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Do you prefer to take an early or late evening flight to Europe?

Do you prefer to take an early or late evening flight to Europe?

Jun 6th, 2005, 06:48 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 148
Do you prefer to take an early or late evening flight to Europe?

Hi again with another weird question. I'm trying to decide between a number of flights from Indianapolis to Paris, probably via either Chicago, Newark or Cincinnati. The choices seem to fall into two categories: flights that leave the States late afternoon/early evening and arrive in Paris between 7 and 9 a.m. (there's a really good itinerary that puts me in Paris at 6:55) and those that leave late evening and arrive in Paris around noon. I typically suffer from bad jet lag and insomnia when traveling to Europe. I'm going to take prescribed sleeping pills this time, but I'm trying to figure which itinerary might make me feel less like a zombie. Do any of you seasoned travelers have a preference?


Indygirl2 is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 06:53 AM
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Both are awful if you are in coach, like me. Last month we took an 11:10pm flight and liked it better if only because we had an easier (but not easy) time sleeping because it was during our normal sleep hours. The problem with the late afternoon flights for me is that I am never asleep at say 5 or 6 at night. The other good thing about a night flight is that you are more likely to be able to check into your hotel room than when you arrive at 7am. We like to crash for a few hours when we get in.

SRS is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 06:57 AM
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Hello dear,
not such a weird question.
I thought at first this meant early as in morning flights to Europe or late as in the night flight.
We always take the earlier flight out in order to arrive as early as possible in Paris/London.
I cannot sleep anyway on a plane so I take a nap sometime during the day.
The problem with arriving so early- the hotel room is never ready. Arriving early when renting an apt is worse, the apt is not ready until after 2:00pm.
It is not that much a difference to me so I would say that it is up to what you expect to do in those early hours.
Scarlett is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 07:00 AM
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I prefer the overnight flights. I also have trouble with jet lag and insomnia. Taking a sleep medication or anti-anxiety is very helpful. The other trick I tried recently is when it's time to "sleep" on the plane and they turn down the cabin lights, instead of staying up fiditing and reading, I put on a eye mask (kindly provided on BA), put on headphones to tuned to the most peaceful station, and pretend to sleep. This almost worked and I did feel better after the flight than usual. I also (against popular advise) take a nap when I feel the need after arrival.
suze is online now  
Jun 6th, 2005, 07:03 AM
Join Date: May 2003
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I took my first late flight in March and it worked out perfectly. We left Chicago at about 11PM. Thanks to Tylonal PM we were sleeping by 11:20 and slept the entire flight. When we take the early flights we struggle to get some sleep getting maybe a couple of hours.
panucci is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 07:05 AM
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Last time we flew to London, we arrived at 2 p.m., and were able to see a little bit of the city before collapsing to sleep for the night around 10 p.m. This time we're arriving at 9 a.m., and I do think we're going to have trouble staying awake until night time just to try and get on London time. We only took that flight because it was by far the least expensive, and my hotel manager in London said we'd be able to check in on arrival, so we'll be able to get in a nap if we need it.

I've flown to other places (Brazil) with overnight flights and arrived in the morning, only to find myself exhausted after the trip, and in sore need of a nap.

If you can find a flight that arrives a little later in the day so you only have to keep yourself up for a little while before sleeping, I'd do that. But if you have meds that will make it possible to sleep on the plane, that might work too.

Big help I am, huh?

jules4je7 is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 07:06 AM
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Hi Indy,

We take the flights that get us there in the 7-9 AM time period.

We then stay up until it is bedtime on the new clock.

The next morning we are adjusted.

ira is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 07:09 AM
Join Date: Dec 2004
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I work the same way. I think jet lag can be a little overrated at times, and I like to get my place kind of early so I get sightseeing in that day.

Arriving Paris in noon really means 1:30 or later in the actual city, so you'll have a shortened day.
JoeTro is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 07:13 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
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Indygirl, I prefer the flights that leave Indianapolis in the late afternoon and get into Paris about 9 am. Like you, I don't sleep very well on planes and need a little nap when I arrive. I nap when I get there--it's amazing what a mere two hours' sleep on a proper bed can do for you!--and then there's still the rest of the day available to explore Paris. BTW, will you be able to come to the Indianapolis GT next Saturday?
mermaid_ is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 07:27 AM
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I prefer late flights because:

1. I can go ahead and eat dinner before even boarding the plane---no nasty airline food, and question of taking my sleep med (I use Ambien) on a full stomach and it not working as well.

