Nothing ruins a vacation like arriving late.
The ship ain’t gonna wait because your flight got delayed. But how early should you fly to ensure you arrive on time for your cruise or tour? Follow these three flight tips, and you’ll never have to worry again.
1. Fly Direct
If you’re flying the same day as you cruise or tour starts, if at all possible, book a direct flight. The fewer connections you have to make, the less likely you are to run into trouble. So long as your flight takes off as scheduled, there’s no need to worry that you won’t arrive on time.
Pro Tip: There are handy-dandy apps that let you check the accuracy of your flight. They’ll tell you how often your flight takes off as scheduled. Check before you book your flight so you can rest easy knowing you’ll likely arrive on time.
2. Embrace a Long Layover
Sometimes, flight connections are inevitable. You may live in a place that doesn’t have a direct flight to your final destination. Or the cost of a direct flight might be prohibitive. There will be times when you simply can’t avoid taking several flights. If that’s the case, make sure you leave plenty of time between flights. You’re less likely to miss a connection if one flight is delayed if you have several hours to spare. Fewer that two hours between connections could spell disaster if you’re on a tight schedule. And try to book a flight that arrives well before your ship or bus departs. That will give you a bit of wiggle room if you find yourself held up on the runway for any reason.
Pro Tip: If possible, try to connect out of an airport that has regular flights to your final destination. That way, if your flight gets cancelled or severely delayed, there’s a better chance you’ll be able to catch another one.
On a recent cruise out of New York, I decided to take my chances on a same-day flight. The cruise ended on a Saturday, and I wanted to extend my stay at the end of the trip rather than the beginning. But I still took precautions to ensure I would arrive on time. First, I found a red-eye flight that departed just before midnight the night before my cruise set sail. I didn’t have the funds for a direct flight, so I found a connection with a four-hour layover. But I was still sweating bullets right up until we made our connection.
So why not arrive a day early and save myself the heartache? Well, an extra night in New York is a lot of money, so I weighed the pros and cons. The second flight was out of a major airport with plenty of other flights headed to New York should ours be canceled or delayed. I checked the flight history to see how often it arrives on time, and it was nearly perfect. Lastly, I made sure the flight arrived in New York early on the day of the cruise, affording us a bit of time to spare.
As one final precaution, I booked a transfer to the port through the cruise line, even though I could get it elsewhere for a little less money. Why, you ask? Well, you’re supposed to board a cruise no later than two hours before sailing. If something happened, and I arrived with less than the recommended time, I figured the cruise line would likely go the extra mile to help us get on board as quickly as possible.
3. Plan a City Break
Take an extra two or three days off at the start of your trip so you can spend some time in your port of departure. For international flights, you should fly in at least one day to guarantee you’ll arrive on time. It will also give you a chance to adjust your sleep pattern for the change in time zone. Not to mention it’s a great reason to extend your vacation.
When I went on a cruise to the Canary Islands last spring, our ship wasn’t scheduled to set sail until Wednesday. Following my own rules, in order to arrive a day early, I had to take the entire week of work. Since I already had the weekend off, I left after work on the Friday night. I arrived Saturday afternoon and spent three fun-filled days touring Barcelona.
What other tricks do you employ to make sure you arrive on time? Share them with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.