrees).
  • Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina: Mexican-inspired cuisine.
  • La Tapenade: Mediterranean cuisine – part sit down, part grab-and-go.

Terminal 2 dining options, Marketplace (right after the escalators down to the gates, after security):

  • Starbucks
  • La Farm: Local Cary, NC French Bakery, with breakfast and lunch sandwiches and baked goods.
Traveler and RDU info for the Raleigh Durham NC terminals. Photo inside Terminal 2 of La Farm French Bakery.

Terminal 2 dining options, C Side:

  • 42nd Street Oyster Bar: Bar with alcohol and sit down meal options. This restaurant has a downtown Raleigh location that has been around for decades. At the airport, they serve breakfast until 10:30am, with a separate breakfast menu, lunch and dinner. Oysters too! (Gate C1)
  • Bruegger’s Bagels: Franchise quick service with bagels and sandwiches, available for breakfast and lunch. (Gate C18)

Terminal 2 dining options, D Side:

  • BurgerFi: Hormone-free burgers, fries and shakes. (Gate D3-D5)
  • Jason’s Deli: Soups and sandwiches. (Gate D3)
  • Starbucks (Gate D12)
  • Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen: Fast food chain with southern favorites, like breakfast biscuits and Shrimp Po’ Boys for lunch. (Gate D15)
  • Raleigh Tap Room: Airport location for a local brewery, called Raleigh Brewing. They serve beer, burgers, sandwiches and flatbreads. (Gate D3)
  • Whiskey River: Serving a little bit of everything at a sit-down location, including pulled pork, wings, quesadillas, cheese fries, salads and more. They serve breakfast (with a separate breakfast menu), lunch and dinner. (Gate D14)

Cities that Directly Connect to RDU

The following cities fly to and from RDU:

  • Atlanta
  • Austin
  • Baltimore-Washington
  • Boston
  • Charlotte
  • Chicago-Midway
  • Chicago-O’Hare
  • Dallas-Forth Worth
  • Dallas-Love Field
  • Denver
  • Detroit
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Hartford
  • Houston-Bush
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Minneapolis
  • Nashville
  • Newark
  • New York-JFK
  • New York-LaGuardia
  • Orlando-International
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • Pittsburgh
  • Punta Gorda
  • Salt Lake City
  • San Francisco
  • San Juan
  • Seattle
  • St. Louis
  • Tampa
  • Trenton
  • Washington-Dulles
  • Washington-Reagan

Refill Water Stations at RDU and Our Favorite Carry-On Luggage to Tote around RDU

We recommend two essential things for our favorite carry-on luggage, which we always tote around RDU airport and onto our flights:

  1. CabinZero backpacks, which we LOVE and never travel without. They fit into every overhead space we’ve ever needed them too, from small planes to large. And depending on how much stuff we put in them, they’ve even fit under seats too (even though we’ve never needed to go that route but we’ve tested it out for kicks).
  2. Packing Cubes: because #organization and sanity!

We also always travel with our BPA-free, reusable water bottles in our carry-on. This is because we fill it up at the water bottle filling stations. There are several throughout the terminals, near the restrooms.

Dan uses a bottle that’s black and similar to a Hydro Flask, and I use a flat, clear Memo Bottle because I love how it fits flat against my backpack in the side pocket of my CabinZero bag.

Green CabinZero carry-on backpack with a flat Memo Bottle refillable water bottle.

What time to Arrive to the Raleigh-Durham International Airport for Your Flight

RDU Arrival Time Info if you have TSA Precheck

If we are being dropped off at the airport, we generally arrive one hour before our flight. Yet, if we are parking our own car, we make sure we arrive a minimum of an hour and 20 minutes ahead of our flight so we can get to the Fast Park & Relax, shuttle over there and breeze through TSA Precheck.

We should mention that we have TSA Precheck through Global Entry, which means that we can get through airport security in about 5 minutes at RDU. We’ve never, ever had to wait for more than 10 minutes, max, to get through TSA Precheck at RDU airport. (We should also mention we got Global Entry for free through our Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card that gives us amazing travel rewards.)

RDU Arrival Time Info if you are Going Through Regular Security

Allow for a little over one hour to get through security and get to your gate if you’re being dropped off at the terminal. If you are parking your car, allow for an hour and a half to park your car, get to the terminal, check baggage if needed, and get to the gate for domestic flights.

The line for the normal security moves fairly quickly, but allot at least 15 minutes for that if not 20 to be on the safe side. (And more during peak travel times, just in case.)

What Time to Arrive to RDU if you Have an International Flight

No matter how you slice or dice it, RDU is a mid-size airport. Some would even say “small” compared to JFK in NYC or Atlanta’s international airport (which is huge). It’s certainly a bigger airport than that of a city like Charleston, SC.

Direct International flight from RDU, Abroad

That being said, if you have a direct international flight we advise arriving 2 hours before the flight. This is not because the airport is large and you need to allow for time to walk to your terminal. Rather, it’s because the desk you need to check into and show your passport may have a long time. So you’ll need at least 30 minutes for the airline desk in the case of an international flight.

