Tips for Surviving an Early Flight Departure

Just the other day I booked my ticket to San Diego for Frequent Traveler University in March. As an open disclosure, my ticket is paid for by the Frequent Traveler University since I’m on the organizing staff, however that has no relation to this post. It’s an early flight departure…ugh.

In looking at flight times to get me into San Diego, I really wanted to fly either US Airways or American Airlines, due to my status and the need for elite qualifying miles. Needing to stick to a certain price point, I realized it would be impossible to fly American mainline aircraft, because the prices were over $200 more than US Airways. So, I relented, and began to look at US Airways mainline prices.

Limited Time Offers Up To 50,000 Points

I found a fare within my allowed budget, however there was a huge kicker – the flight departs at 5:15am. Yes, 5:15am. It’s a short regional hop to Charlotte, where I’ll board a larger aircraft to San Diego, arriving just after 10am PST. Since this was the only reasonably priced reservation to meet my time requirements, I went ahead and purchased the ticket.

It’s not the first time I’ve purchased such an early ticket, though, admittedly, this might actually be the earliest. When I used to fly Delta, I’d purposely take the 6am flight to secure an upgrade as a Silver (since it was an elite-light flight) to Detroit. Pursuing American Executive Platinum, I took several same day runs from DCA to LAX where I was forced to leave at 6am.

So, that brings me to the point of this post – how do you survive an early flight departure? I’ve listed some of my tips and tricks below to help you.

READ MORE  How to hold a reservation for free on for 48 hours, and not 24 hours

Stay the Night Prior

It’s not uncommon that I’ll stay the night prior at a nearby airport hotel rather than drive from my home or wherever I’m coming from. If I have family in the area, I may use that option as well. Even if it only cuts down on driving by 15 minutes, that’s 15 more minutes of sleep I can have. If you’re departing early in the morning and need breakfast, make sure you ask the hotel and see what can be done. As a Hyatt Diamond, I received a nice to-go breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City at Reagan Airport, which they didn’t have to offer me.

Get Coffee in the Club Lounge

Airline club lounges usually open well prior to the first departure, though in some cases, I’ve seen they don’t. If one is open, you can find a cup of coffee, or a an espresso/cappuccino machine. The airport Starbucks may not be open, so this may be your only option to get a caffeine spiked beverage.

Get A Better Seat

If you’re on a connecting flight, you’ll probably want to sleep on the first of the two. So, if you don’t have elite status and aren’t guaranteed an upgrade, make efforts on securing a better seat on the first of the two flights, even it means paying. You’ll be more comfortable, and more likely to actually get some sleep, preparing you for the rest of the day.

Eat Breakfast

You’d be surprised how much breakfast can wake you up. When you don’t have breakfast included, ask to see if something can be arranged, or where the nearest option is. Yes, even though it means waking up earlier, it also means more time to get into the groove of things.

READ MORE  Beware of AA First Class Awards with Business Class Seats

Avoid Caffeine the Night Prior

While it may be obvious to say, don’t stay up the night before. Set a bed-time and stick to it. Also, avoid caffeinated beverages.

Plan Your Schedule

The day before you depart, schedule a light day so you aren’t exhausted. End your meetings early, and make the latter half of the day relaxing.

I’m not an early person by any means. In fact, I dread waking up. Do you have any tips to share to help you overcome early flights?

Find those elusive Awards & Upgrades - Find Flight Availability, Flight Upgrades & Awards, Frequent Flyer Information and more with

Looking for the best way to earn miles and points quickly? Visit the "Credit Cards" drop down on the main menu bar above for the hottest deals! Want to learn more and stay up to date on the latest tips, tricks and deals? Join My Travel Tips Facebook Page!   This site is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


  1. 02nz says

    Check in the day/evening before, and make doubly sure to enter your known traveler ID if you have one so that you get Pre-Check (if it’s open that early!) so that you don’t have to arrive at the airport so early.

  2. Guy says

    I edit for a living and would like to give you a couple of pointers to help you write shorter copy, which is critical for an Internet blogger, if you don’t mind: 1.If there’s something “that has no relation to this post,” don’t mention it in the first paragraph (or, better yet, at all). 2. Don’t wait until the fifth paragraph to get to “the point of this post” because most readers won’t stay with you that long. Good luck.

  3. says

    I end up taking a lot of early morning flights just because they often work well for my schedule and because lots of times they’re the ones that still have award availability when I go to book. Thanks for the tips!

    The other one I would suggest would be to NOT do what my sister did the other day – make sure to leave yourself plenty of time – the airport was more crowded than she expected with all the business travelers getting the early morning flights and she ended up missing her flight 🙁

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *