Unlike @mstares I have no experience of the FRIAT enclosure, which I imagine gives some extra flexibility, but I can answer from the perspective of a normal ticket holder. I've always tried to be parked up by around 6:30am (gates open at 7:30) to stand a chance ot getting a good spot. Expect to crawl bumper-to-bumper down the smaller country lanes, but the traffic isn't too bad at that point. If you're taking the bus, departures from Swindon start at 6:30am and, like Mark, I found arriving 15-20 minutes before that was early enough to be on one of the first buses (there won't be many train arrivals at that point, especially on Sunday, so you're mainly competing with other people staying around the bus station).RyanS wrote: ↑Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:12 pmSo what is a good time to show up in the morning, and when would one have to leave by? For an enthusiast, so pretty much first in last out.Adam wrote: ↑Sun Aug 02, 2020 2:41 pm I think the bottom line is that while traditional hotel accomodation within a half-hour drive of Fairford is hard to come by for a reasonable price, if you can stay further afield or if you're willing to stay somewhere a bit less conventional, there are still some feasible and affordable options for smaller groups/individuals just a few weeks before the show.
The flying display usually finishes at around 5pm and I don't imagine you'd want to leave before that point. I've generally left at around 6-ish and the event staff do start pointing people towards the exits not long after that. If you're camping or staying in the local area this is all fairly reasonable, but just be aware that if you drift further away in search of cheaper hotels, you're looking at some seriously long days. I've done RIAT from the St. Albans (north London) area a few times for a single day, which has required a 4am wake-up and 9pm return home - that wouldn't be much fun for three or more days in a row.
On that point, if you do stay further away, there are a quite a few coach companies which run a special airshow service from several major towns and cities, and which look very tempting. Don't take one of these!! A friend of mine took one from Plymouth a few years back and was called back to the bus 2 hours before the flying display ended! Because of the (previously unpublished) bus departure time, he had to miss a quarter of the show! Similarly, you might not want to plan on taking the train into Swindon from your chosen place of accomodation and then take the bus from there. This will work fine on Fridays and Saturdays if you're on one of the very first trains, but on Sunday the trains don't start running until around 8:30am. I don't know what the shuttle bus queue is like at that point, and I don't particularly want to find out, but I'd say your chances of getting in before the flying starts are uncomfortably small.
Arrivals days are different, as Mark says, and it also depends where you're watching from. Again, I have no experience of the FRIAT enclosure but I have used both Park & View enclosures. Park & View East gets very busy and you'll probably want to arrive at about 7am, half an hour before gates open. Park & View West is much less crowded, but the trade-off is that you'll probably see less, as many aircraft turn off the runway long before reaching you if they're landing on R27 (which they usually are). I thought this was a gamble worth taking and I spent most of the time in West, which I don't regret for a second. I also observed that there were still some good spots up for grabs all through the day, so you could probably turn up any time and still get a decent view. Both Park & View enclosures close at 5:30pm on arrivals days and 4:30pm for departures, but once you're on-site you'll have a fairly good idea of what's expected to happen during the day, and when. Some days we stayed until the bitter end, and other days we felt we'd seen all the good stuff and were out by 4.