Those that are not in the know, generally opt for the smallest, least expensive rental car they can find while visiting Bozeman, MT. Those of us who live here, would never recommend anyone to rent a motorized roller-skate and this is why: a head-on collision with an elk. If you do get in an accident in a rental car here in Montana, chances are it will be with an animal- and we have BIG animals. A bull elk, like the one that caused this damage weighs about 700 pounds. Can you imagine what would have happened if these people had rented a compact car to save a few dollars?
Cheaper car rentals are not always better here in Montana!
We love the Bozeman Airport and give much respect to the way it is operated. Typically, we recommend guests to show up at the airport 1-hour prior to their departure of their domestic flight. This being said, we have heard some horror stories that will be mentioned later.
If you will be arriving via airport shuttle or off-airport rental car agency, you will be dropped off right outside of departures terminal. Typically, if you are in a private shuttle or with one of the off-airport rental car agencies, they will even help you with your bags right up to your airline counter.
If you have rented a car from an on-airport rental car company, we recommend dropping your family and luggage off at the departures terminal then doing a ‘lap’ around the airport back to the rental car returns parking lot. Departures and the rental car returns area are about a half-mile walk. Not a big deal in the summer, but when it is -4 degrees in winter and you have screaming kids, this is an unpleasant experience.
If you are a local and need to park a vehicle at the airport there are two options. Bozeman airport offers on-site parking. ‘Premium’ is $10 per day, ‘Economy’ is $7 per day. There is a new company who is offering discounted off-airport parking, Bozeman Park and Shine. Listed prices are $4/ per day $100/ month. They also offer very reasonable car cleaning services.
Once you have dealt with your rental car or shuttle service, head to your respective counter for check-in/ baggage drop. Typically our counter attendants for all airlines are extremely pleasant, real people. Rarely do we witness the superiority complex and attitude found in larger airports. Then again, even our DMV in Bozeman is hosted by nice people. Treat them with respect and you will be treated the same.
Once you drop off your bags, or if you have pre-printed your boarding pass, head upstairs to proceed through security. This is where things will likely slow down. TSA for Bozeman Airport can be painfully slow and deliberate. Fortunately, the volume of people they process isn’t large so you can still get through in a timely manner, just be forewarned the will want to bomb-scan your bag, frisk each individual, make you take your shoes off, etc. TSA is the only downfall of the airport, and to our latest knowledge BZN has been looking to outsource this role.
Once you are through security the worst is over. There is a small cafe inside departures where you can get an overpriced coffee and stale bagel. Fortunately, we rarely have delays on departing flights so most likely you will soon be on your way back home.
We find that many travelers arriving and departing Bozeman Airport (BZN) are not adjusted/ used to using such a small and personable airport. Arrival to BZN is very straight forward; follow the signs and head towards baggage claim and ‘Arrivals’. We do not have separate terminals/ buildings- just one big one. Enjoy the bronze goose sculptures, the ‘Big Bear’. and the cast tyrannosaurus Rex skull. Additionally, the Yellowstone Association, a non-profit conservation group has an excellent information area/ kiosk. The majority of the workers in the store are passionate volunteers and are more than happy to provide as much information as possible about the park. Purchasing a membership not only goes to help preserving Yellowstone, but also offers significant savings on Park Services.
Although luggage is typically released quickly, sometimes it takes a LONG time. Check out some of the free rack cards of mostly non-pertinent information. These are paid for spaces, and just because a provider has a card there does not mean they are the best. Be wary and do a little review research before booking anything- especially some of the fly fishing guides. The abundant Discovery Maps are a great resource.
Be wary of the cafe and gift shop at arrivals. These stores are horrendously overpriced in order to pay the airports concession fee. Think $9 for a piece of reheated frozen pizza. You are better off waiting a couple of minutes or using the water fountain (underneath escalators along with restrooms).
If you are renting a car from an on-airport provider (Hertz, Enterprise, Thrifty, etc) it is recommended that one person waits for the bags while another person goes and collects the rental car as the rental car kiosk lines can often be long as well. The airport car rental agency’s kiosks are at the far western side of the building. With your back facing the baggage carousels, turn left and keep walking till you run out of building. Once your rental car is collected you can pull forward, hopefully finding a parking spot, while your family takes the luggage outside to arrivals. Or, you can walk with the family to the rental car parking lot. Just be warned, it is far.
If you have opted for a) a shuttle/ taxi or b) an off-airport rental car agency they will meet you at the base of the escalators as you head towards baggage claim with placard. Whether it is your shuttle to Big Sky, taxi to Bozeman, or rental car- these off-airport concessionaires have dedicated parking lanes outside of the arrivals terminal. If your concessionaire is not parked in the Karst Stage, shuttle lane, or taxi lane be wary as they are probably not an authorized airport sanctioned company. Concessionaires to Bozeman Airport are all required to charge their customers additional airport fees. Shuttles and taxis range from $2.00 per person and car rentals 10% additional airport fee.
If you are able to find transport to one of the off-airport rental car agencies, like Phasmid or TRAC, you will be able to save the 10% concession fee. Very beneficial if you are renting a vehicle for an extended period of time. Hint: both of these companies offer free pick-up service at hotels and around the greater Bozeman area, and many of the hotels offer free shuttle service.
There are no regular buses between the airport and Bozeman. There is a scheduled service via Karst Stage to Big Sky, West Yellowstone, and Mammoth Hot Springs. As mentioned in BZN ground transportation article, there is not a taxi stand at BZN- so all of your travel arrangements departing the airport need to be made in advance.
First and foremost, book in advance. Car rentals at Bozeman Airport can be extremely expensive during peak times. The above search is for a Premium SUV December 22 – January 3, 2012. As you can see, SUV rentals command an extremely high price in Bozeman. At this time, economy car rentals were $100/ day as well. The moral of the story- book in advance. Options 2; think outside of the Big Box. We checked with the off-airport rental car companies, and although they were almost completely booked out, Toyota Rent-A-Car had a 2012 Sequoia for $120/ day and Phasmid Rentals had a 2012 Chevrolet Suburban z71 for $150/ day. Nobody likes wasting money on a rental car, so think in advance and if you forget to do that- think outside of the Big Box.
There are numerous options for visitors to begin their southwest Montana adventures, yet Bozeman Airport (Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport at Gallatin Field, BZN) continually stands as the most convenient and welcoming venue for visitors to arrive. BZN’s continually expanding direct flight destinations and expanding flight schedule are one of the fastest growing in the entirety of the US. Combined with a truly stunning facility built in 2012 and Montana hospitality, BZN is the perfect gateway for your Montana and Yellowstone vacation.
This unofficial site offers resources and information for visitors to the Bozeman area and the Bozeman airport. We simply hope that all visitors to Montana and Bozeman make the most out of their time, come back and visit us again, and tell their friends!
Information and resources for visitors to BZN, Bozeman, Big Sky, and Yellowstone