Neurotransmission is critically dependent on the number, position, and composition of receptor proteins on the postsynaptic neuron. Of these, α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid receptors (AMPARs) are responsible for the majority of postsynaptic depolarization at excitatory mammalian synapses following glutamate release. AMPARs are continually trafficked to and from the cell surface, and once at the surface, AMPARs laterally diffuse in and out of synaptic domains. Moreover, the subcellular distribution of AMPARs is shaped by patterns of activity, as classically demonstrated by the synaptic insertion or removal of AMPARs following the induction of long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD), respectively. Crucially, there are many subtleties in the regulation of AMPARs, and exactly how local and global synaptic activity drives the trafficking and retention of synaptic AMPARs of different subtypes continues to attract attention. Here we will review how activity can have differential effects on AMPAR distribution and trafficking along with its subunit composition and phosphorylation state, and we highlight some of the controversies and remaining questions. As the AMPAR field is extensive, to say the least, this review will focus primarily on cellular and molecular studies in the hippocampus. We apologise to authors whose work could not be cited directly owing to space limitations.