The high airfares that families face during school breaks—when every other family is trying to flee town at the same time—can feel positively punitive. Often the only solution is to opt for the least convenient flights—typically in the late evening and early morning—which means sacrificing the kids’ sleep schedule and your sanity. Are the costs really worth the savings?
That’s the question I’m asking myself today. My family of four just flew back from Georgia, where we visited relatives over the Easter school break. I paid $1,200 for our four tickets from Newark to Atlanta. While I’m glad to have saved about $300 by booking the last flight of the day to Atlanta and the first flight of the day back to Newark, the decision took its toll on us. I thought I’d detail the pros and cons of our experience, in case you ever need to make a similar decision.
- We saved $300.
- There were few lines. Upon landing at our destination late at night, we did not hit any lines picking up our rental car, nor did we hit any traffic driving to our hotel. When flying back at dawn, there was no line at check-in or security.
- Our early morning flight left on time—which, of course, is a big advantage to early morning flights. They are the least likely to be delayed.
- Upon landing, we had a full and productive day ahead at our destination (since it was only 8:18 a.m.).
- We lost way too much sleep.
- Our nighttime flight was delayed—as is often the case, thanks to the cascading effect of delays throughout the day. Our 7:14 p.m. flight to Atlanta translated to a midnight arrival at our hotel.
- Airport transit services were limited in the wee hours. We had to set our alarm clocks for 3:00 a.m. to catch our 6:01 a.m. flight home because we had to ensure we could return the rental car, catch the Skytrain from the airport rental car center to the terminal, get through security, catch the Plane Train to our concourse, and find the kids some breakfast before the 5:36 a.m. boarding time. It’s a good thing we left time for the unexpected because, upon breezing past security at 4:45 a.m., we found that the Plane Train that operates between concourses was out of service. We had to walk from check-in all the way to Concourse D (five concourses away)—which, as anyone who has spent too much time at ATL can tell you, is a major hike.
- Airport concessions were closed. ATL is the world’s busiest airport by passenger traffic, yet there were no snacks to be found at 4:45 a.m. Fortunately, a coffee shop in Concourse D opened at 5:00 a.m. (The United Club there doesn’t open till 6:00 a.m.)
I’d love to hear: What have you put yourself through to avoid a high airfare? And how do you decide whether the inconvenience and sleep deprivation are worth the savings?