Sometimes, you’ve got to get up beyond early to get to the airport. As someone on the West Coast who flies back east for things like Gen Con, I have a choice between catching the earliest flight in the day and actually getting some relaxation time when I land, or catching a later flight and feeling like I’ve lost my whole day.
I always opts for the former, which means a 6am flight. or thereabouts. Here are some tips that have helped me survive around 40 such trips:
- Make a packing list the day or two before. Include everything, even the number of socks and underwear you’re planning on packing. Once you’re done, don’t pack right away. Go and do other stuff — you’ll likely remember something you forgot to put on the list as you do, and you’re more likely to remember that if you aren’t also processing the list at the same time. (I always forget business cards when I fight make the list.) I use Wunderlist for packing lists, among other things.
- Pack the evening before. It should go without saying. Not mere hours beforehand.
- If you can get at least six hours of sleep, try to. If you can’t, and you feel like by sleeping you might not get up in time, then I still advise that you try to “rest your eyes”, but in a different environment: in a chair rather than in bed, lights on, and with your phone’s ringer cranked up and alarm on. Get people who will be up then (like other people traveling that day from the East Coast) to call you at a certain time if they don’t see you tweet that you’re awake.
- Know when the airline kiosks & security stations open.
- This last piece of advice is for the advanced class, and should not be taken if you are unfamiliar with the airport or shuttle situation. When you call for a shuttle, they’ll ask for a flight time, and tend to pick you up with plenty of time to spare. During the day, that isn’t so bad, but in the morning before everything is open and you’re forced to wait an hour before you can check your bag, that is a bunch of suck. For example, when I lived in Oakland, the shuttle wanted to pick me up three hours before my 6a flight, but the airport didn’t properly open until 5. Given that very early morning traffic is light in the area, and that I only lived around 10 miles from the airport, I would routinely list my flight time as between 7 and 7:30. Not once was I late to my flight, because usually they like doing the closer pick-ups last, so being told to be ready at 4 or 4:30 wasn’t a big deal. Still, I did that because I understood how the shuttles worked there, and could reasonably assume I wouldn’t be screwed out by that decision.
- Don’t drink caffeine. Don’t try to be alert while you’re waiting for that first flight, unless it’s crucial and you can’t otherwise be awake or you’re intentionally trying to cop with jet lag early. Let the time flying feel dull, and caffeinated yourself when you get closer to or at your destination.
What tips do you have?