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