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Tips for Early Morning and Late Night Flights

When you're planning air travel, one of your primary considerations is when to schedule your flight. Whether you're taking a vacation, traveling with your family, flying solo, or traveling for business, it's important to find the flight time that best meets your needs.

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01Why early or late flights?

milky way over the cloud at sunset time, twilight, with view from window of plane during the flight to France for travel and relax K'Nub / Getty Images

Unless you're a confirmed morning person, you probably don't enjoy waking up at dawn or even earlier. Since you generally have to get to the airport 2 hours before a flight, a 6 AM flight might mean waking up at 3 AM or staying up until 3 AM. Late-night flights present another set of challenges. For these, you have to hope you can catch a few hours of sleep on the plane, not always an easy task. Yet, there are many instances when either early or late flights make sense. Here are some of the pros and cons of boarding your flight either very early or very late.

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02Pro - cost savings

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You can often save money on flights that are very early in the morning. The same is true for late-night or overnight flights. Flight prices are based on many factors, of course. However, if you search, you'll often find that the best deals are found on flights that are either very early or red-eyes.

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03Con - comfort

Tired caucasian men and women sleeping on seats while traveling in a commercial airplane. wavemovies / Getty Images

It's not exactly fun to scramble to the airport in the middle of the night. If you or anyone in your family hates getting up very early or staying up very late, catching such a flight simply may not be worth the discomfort.

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04Pro - one less night in a hotel

Business class air passenger Jeremy Horner / Getty Images

An overnight flight can replace a hotel stay. If you're on a tight budget, a red-eye flight can be an alternative to spending an extra night at a hotel. Essentially, you're using the plane as your accommodations for the night.

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05Con - jet lag

A photo of tired male and female resting on bed. Low section of tourists with backpacks in hotel room. They are on vacation. Portra / Getty Images

If you're traveling a very long distance, the convenience factor may not apply. For example, if you're going from the US to Asia or Australia, calculating time zone and minimizing jet lag gets more complicated.

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06Pro - what traffic jam?

Low angle view of two businesspeople walking in airport parking lot with trolley bags izusek / Getty Images

Traffic to the airport is generally light, very early or late. This can make it less stressful to get to the airport, whether you're taking a taxi, rideshare, shuttle bus, or rental car. This is of particular relevance for larger airports in major cities.

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07Con - you'll be sleepy

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Early or late flights can leave you feeling drained. An overnight flight

generally leaves you miserable if you're unable to sleep on the plane. This can, to some extent, undermine the advantage of arriving at your destination at a convenient hour.

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08Pro - shorter security screening times

Passengers going trough security check at the airport. Ziga Plahutar / Getty Images

Depending on the airport, you may be able to get through check-in and security faster at these times.

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09Con - BYOB

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: A view inside a quiet Terminal 5 departure lounge at Heathrow Airport on April 15, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. The airport expects 90% fewer passengers compared to April last year, as governments continue to advise against non-essential travel due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Heathrow has prioritised cargo traffic and closed one of its two runways. Richard Heathcote / Getty Images

At smaller airports, services may not be available late at night. You may not be able to get a meal, snack, or anything you need last minute for example.

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10Pro - time saved

A group or children and adults embark on an adventure in the sun. The focus is on the little boy who runs infront of the others in the group. He is filled with excitement and joy as he approaches the destination. Space for copy. Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty Images

You can often arrive at your destination at a convenient hour. If you're going on vacation, you have more time to check into your hotel and explore. If you're heading home, you get to return at a normal hour.

 

Statistics show that early flights are less likely to be delayed or canceled and more likely to arrive on time. Whatever the reasons for this may be, it's another argument in favor of choosing such a flight.

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11Tips for choosing the optimal flight time

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While we've looked at some general considerations, you really need to carefully consider your circumstances to decide which flight time is right for you.

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12Shop for the best deal

Hand holding airplane hand drawn on a piece of paper over travel photos from many destinations around the world (I am the author/photographer and copyright owner of all the photos shown in this image) The castle on the right is Cittadella medieval city in the province of Padua, Italy On the left is Lisbon Oriente Station, Portugal Warchi / Getty Images

As noted, early morning or late-night flights are often the most reasonable. This isn't always the case, though. You may have to do some research to find the best deals. It's best if you're flexible about airports and even dates.

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13Consider your appointments and commitments

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You may have specific needs that make it necessary to book flights at a certain time. If you're planning to attend an event or meeting, it's best to leave some extra time for delays. In such cases, very early or late flights might make it easier for you to reach your destination on time. Another factor that might alter your plans is the need to catch a connecting flight.  What might seem like a convenient flight time may be less than ideal if you have a 6-hour layover in a city you have no desire to visit. Often, very early or late flights work out well for connecting flights but not always.

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14Factor in time zones

Clocks showing time differences Matthias Kulka / Getty Images

Going through time zones can make quite a difference to your travel experience. For example, consider flights between New York and London, where there's a 6-hour time difference. Let's say you leave New York at 6 AM local time. Assuming 8-hours of flying time, you'll arrive in London at approximately 7 PM local time. Going the opposite way, if you left London at 6 AM local time, you'd be in New York at around 9 AM, which is nice as you gain some hours. Either way, be sure to consider time zones when planning your flights.

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15Adjust your schedule before the day of your flight

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If you're going to be getting up very early, for example, get up close to the same early hour for a couple of days ahead. Making such adjustments can also help you avoid jet lag when you land.

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16Bring gear to help you sleep

Happy and tired young woman comfortably sleeping with mask and pillow in airplane. Sophisticated traveler concept frantic00 / Getty Images

A neck pillow, eye mask, a blanket, and noise-canceling headphones can make it easier to catch some shuteye on a red-eye. If you're traveling with kids, don't forget their favorite toys or stuffed animals.

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17Consider an upgrade

Casually dressed middle aged man working on laptop in aircraft cabin during his business travel, while looking through window at landmark Eiffel tower. ljubaphoto / Getty Images

For long flights, it really makes a difference to have some extra legroom and other amenities. Sometimes, you can upgrade for a surprisingly reasonable price. Or perhaps you have some air miles saved up.

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18Sleep aids help

Young man with neck pillow resting and sleeping on an airplane. wavemovies / Getty Images

You could take an over-the-counter sleep aid such as melatonin.

These are some of the points to consider for your next early or late flight. When this happens, plan ahead so you can adjust as smoothly as possible.

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