2. It's my usual bedtime, so I actually do manage to sleep on the plane, even in coach.

3. No problem with arriving too early at my hotel.

I find that I tend to do about as much sightseeing and have the same amount of jet lag no matter what time of day I arrive.
Therese is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 07:46 AM
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These are some observations I have made in two dozen trips to Europe; they may or may not apply to your trip plans.

I generally try to plan my destinations such that I move away from the gateway airport city immediately upon landing. Your first 6-12 hours in Europe, you may not be enjoying yourself as much as you would later - - thus, I favor relegating a portion of these hours to onward travel.

If you are driving (even with a capable partner), this increases the need to sleep on the flight - - notwithstading the assumption that you will be able to switch off, to the extent that fatigue interefers with your driving. If you choose to travel onward by train, you may find that the train provides a very useful nap opportunity.

This may be more relevant on your "nth" trip to Europe; there is a certain adrenaline and excitement during your first (several? dozen?) trips to Europe, so that you feel up to exploring your gateway airport city the moment you arrive. And of course, if you are flying open jaw, it may be see it now, or not at all. I have personally chosen to "not worry about" spending some time seeing London, Paris, Milan, Munich etc - - because so many times (past, present and future), an itinerary means going or coming back through of these cities. I count on many more trips to Europe to see bits of those major cities over a period of decades.

An early evening flight has the singular advantage that the airlines may be able to "do something with you" in the event of an unanticipated delay or cancellation of a flight. And it leaves you more hours of options to plan travel and/or local activities when you arrive in your gateway airport city (or if you are connecting onward, on another flight to a further destination in Europe). As has already been mentioned, the inability to get into your hotel room is one disadvantage. Perhaps second, and maybe equally important is that it may be harder to make yourself sleep with an "early" (for example) 7 pm departure time - - referring specifically to the departure of the "final" (transatlantic) leg - - not intra-US connector flights.

If you are taking one of those (and even if you are not), I have been pretty successful with (some modifications of) a plan once called the "Forsyth strategy" - - though I believe that Mr. Forsyth has perhaps distanced himself from this (and on a related note, no longer sells rail passes nor Thomas Cook timetable nor any other Europe travel books, apparently).

You can still read the plan here:


The centerpiece of the plan is fasting - - he advises eating nothing all day long, until they serve you the "breakfast" (typically) light as you approach daybreak/landfall in Europe.

I personally have found it just as well (and it pretty much eliminates your hunger) to eat fruit for breakfast and lunch (see also, in following paragraphs, about your daily timetable on departure day). I agree with not eating supper; indeed, I have had repeated success with this approach...

On a piece of paper, write your name and seat number and this message...

"Please serve my dinner at the same time as my breakfast. I do not care what selection is served to me, and I do not expect it to be re-warmed for me."

I have never been refused by a flight attendant, and more often than not, it was brough to me warmed anyhow, just before they started serving breakfast. Eat some or all of the breakfast also if you wish; you will likely be full without finishing it, and it may have items you can easily take as snacks for later in the day.

On my latest trip, with a prescription from a (different) physician (i.e., not self-prescribed, since I am a physician myself), I took one half of a 10 mg Ambien when I took my seat (i.e., well before"liftoff"), and the other half soon after liftoff. I took off my shoes, put the "wings up" on the headrest of the A-330 (Airbus) flown by Northwest on this flight {these are new to me, and I thought they were really nice - - as good as any "neck pillow"), strapped my seatbelt over a blanket I spread over myself, and slept for about the next 5 and 1/2 hours.

In this case, the departure was a "later" one (about 9:30, from Detroit, arrivingin Paris at 11:20 am), so I think that it made it easier to go to sleep.

Equally important is trying to "get on Europe time", 48 hours before you arrive in Europe. That means getting up at 5 or 6 am on the day before departure and going to bed before 11 pm; on departure day, get up more like 4 or 5 am.

One final observation from this most recent flight: though this was not the first time I have seen seatback video displays, I think this was the first time that I ever saw movies on demand (presumably stored digitally on a hard disk of the "master entertainment server" of the plane) - - this is a great innovation because it means that people are not all getting up for the bathroom at the same time. The bathroom waits are virtually eliminated, and generally less hubbub up and down the aisles.

