Towards the end of last year, I wrote about how I was dealing with travel burnout. How many weekends away, squeezing in city breaks had finally taken their toll on my travel enthusiasm and my health. It was a bittersweet post to write in many ways – sad that my habits had all but ruined some of my passion for travel, but happy that I had made the realisation and could change my habits.
For now, I’m trying hard to put things in place that allow me to travel slowly, deeply and with no stress. This means taking flights at more convenient times so I don’t have to hightail it to the airport for a 6am flight. But it doesn’t mean I’m not totally experienced in managing those flight times – to the contrary, I’m a bit of an expert now.
This is for two reasons – often, they are the cheapest flights and budget airlines reserve their best prices for the less convenient times to travel. Secondly, I work full time so maximising my time at the destination and not at the airport is very important to me.
Want to get better at surviving early morning flights? Here are my top tips.
1. Pack the night before
If you got to dash to the airport early, it stands to reason that you need to be as prepared as possible. Using the line of thought that packing your gym bag the night before means you are more likely to get up and exercise, getting your shit together means you’ll have a less stress morning before your flight.
Genuinely, who wants to be up in the small hours searching for the plug adaptor, your mini toiletries and dare I say it, your passport? The same goes for charging anything that needs to be charged, gathering your tickets together and making sure you yourself can roll out of bed and roll to the terminal. I do things like wash my hair the night before to give me those all important few extra minutes in bed.
Leave your perfectly packed luggage by the front door and et voila! You are good to go without an extra moments thought.Getting up early to make your flight may seem like a good idea, but how do you survive them?Click To Tweet
2. Check in in advance, and go with hand luggage only
If you are utilising an early morning flight in order to make the most of a weekend city break, you’ll be able to get away with just packing hand luggage. Don’t be like I was a few years back – taking a big suitcase that had to be checked in just beacuse I couldn’t be bothered to get my head around the liquid rules on flights. As soon as I actually did that and started taking hand luggage only, things got so much easier for me.
Not only did I not have to spend precious moments waiting for my bags to come out (meaning I’d be more likely to squeeze in an afternoon nap later on), I could just roll into the airport, through security and on to the place like a boss. No more trying to get the airport 2 hours before. Hello extra minutes in bed.
The same goes for checking in in advance. To be honest most budget airlines do force your hand here as they charge you extra to do it at the airport, but do take advantage of this and make sure you have your boarding pass printed out or loaded on to your phone.
3. Book an airport hotel the night before
Perhaps a little left field if you have chosen to fly early for budget reasons, but hear me out. If you reason for surviving early morning flights is to make the most of your time spent away, this little trick can have you glorious refreshed and good to go for even a 6am departure.
Most large airports have hotels that connect right into the terminal, meaning you are just minutes from security when you wake. Added to this that many throw in parking offers to sweeten the deal, it means less faffing around in the morning, and a guaranteed good nights sleep not worrying about transport to the airport.
I stayed in at the Radisson Blu Hotel at Stansted Airport before my recent 6am flight to Madrid, and as well as a really nice hotel connected to the terminal, it included 4 nights parking within the price which meant it worked out to be a great deal.
4. Know the airport you are visiting inside out
I am now a regular passenger at Stansted Airport, but when flying recently from Heathrow and Luton, I have to admit I found it confusing. Where were the places I liked to visit before a flight? The toilets? The obligatory Starbucks pre-flight? It meant I spent precious minutes working out where everything was located as opposed to taking a seat and chilling out after a very early start.
Every airport has a website and it will detail what shops are available before and after security as well as a map for you to use. Familiarising yourself with that means that you can make a beeline for your favourite place without any stress.
5. Prioritise food and drink over duty free
Controversial I know, but when I’m going on a weekend city break and I have a very early morning flight I ignore everything apart from food and drink. They make you walk through duty free for a reason, but I keep my head down and stride purposefully through ignoring all the booze, perfumes and cosmetics. And I do this for good reason.
It’s early and I need sustenance.
Whether that’s a proper coffee, a croissant or something more substantial it’s more important to keep myself sustained than buy a new lipstick (as tempting as it is). I usually head to Pret for a flat white, something for breakfast and a bottle of water, which is much better than most budget airlines will end up serving you.
Things to make sure you have sorted before you step into the terminal to save you time include travel money, toiletries (I’m always forgetting dry shampoo) and something to read inflight. Who wants to queue for these things anyway?
Do you have any tips and tricks for surviving early morning flights? Please share in the comments because I have a long list of places to visit and not much time to do it in! Don’t forget to check out all my city break guides for excellent tips and tricks on how to have a great value weekend away!