Indirect Internation Flight, from RDU through another Connecting US Airport, then Abroad

If you are connecting through another airport to your final international destination – as we did for our Danube River Cruise when we flew from RDU to JFK, to then fly to Amsterdam in The Netherlands – you want to arrive at least an hour and a half before the flight if you’re checking luggage.

While we’re tempted to say an hour is fine if you’re connecting to your final international destination through another airport and RDU is simply your starting point, there have been times we’re grateful we had an hour and a half.

Here is why: We always carry on our luggage but we have flown from RDU, connecting to an international flight (in other words, that wasn’t direct from RDU – we flew to another U.S.A. airport and connected to Spain from there) and we still had to wait for someone at the desk to check us in. We weren’t able to do so at the ticket kiosk machines. So we had to wait…and wait…to the tune of 25 minutes. It’s a good thing we had time to wait because we arrived early enough to account for the time!

Where to Go for Your Gate Once you’re Through Security at RDU Airport

Walking through Terminal 2, where most airlines fly from with the exception of Southwest at RDU, is simple. All the terminals are in one straight line through the airport so where you need to walk is literally straightforward. (Terminal 1 gates are in a straight line too.)

If you’re leaving from Terminal 2, you’ll either walk to your gate in the “C” section or in the “D” section. When you pass through security and go down the escalator to the gates, one is to the left and one is to the right.

Top Rated Hotels by RDU Airport

Here are a few hotels within 5 to 6 miles of RDU airport. Many hotels provide free shuttles to the airport.

Marriott family of hotels:

Hilton family of hotels:

Restaurants near Raleigh Durham Airport

If you’re looking for a bite near the airport, here are some of our favorite options in Morrisville, Durham, and Raleigh, all within 10 to 15 minutes’ driving time to the airport.

Quick Service Restaurants Near RDU Airport

  • Farmside Kitchen: Local quick service restaurant that’s a little bit like Chop’t salads and bowls, made with local ingredients.
  • Yin Dee: Delicious Thai and Lao food, including soups, rice bowls, noodles and assorted appetizers. They have one of our all-time favorite warm soups in the whole Raleigh and Durham area.
  • ItsAWrap, Vietnamese Eatery: Vietnamese inspired bao buns, rice bowls and vermicilli noodle bowls.
  • Fount Coffee + Kitchen: Light and airy coffee shop with lattes, kombucha, salads, fruit bowls, small plates and toasts.
  • Bruegger’s Bagels: There’s a Bruegger’s Bagels inside Terminal 2 at RDU, but if you want to pick some up before you go to the airport there is one nearby on Surles Ct. in Durham.
  • Sheetz: This is a chain gas station with a convenience shop inside. It has a ton of food options and made-to-order food too. It’s right next to the airport, at 1600 Aviation Pkwy, Morrisville.
  • Chipotle: A trusty, reliable friend. It’s a quick-service chain that sells Mexican-inspired burritos and rice bowls. The location closest to the airport is on Page Road.

Sit Down Restaurants near RDU

  • G58 Cuisine: Asian cuisine in an upscale restaurant with great entree presentation and white tablecloths.
  • Page Road Grill: American bar, with burgers, fries, salads and the like.
  • LuluBangBang: Pan-Asian street food and Tiki Drinks in a lovely atmosphere. (It’s delicious!)
  • Carmen’s Cuban Cafe & Lounge: We love Cuban food and this is a great option if you’re near the airport and need some plantains, rice and beans in your life!
  • Peng’s Asian Cuisine: Traditional American Chinese cuisine, in a casual sit down restaurant.
  • Babymoon Cafe: Italian pastas, sandwiches, and pizzas.
  • Los Tres Magueyes: Mexican food with an extensive menu.
  • Hummus Cafe: Mediterranean food, with kabobs, salads, gyros and more.
  • Dharani: Traditional Indian cuisine with buffet and additional menu options.

Additional FAQs for RDU Airport in Raleigh and Durham

Is there Wifi at RDU airport?

There is and it’s free and easy to access from inside the terminals.

Is there any shopping at RDU airport?

There is! Most of the good shopping (in our opinion) is in Terminal 2. It has local shops, like Root & Branch which sells a variety of things including North Carolina items, and a WRAL Travel Store (WRAL is our local news station). There is a Swarovski jewelry store, a Vineyard Vines shop, a TripAdvisor store and more.

What are the pet facilities like at RDU?

Pets need to be crated at the airport. But honestly, we’ve seen them walking on a leash at the airport. However, according to the rules, they should be crated.

There isn’t a pet relief area inside; animals need to be walked for peeing and pooping outside.

What time does the airport open?

The airport is open 24/7. However, the shops and ticket counters close. Breakfast locations in the terminals open between 4:30am and 6:00am.

How can we get between Terminals 1 and 2 at the airport?

You can either take the free shuttle bus or walk the five to ten-minute walk between the two.

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Mikkel is co-owner and editor of Sometimes Home and Sometimes Sailing along with her husband, Dan. She is a professional photographer in addition to writing about their travel adventures to encourage and motivate others to book their next trip and explore the world.

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