The winter break is fast approaching. School holidays, booked annual leave or just plain skiving, however you choose to get time off this winter, a getaway is needed by all. But winter travel can be a pain. Christmas time- in travel terms this runs from December 1st through to mid-January- is a busy period for airlines and airports, as people fly home and pick up loved ones daily. Escaping the humdrum of weekly work will not be as simple as closing your eyes, pointing to a map and saying, “there”. Planning is required. Accommodation, flights, transfers, and weather are all things to consider. And prices usually jump at this time of year because airlines are fully aware that travelling home for Christmas is an inevitability which they profit from. Although, it should be noted that companies like Vueling and RyanAir often advertise ‘flash sales’ that offer flights to countless European destinations for as little as £9.99 each way during December. These are deals that can’t be easily ignored, but they do come with some serious considerations. Most flights are between the hours of 10pm and 9am. This brings up the age-old travel debate- fly early or leave late. At Airport Angels, we aren’t worried when you travel; we’re a 24-hour service here to help you on your journey, regardless of what time you fly, but we do feel a sense of duty to tell you the pros and cons of flying at both times, and what to expect in the airport during these hours
1.Early flight pros
Taking off early has one obvious positives: landing at your destination mid-morning gives you plenty of time to explore. This is perfect for short trips as you’ll make the most of your time, a sentiment echoed in the Telegraph article, ‘Horribly early flights: Do they make or break a weekend getaway?’, in which Sally Peck writes, ‘Rather like staying up late for a good party, the point of a weekend away is to maximise this enjoyment in the allotted time. It is therefore counter-productive to leave late.’ Flying as the sun rises means nice views from the plane and an early arrival- giving you ample opportunity to party, play or fit in all the museum art your eyes can handle.
Traffic on the roads leading to airports is the reason we allow ourselves that extra half an hour when travelling. This is crucial to arrive on time as the unpredictability of British traffic does not take a break for holiday-goers. Airport Angels deal with taxis daily and the busiest times are during work hours and rush-hour. The M4 and M25 leading to Heathrow are constantly blocked or backed up because of an accident or sheer volume of vehicles. When travelling early this is usually avoidable; the roads are clear and that 3-hour hour drive can drop down to an even 2. Our taxi service runs all hours of the day, working with our team to provide efficient service, and they can vouch for the fact that the roads are less congested during these times.
Also, from an Airport Angels viewpoint, the airport terminals are easier to navigate during the early hours. Check-in procedures are smoother and queues are virtually non-existent. You can even get a lift to yourself on the odd occasion. Our chaperone service aims to make travelling through the airport the simplest process for travellers and early flights are ideal for this.
2. Early flight cons
You land. Get through security. Find a taxi. All is going smoothly, until you arrive at the hotel at midday to find your room won’t be ready until 3pm. This common problem is one negative of early flying. Hugh Morris, in the same article as Peck, writes, ‘you’ll likely arrive at the other side around lunchtime, so you find the hotel – oh, you can’t check in yet – better lug your bags around the city.’ Finding yourself without a room and stuck between staying and waiting, or leaving and exploring with cases, is a situation we all despise. It’s a sure-fire way to start an argument that is completely avoidable. Our solution is to contact the hotel before you arrive; let them know your arrival time and ask about storage lockers. Many hotels have storage spaces where you can stow away your bags prior to check-in. This means you can drop off your bags, start exploring, and sidestep a scuffle with your family.
The biggest gripe with flying early is that you’ll be tired for the first day of your trip; “Why get an 8am flight when I’ll need a nap as soon as I land?” Many believe that a lack of sleep can waste a day away. That day that you planned on making the most of. If you’re tired from the journey then the activities you had planned may seem unappealing or just outright unachievable- hiking on 2 hours’ sleep, no thanks. But one answer to this problem comes from Sally Peck. She writes ‘The way to make early flights work is to take a page from the toddler’s manual and sleep en route.’ Try to get some shut-eye on the plane, or in the taxi, and the early flight option may be one that works out for you.
3. Late flights pros
Much like catching an early flight, the roads are usually empty at these hours. However, arriving for a 9pm flight could result in travelling during rush-hour, depending on where you come from, so unlike the early flights, you are still likely encounter traffic. But you may be more equipped to deal with the traffic after having your late morning lay-in. A relaxed morning and gentle shuffle around the house before the trip paves the way for an easy journey to the airport ‘because you’re not sad and bleary-eyed from waking before the dawn of civilisation’, Morris writes. No 5am alarm. No dragging yourself out of bed. You’re well rested for the start of your trip, and this can set a cheerful tone for the rest of your travels.
Long-haul flights are more suited to the later hours. You may disagree if you’re one of those people who can’t sleep on transport, but overnight flights are perfect for catching some zzz’s, leaving you fresh for the morning after. “Catching the red-eye”, as Americans put it, allows you to sleep through the worst part of any holiday. Sally Peck comments that there are two parts to a trip, and one is far more important than the other: ‘there’s the travel, with which you should dispense quickly and efficiently; and then there is the main event: the enjoyment of the place.’ Applying this logic, an overnight long-haul flight allows you to make the most of your holiday and still avoid the dreaded flight. However, this practice is less applicable to short journeys as arriving late can cause problems, but we’ll get to that.
It’s no secret that airports are expensive. A sit-down breakfast is overpriced and a meal deal isn’t the fine dining option you’d hope to start your holiday with. Therefore, a late flight can help you save money, while treating yourself. Morris explains, ‘Put the kettle on, make yourself a cooked breakfast – you’re on holiday’, and this advice is perfect for pre-flight eating. Avoid the expensive full-English option in the terminals and eat in peace with your own family before your departure.
4. Late flight cons
On the other hand, we earlier mentioned that flying late can cause problems upon arrival. Landing in the evening leaves you with less time in your destination. The cheap flight you booked for 4 days in Spain quickly becomes 3 days once you’ve unpacked and had your dinner. Another problem is airport transfers. I was once stuck in Santorini Airport at 11pm with no affordable options for getting to my hotel. Some local taxi companies aim to exploit stranded travellers by hiking up their prices late at night- like the local cabbies do on weekends to take advantage of drunk partiers. The nightmare of paying out $80 euros for a 10-minute taxi ride can be dodged by pre-booking airport transfers with a reputable company. Just be aware of scammers if you forget to do this.
Another issue with late flights is that you’re hanging around all day waiting to fly. If you’re like us at Airport Angels, the excitement of touching down at your destination gets too much and we’re itching to get going. The countdown to your winter getaway is the worst part, and looking at the calendar increases the agitation as you’re praying for the days to pass until you board the plane. This con might be a stretch but most of us want to get going as soon as possible and flying in the evening means you’re stuck waiting for your holiday to begin.
That’s this week’s travel tips from Airport Angels. We hope our list of pros and cons can help settle your mind on what time you fly. We understand it’s a tricky decision to make but there are positives to both choices- go ahead and start booking! And if you need help with airport transfers this winter, we’ll always be around to help. Our team works all hours of the day, so it makes no odds to us when you fly. And unlike the airlines, our prices are fixed year-round, so you don’t have to worry about price jumps with us this winter. Contact us via our website, or on Twitter and Facebook for more information.