Early morning flight survival is a fine art. When I first started traveling over 4 years ago, I didn’t know just how early some flights can be scheduled. I also wasn’t aware as to how much time I would need in the airport before my flight was due to leave.
It wasn’t until my semester in Europe that I took my first 6am flight, and it was a domino effect from there. Did I love getting up at 3am every other Friday? Nope. But did I love snagging that $15 plane ticket to another country? Yes, yes, YES!
Over time, I’ve finely tuned my own routine for getting up when it’s time to take a flight before sunrise. These 7 steps are what work best for me. Obviously, do what works for you! But, if you’re new to the whole insanely early flight situation, or you’ve missed more flights than you’d like to admit, then try these out! They’ve made a world of difference for me.
1 // don’t just set one alarm. set 20.
Some people can wake up from the first alarm. I am not one of those people. And when the stakes are especially high with my wake-up call, I need extra reinforcements for my extra reinforcements. Ya know?
So, if I know I need to be up 100% by 3:30am, then I’ll set alarms for every two minutes starting at about 3:15. That way, I know for certain I’ll get up.
2 // don’t drink coffee yet!
I know, I know. This one sounds counterintuitive. But, if you’re anything like me, then the thought of missing your flight induces quite a bit of anxiety. Anxiety + caffeine = disaster.
Because I know myself and my limits, I don’t have a cup of coffee at that 3am wakeup call. Instead, I wait until I’m already through security at the airport, which is my sweet spot of time that I know I’ll be able to relax.
3 // have 99% of your packing done
This one right here is key to early morning flight survival. Why? Because if you’re not almost completely packed, you’ll be running around the morning of and trying to get everything you need. If you need to pick some things up from the store, do it two days before your flight. That way, you won’t be out until late the night before. This may seem obvious, but I speak from experience…
When I pack my carry-on and personal item, I make sure that all my clothes, shoes, makeup, toiletries, and tech are packed. The only exceptions are things I’ll wear the next day, which I choose the night before, and the things I’ll need the morning-of. Usually, those things are my toothbrush, phone charger, and contact case.
4 // make a morning checklist
Now that 99% of your things are packed, the only few things left are what you’ll use the morning of the flight. Put these items on a checklist in a notes page on your phone! And make sure it’s a real checklist, the one where you have to tap the circle on your notes page and a checkmark pops up. If there’s anything else that needs to be done the morning-of, then I put that down, too.
My morning checklist has saved me so many times that I’ve lost count. This checklist is so easy to make, provides so much in return, and has been a staple on my early morning flight survival routine for at least two years. If you’re not doing this already, start!
5 // check security wait times
My beloved home airport, Nashville International, or BNA, has security wait times easily accessible online. Surely yours does, too. If the airport you’re flying out of offers this, then check it. You may have more time than you thought, especially if you’re only carrying on.
However, don’t count on the lines being short just because it’s 4am. When I flew to the Dominican Republic, my flight boarded at 4:50am and the security line was pretty long for that ghastly time of day! On the other hand, this most recent early flight I took yesterday morning to Chicago had a wait time of less than 5 minutes at BNA security. There was no line.
It really is a toss-up, so check when you wake up to have an idea of what your wait time will be.
6 // know in advance your transport options
Are you coming from home? Are you in a different destination? What country or city are you in? At what time does their public transportation shut off? These are the questions to ask if you’re going to make that early morning flight.
For example, when I’m at home, my mom is gracious enough to drop me off at 4:30am. If I’m in another country, sometimes there’s a 24-hour airport bus like in Edinburgh, or I can take the night bus like I did multiple times in Barcelona. Use Google Maps to see what routes are available at the specified time, because you can’t count on regular metro service for early morning times.
7 // set aside rest time in the middle of your day
Even if you follow steps 1 through 6 to a tee, you’ll be exhausted around 2 or 3pm. Yesterday, I crashed in the afternoon after being up for 12 hours already. If you can, I highly recommend setting aside time specifically for you to relax. If not, it is inevitable and will just ruin your planned itinerary if you don’t.
I used to really underestimate this aspect of traveling on the first flight out, but it’s how my body always reacts to flying so early. Maybe yours doesn’t. But I think anyone would benefit from setting aside that time, because you just can’t know until you do it 20 times.
That’s it for this survival guide! How many early morning flights have you taken? Do you prefer it to flying later? I’m conflicted, but I know I’ll take plenty more for the price alone. Peace, love, and happy flying!
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