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Should I fly early for my trip? Advantages and disadvantages

Imagine today is departure day for your long-awaited cruise vacation, but your flight the same day is delayed. Your new arrival time means you may not be able to get to your ship before check-in time ends. Or, imagine waking up to a snowstorm and unplowed roads and you can’t get to the airport. Or maybe your car broke down on the road and you missed your flight.

In all of these situations, you only have a few hours left to fly from your home city to your cruise port. An unexpected delay means your trip hangs in the balance.


As experienced cruise riders know, one of the best ways to avoid potential cruise headaches during embarkation day is to fly in at least a day before your cruise departs.

Flying in early is generally a smart idea, but consider these pros and cons before deciding when to arrive for the cruise if you are traveling by plane.

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Advantages of flying early for your journey

You will have time to rebook if there is a delay


You know how the stereotypical dad gets to the airport five hours before any flight? Flying to your cruise departure city early is the same concept but on a larger scale.

If you plan to arrive the day before your trip and your flight is delayed or canceled—or you encounter another obstacle that prevents you from boarding as scheduled—you’ll be able to make travel plans. alternate schedule and arrive at the port before your ship sails. Knowing that you have time to develop a Plan B will allow you to reduce the stress of traveling.

Related: What happens if you miss your trip

You’ll have time to explore your port city

One of my least favorite things about cruising is the limited amount of time most ships are in port. If you fly a day early for your cruise, you’ll have the opportunity to explore your departure city before the train departs.

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Plan to visit a local restaurant or two, visit a museum, or take in the sights. One day is enough, but if you have time, consider a two- or three-day stay before your trip to enhance your vacation and really explore the area.

You can rest and begin to adjust to any changes in time

If running around visiting local attractions the day before your trip sounds more tiring than fun, you can also use the time to do the opposite: relax. Check in to the hotel, dine and rest before boarding the plane the next day.

This is also a great way to start adjusting your body to any time changes you might experience if you fly further to meet your ship.

Related: Should I buy flights through my airline?

Disadvantages of flying early for your itinerary

You’ll have more logistics to plan for


If you’re flying the day before you leave, you’ll need a place to stay. That means more vacation planning. Is it better to stay closer to the port or local attractions? Does the property you choose offer perks like breakfast or free Wi-Fi? What is the best way to get from the airport to the hotel? Which attractions are best to visit and do you need a car to get there?

You will also need to find your way to the port on the day your ship leaves. If your hotel doesn’t have a shuttle, you’ll need to research taxis, ride-hailing services, or other public transportation options.

Related: What you should and should not do on the day of departure

Longer trips will cost more

If you’re on a tight budget, the additional costs associated with staying at a hotel before your trip may not be reasonable or worth it. Are you giving up a shore excursion at a port of call so you can afford meals and lodging before setting sail?

You’ll want to research not only hotel prices but also the costs of dining, sightseeing, and transportation between the airport, hotel, and cruise port. Then you can decide whether you want to fly a day early or not. Looking at points and miles can help you score a pre-trip hotel room for free or at a discounted rate, or look to redeem reward night for your vacation.

Bottom line


Arriving early for a cruise has its pros and cons. However, the reasons to arrive at least a day in advance will outweigh the reasons not to arrive – especially if a pre-travel hotel stay is within your budget.

Arriving in town a day or more in advance will give you more peace of mind, a chance to explore, and a chance to rest for the day of your departure.

If you can’t afford a pre-trip stay or don’t have time to fly the day before departure, I recommend booking your flight as early as possible on the day of departure. This way, you’ll have time to catch another trip if your travel plans don’t work out.

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