There are lots of perks to booking an early morning flight, from cheaper tickets to having longer to spend the first day of your holiday, but it can also be a challenge.
Everyone struggles with an early start, and some more than others will dread getting up at the crack of dawn (or before!) to make it to the airport on time.
Whether you’re a seasoned aviator or a first-time flyer, if you’re not a morning person it’s worth taking some time to prepare before you head off on holiday.
Here are some essential tips for early morning flights to help your travels go smoothly.
1. Get plenty of sleep
No matter how many early morning flying tips you follow, nothing beats a good night’s sleep.
Even if that means going to bed earlier than normal, say 9pm, making sure you’re well rested is the best way to help future you when you’re travelling in the morning.
You might have an alarm set for 4am (or even earlier!) but you’ll still want as close to 8 hours of sleep as possible.
So don’t procrastinate or lie in bed scrolling through your phone – go to sleep!
2. Pack the night before
While it may seem obvious, you should try to pack as much as possible the day before travelling.
Pack as much as possible, and lay everything else out on the floor so it’s all ready to go – anything you can do to reduce your chores in the morning will make it all go more smoothly after you’ve woken up.
The last thing you want to do is be racing around looking for a passport or wallet while you’re half asleep, so at the very least try and have everything all together.
If you’re planning a short getaway, check out our weekend away packing list to make sure you don’t forget anything vital.
3. Pre-plan your morning
Just as you should pre-pack the evening before travelling, try to plan out your morning as much as possible.
The main thing is to check how you’ll be getting to the airport. If you’re going by train, you’ll want to know they’re running okay, and if you’re getting a taxi you should consider pre-booking.
Think about everything else you’ll need in the morning, including everything necessary for the airport. Knowing where your passport and boarding pass it will help you sail smoothly through.
4. Leave plenty of time
While it can be tempting to lie in as long as possible before heading off, your early morning trip to the airport will be a whole lot worse if you’re in a rush.
You don’t want to be bleary-eyed and tired while rushing through traffic or waiting impatiently for a train, so give yourself time to help everything go smoothly.
Even if you don’t get quite as much sleep as you may like, it can be a lot more pleasant to enjoy a cup of coffee and do all your final checks before leaving home without the stress of rushing.
5. Stay at a hotel near the airport
In some cases, you might want to consider staying at an airport by the airport the night before your early morning flight.
This is particularly true if you’ve got a long journey to the airport – spending over an hour getting there isn’t very fun when you’ve just woken up.
It can be especially useful to get a hotel if you’re planned method of transport is looking unreliable, such as expected train delays.
Most airports will have a range of hotels close by, including some budget options.
6. Check your luggage restrictions
When it’s super early in the morning, you really don’t want to be unsure about whether your luggage is too big or heavy for the airline’s restrictions.
As part of your packing process and other pre-planning, make sure to double-check the size of your bags and weigh them too just to be sure.
It may sound obvious, but you’ll want to avoid being charged if you’re over the limit, and it could be something you forget when you’re in a rush after waking up early!
If you’re flying light, check out our guide on travelling with hand luggage only to make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible.
7. Don’t overeat
This is one for those who are susceptible to travel sickness, but avoid eating too much for breakfast as that could make your whole journey feel a lot worse.
Consider having something light (and quick) before leaving for the airport. I find a banana is enough to keep me going for a while.
Then, when you’re at the airport and past security, see how you feel. If you’re fine, enjoy a hearty breakfast, but if you’re a bit nauseous you should still try and have a bite to eat.
8. Keep up your energy levels
While you may not want to eat too much, as mentioned above, you also don’t want to be suffering with an empty stomach while waiting in long lines at security and before boarding.
Try to have a light bite to eat before travelling to the airport, and grab something while you’re there too. Even a dose of caffeine from a tea or coffee is better than nothing.
If you’re in a rush, one of our top early morning flying tips is to buy breakfast at the terminal and bring it onboard. This way, you can escape the high costs of inflight food while not needing to allow time to eat it at the airport.
Doubly important is to keep hydrated. While you can’t take a full bottle of water through security, you can still bring an empty bottle. Many airports now have refill stations, so you can get all the water you need and then bring it on board your flight.
9. Take anti-anxiety medicine
This is one for nervous flyers especially, and sometimes anxiety can be fuelled by travel sickness early in the morning, but don’t hesitate to bring some form of anti-anxiety medicine onto your flight.
