Travelers have limited options during an airport layover — they can grab a bite to eat in an overpriced restaurant, pay to enter an airline lounge or wait for their flight in the gate area. But during long layovers at Los Angeles International Airport, I leave the airport entirely and visit one of the world’s most popular locations for airplane spotters — the In-N-Out Burger on Sepulveda Blvd.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 flying over In-N-Out Burger restaurant. Image courtesy
Photo courtesy Gunnar Kullenberg/Flickr.

A trip to In-N-Out Burger is always a good idea. I order a Double Double, fries and a milkshake. If I’m really hungry, I might spring for something from the “secret” menu, a 3×3, which has three hamburger patties and three slices of American cheese. It’s filling and very delicious!

Fast food meal on a picnic table outside; airplane landing in the background.

The real reason I go to this particular In-N-Out Burger location isn’t for the grub, but to watch airplanes land at Los Angeles International Airport. In-N-Out Burger is located on Sepulveda Boulevard, which passes alongside one of the airport’s boundaries.

From the parking lot of the burger joint, you can watch airplanes of all sizes land on runways 24R and 24L at LAX. Due to its proximity to the runway, In-N-Out is a popular spot for airplane spotters and photographers. Check out some of these landings that I have captured on video:

It’s an amazing experience, to hear the roar of the engines, the sound of air passing over the wings, and the squeal of the rubber meeting the runway. Since I am an aviation geek, the experience there is much more fun than twiddling my thumbs in the airport terminal.

I have been taking this field trip during layovers for well over a decade. In the days before I became disabled, getting to In-N-Out Burger during a layover was easy — I would hop on the free shuttle to The Parking Spot, which is located right next to the restaurant. Unfortunately, the company figured this out, and you can only ride the shuttle if you have parked a vehicle there. The shuttle isn’t wheelchair accessible anyway.

These days, I request a wheelchair taxi at LAX. The ride, although short, costs between $10 and $15, and I can be there in about 5 minutes. Getting a taxi back to the airport can take a bit of time, sometimes up to 30 minutes — so don’t make this trip on a short layover. You’ll have to go through the security screening process again once you return to the airport. Since I have Global Entry, which offers expedited screening in airports, I’m generally cleared in a minute or two.

What’s better – waiting for hours in a loud, jam-packed airport terminal or going on a small adventure? I take the adventure, and manage to bring home a few awesome plane spotting photos to show off to my friends!

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