How early to arrive at Seatac: Early enough to shop

planewear seatac international airport seattle wa
Planewear at Concourse B. Photo: Jennifer Longley

Who started the whole “arrive two hours before your flight” thing, anyway? I don’t know about you, but I usually end up with plenty of extra time on my hands at any airport. As for Seatac International Airport, lately I’ve heard rumors that you’re supposed to go three hours in advance. Well, I’m here to tell you that you should plan extra time at Seatac. The local shopping experience is worth it in a big way!

Planewear

In Concourse B, you’ll find Seatac’s number one gem: Planewear.

Planewear is anything but plain. The vintage Pan Am merchandise will catch your eyes right off the bat, letting you know that this store is one of a kind.

In fact, Planewear is located ONLY at Seatac. Operated out of Enumclaw, this store offers high-quality local products, some of which are handmade.

In the words of owner Jennifer Longley, “Planewear is a must-stop shop for the avgeek and traveler looking to step back in time, with memories of aviation and travel when it was first class!” (An avgeek is an aviation geek, of course!)

I have found the staff at Planewear to be exceptionally friendly and informative. I can’t wait to return! Maybe I’ll even splurge on one of my favorite items, which include retro suitcases and vanity cases, pillbox hats, and Maverick jackets. I also plan to check out Longley’s sons’ brand-new bottled spring water, called Plane Water.

More shopping highlights

When facing the Central Terminal, or the main hub that you will be facing upon passing through security, Sub Pop will be found to the right. For all you non-locals, that’s a Sub Pop Records’ store. You’ve likely heard of Nirvana, The Shins, or The Postal Service. Well, all three bands were all signed with Sub Pop. Even at this airport location, there is an extensive collection of records, 45s, and CDs. If you love to drink, there’s beer cozies, pint glasses, and shot glasses galore. If you’re looking for a way to pass the time on your flight, grab The Rap Coloring Book.

For a Fuego-type experience, hit up Fireworks on the other side of the Central Terminal. You’ll find trinkets you never knew you needed, from the piano calculator to the Star Wars cookbook. I found my favorite local gift cards by Borealis Press in stock. Some pretty rad Blue Planet sunglasses were on display and I felt very tempted to buy them all…

If you’re on a layover and have never been to Seattle, it’s time to visit Made in Washington, located near Fireworks. Stop by to see if there’s anything that will make you return to visit. A peek inside this store is a quick way to figure out what Washington is all about. According to this store, that would include: coffee (of course), wine, orca whales, glass art, almond Roca, more chocolate, smoked salmon, Bing cherries, and huckleberries. Made in Washington has an additional location at the N Gates.

True local coffee experience

There’s always Starbucks, of course. But if you’re just passing through Seattle on a layover, here’s your chance to experience coffee like a local.

For true coffee connoisseurs, I highly recommend Caffe Vita at the C Gates. The roasts are exceptional. I love espresso with depth of flavor, so I often find myself going out of my way to get to the C Gates rather than just stopping by Starbucks. The best part about Caffe Vita is that you can choose exactly how your cup of joe will be brewed. Pour-over, French press….Need I go on?

Mocha-mad and latte loving? You won’t have to go to far. Right in the main area, you’ll find Dilletante. Don’t let the line intimidate you. Jump in it now! Dilletante is one of Seattle’s most famous chocolate companies, specializing in chocolate drinks. (Sorry, the chocolate martinis aren’t available at Seatac. You’ll have to go to Capitol Hill for those.)

Another great Starbucks alternative, Seattle’s Best, is among the most easy-to-drink coffee brands in existence. (I’ll give you a hint–at a time when I hated the taste and even smell of coffee, I could still drink Seattle’s Best.) I recommend the caramel mocha on a cold day! Seattle’s Best is located at the D and S gates.

Other highlights (or lowlights)

Duty free items are available toward the D Gates and in the S Gates.

Alcohol–For local beer, there’s Alaska Brewing Bar (Alaska beer is SO GOOD and so drinkable!) and Seattle Taproom. Anthony’s has a full bar, and of course there’s always Vino Volo.

Art display–In August, the display near Seattle Taproom in the A Gates featured Peal Jam posters, including the works of Brad Kausen, the Ames Brothers, and Ward Sutton. The exhibit was provided by the EMP (Experience Music Project) in Seattle. I thought the artwork was pretty cool! I look forward to seeing more upon returning to Seatac.

Great American Bagel–The hot bagels are great, but it’s best to skip the cold, prepared ones–even if you’re in a rush!

Hudson News in D Gates–I received terrible service here. If you could call it service. It was more like no service at all.

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