There are several brands that sell specific medicines for nervous flyers, and these can often be bought off the shelf in pharmacies and other health shops.
The effects vary, from helping you sleep throughout the flight to simply keeping you calm. So, if other in-flight anti-anxiety tricks don’t help, try one out next time you fly.
10. Bring a travel pillow
If you’re short on sleep because you’ve had to get up early, your flight is the perfect opportunity to catch up on some rest.
Having a couple of hours of sleep while you’re in the air will mean that you can enjoy you’re first day in a new place feeling (relatively) refreshed, compared to if you hadn’t.
A travel pillow will make it a lot easier too, as some planes are especially uncomfortable.
You might even want to bring along an eye mask and earplugs if you really don’t want to be disturbed.
Early morning flying benefits
While it can be rather torturous getting up in the early hours of the morning and travelling to an airport to catch a flight, the benefits can certainly outweigh the cons. These are the main advantages:
- Lower airport crowds: Early morning flights tend to have fewer passengers compared to flights later in the day. This can result in shorter security lines, quicker check-in processes, and a generally more relaxed airport experience.
- On-time departures: Early morning flights are less likely to be delayed compared to later flights. Airports are generally less congested early in the day, reducing the chances of operational delays.
- Time efficiency: Early morning flights allow you to make the most of your travel day. By departing early, you arrive at your destination with the majority of the day still ahead, giving you ample time to explore, attend meetings, or settle into your accommodation. Essentially, you’ll have longer to enjoy your holiday.
- Opportunity for same-day business: If you’re travelling for business, an early morning flight allows you to reach your destination in time for same-day meetings or events, minimising the need for an overnight stay.
- Availability of amenities: Airports and airlines typically provide better service and more available amenities in the morning (at least compared to the evening). This includes a greater chance of securing your preferred seat, access to airport lounges, and a wider selection of in-flight meal options.
- More flight options: Airlines often schedule a variety of flight options in the early morning, providing greater flexibility for travellers to choose a departure time that suits their preferences and schedules.
- Avoiding afternoon and evening delays: Flights later in the day may be more susceptible to delays due to increased air traffic, weather changes, and other factors snowballing throughout the day. Choosing an early morning departure minimises the risk of such delays.
- Quieter travel experience: The airport and the airplane itself tend to be quieter in the early morning. This can make for a more peaceful and relaxed travel experience, particularly for those who prefer a quieter atmosphere.
- Possibility of lower fares: In some cases, early morning flights may be more affordable than flights during peak travel times. Airlines often offer lower fares to attract passengers to less popular departure times. Budget airlines especially will have their cheapest flights early in the morning.
Early morning flying FAQs
How early can you check in for a flight?
The specific check-in time varies between airlines and airports. Generally, airlines allow passengers to check in online 24 hours before the scheduled departure time.
However, some carriers may open check-in earlier. Make sure to check the airline’s policies and preferences for the most accurate information.
Can I check in online for an early morning flight?
Yes, most airlines allow online check-in for early morning flights. As mentioned earlier, online check-in typically opens 24 hours before departure.
This convenient option enables passengers to select seats, receive electronic boarding passes, and sometimes even drop off baggage at designated counters.
How early should you get to the airport?
Generally, you should aim to get to the airport no less than two hours before departure. We’d advise aiming for hours though, in case of delays getting there or a particularly busy wait at security.
What should you do if you miss your flight?
Missing a flight can be stressful, but there are steps to take in case it happens:
- Contact the airline: Inform the airline as soon as possible. They can provide guidance on available options, such as rebooking on the next available flight.
- Check ticket policies: Review the airline’s ticket policies. Some airlines may offer options for rebooking or standby travel, depending on the fare class.
- Consider travel insurance: If you have travel insurance, check the coverage for missed flights. Some policies may provide assistance or reimbursement for additional expenses incurred due to a missed flight.
- Visit customer service: Head to the airline’s customer service desk at the airport for in-person assistance. They can help explore alternatives and provide information on any associated fees.
- Explore alternative transportation: If necessary, consider alternative transportation options, such as trains or buses, especially if rebooking is not feasible or if time is of the essence.
Remember, it’s crucial to act as fast as possible, this will help the airline to explore the best possible solutions if you miss your flight.