Most likely, not all of my ideas... on arriving ready to make optimal use of your first day in Europe will fit your situation - - but hopefully some parts of it will help a number of travelers.

Best wishes,

rex is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 08:17 AM
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Mermaid, I was planning to attend the GTG but then had to schedule some work on my house and that was the only day that worked. Being a single home-owner is a drag for a number of reasons! How late in the afternoon do you think that you'll be there?

Indygirl2 is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 08:35 AM
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Welllll, Kate, Marcy, Indytravel (David) and I are pretty talky so we could sit for hours! If Rex pops back in he could tell you how long the last GT went on, since he was there. I missed that one.
mermaid_ is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 08:46 AM
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I'm thinking it lasted about 2 and a 1/2 hours...
rex is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 08:56 AM
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Late afternoon versus early evening isn't really different enough to have any impact on most people. What you do prior to the flight, as suggested by others, is what is important. The notion of spending the previous week going to bed at successively earlier times and rising at earlier times is a formula that works for some.

I tend to do almost the opposite. I find that if I try not to sleep as much as normal for a few days before the trip, I am a bit sleepier on the trip and can snooze with no problem. Of course, you can find yourself getting interrupted by the flight attendants for a number of reasons, or having to wake up and let someone crawl over you to reach the aisle. The sleepier you are, the more likely you can drop off again when those things happen.

I actually like to arrive in the morning, freshen up right at the airport, go to the hotel where I can normally leave my bags, and sorta wander around the city until time to check in. If you take sleeping pills, be sure you can indeed have the opportunity to sleep for a long time on the plane--which isn't always possible. Otherwise, I've found sleeping pills will leave me groggy and stuffy-headed for the first day.

And as for eating on the plane, I prefer not to eat very much nor drink any alcoholic beverages. If you are taking sleeping pills, you will certainly want to avoid alcohol. Just keep your water intake adequate; a personal water bottle carried on board is a good idea for most people.

If, as Rex mentioned, you are moving onward to a final first day's destination after flight arrival, you will want to be alert enough to handle a drive or train ride. That usually demands more attention to sleeping on the plane than simply going straight to a hotel. My arrival city is usually not my destination for the day, and I usually rent a car--so I am careful to accumulate some sleep on the flight. Along with the early-to-bed, early-to-rise approach, I find I can handle a full day of activity whether the flight lands in early morning or later.

All of the aspects of such an issue are very personal, and the options vary widely depending on your own physical makeup. What works well for me might not work well for you. I honestly don't know any other way to find out except to do it. Good luck.
Wayne is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 08:59 AM
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Thanks for the long explanation, Rex. I do appreciate it. I too have found the food a large factor as well, and arrange meals as you have stated.

I have never been able to sleep on a overnight flight, with your suggestions maybe someday I'll achieve that feat. My companions always seem to be able to pull most of it off. Next time I will get a perscription. And I always opt for late night flights- and the "moving on" idea is wonderful also.
JJ5 is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 09:21 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
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I much prefer the later flight time, as it approaches my regular sleep cycle, and I have a better chance of falling asleep. Having dinner before arriving at the airport is also another plus. Given the choice, I'd opt for the later flight. Bon voyage!
elsiejune is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 09:30 AM
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I am coming from a more distant begining - the west coast. This time I will be taking a late flight - and arriving later in Paris - as in 9PM. My plan is to let the flight happen as may and I hope to be tired enough to go to sleep right away once I get to my hotel. I did this late flight approach once before going to London and it worked well for me then. I hope the experience repeats itself.
JoeCal is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 10:03 AM
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JoeCal, since you're arriving at your final destination so late and will surely be dog tired you shouldn't have much trouble falling asleep. You may, however, have trouble staying asleep, so if you're not averse to sleep meds you might want to consider one that first night. It's also a good idea to have a small snack on hand in case you wake up at a strange hour very hungry.
Therese is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 02:43 PM
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We like to arrive at our destination in the morning--we're both so wired when we arrive at a vacation destination that we're good for several hours of walking, driving, sight-seeing, whatever. Dump our suitcases at the hotel, and head on out. Then we collapse somewhere in the 8-10 p.m. range.
RufusTFirefly is offline  

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