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Old 02-02-2014, 10:52 PM   #1
southlake
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Red Eye or Day Flight w/4 Year Old from SFO-MCO

Hi all,

We are traveling from the SF Bay Area to Orlando for our cruise. Last year, we took direct flights on Virgin America and everything was very easy. This year, Virgin (so far) has only released a Red Eye flight from SFO-MCO at 10:50pm/7:15am arrival time. I don't know why they are not offering the day flight that they did last year?

United Airlines, however, is offering a daytime direct from San Francisco to Orlando, and they are the only other airline offering a non-stop flight (we don't want to change planes w/a 4 yr old in tow).

So now, we're wondering, do we take the day flight on United and then pay for a hotel night + rental car like we did last year, or do we take the Red Eye on Virgin & skip the hotel fee & take a cab directly to the port? Has anyone done this with a 4 yr old?

(Also does anyone know the chances that Virgin will release day flights? I would call them, but I called them 2 weekends ago & the girl was clueless as to whether Virgin would release any more flights). TIA!
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Old 02-02-2014, 11:13 PM   #2
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I've done both with a young child.

I prefer the red-eye myself, but we don't do much the day we arrive. We were staying at WDW not on DCL.

We had to spend the night in Seattle to get an early flight and we only got about 5 hours sleep with the late arrival (we drove down after work) and getting up so early. When we did the red-eye we slept about the same amount on the plane but were at WDW a day earlier. Gave us time to swim and relax before touring the parks the next day. So worth having an extra day.

If you can swing it I would take the red-eye a day earlier and then spend a day in Orlando before you board DCL. It would give you that extra time to get into the new time zone too as you will be a bit more tired as you won't get as much sleep on the red-eye as you would sleeping at home.
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Old 02-02-2014, 11:21 PM   #3
jdb in AZ
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Do you think your 4-yr-old will sleep on the red eye? Some kids don't sleep well in a strange environment til they're beyond exhaustion and their parents are in even worse shape from wrestling with them.

Other kids do just fine and sleep the whole way.

Personally, I do better with the jet lag if I sleep my normal hours in a bed and don't try to sleep sitting up in a sardine can.
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Old 02-02-2014, 11:26 PM   #4
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Thank you, Squirrel, for the info.

JDB, I have no idea if our DD will sleep on the Red Eye, as we've never taken one before. I'm assuming she'll be tired as it will be her normal sleeping time, but I don't know.
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Old 02-02-2014, 11:37 PM   #5
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Two things I've learned:
1) Never travel with less than a 24 hour cushion if you are going on a cruise. We nearly missed our Disney cruise in '11 because of weather delays across the country (we were flying from Oregon to Florida by way of Texas). We were diverted and stuck overnight in the Dallas airport. Flying standby we just barely made it to the boat in time the next day!

2) We flew back to OR on a red-eye and it worked really well with our kiddo who was three at the time. She slept the whole way.

So, my advice, take the red-eye, but take it two nights before the cruise, have a down day, sleep one night in a hotel, then head to the port refreshed and ready to go. We were so very wiped out getting to our cruise (I had one hour of sleep overnight at the airport). Our tired little girl fell asleep at Animator's Palette and missed the whole dinner/show.

Have fun!
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Old 02-02-2014, 11:47 PM   #6
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If you can, please consider traveling the day before your cruise.

I have done both daytime flights from SFO to Toronto and red-eye. (Not Orlando but basically the same length of trip.)

One of the big factors I would consider was how your child sleeps/does not sleep on a plane. Last year we took the red-eye from SFO but I had my DD's car seat. She fell asleep before we even left the gate in SFO and woke up as we were disembarking in Toronto asking when we were going to fly. LOL! (This also included a 2 hour delay before ever leaving the SFO gate.) For us the car seat was the huge difference as she could sleep comfortably in that. I'm guessing you won't have your child's car seat so one concern would be how comfortable your child would be trying to sleep on the plane. No sense arriving over tired when you'll already be adjusting (or not) to the 3 hour time change.

On another note I have friends who choose to stay on CA time during their time at WDW and it works well for them. They sleep late and eat late and this might work for your family too.
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Old 02-03-2014, 02:26 AM   #7
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I can tell you I was travelling with my neighbour and her two kids and she really didn't want to do a red-eye. I convinced her it would be worth staying an extra night at WDW than staying at some cheap motel in Seattle and we wouldn't be doing much that first day anyway that we arrived. We would get about the same amount of sleep except we would be travelling and not wasting time travelling during the day.

She thought her son wouldn't sleep and it would be a nightmare but once we actually did the red-eye she loved it. We were able to hang out at our resort until our room was ready. The kids had time to swim and we weren't trying to pack all of that into a few hours before bed.
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Old 02-03-2014, 03:16 AM   #8
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If you have a good, hard sleeper who crashes anywhere then a red eye would probably work fine. I have a child who has never been a good sleeper and could never sleep anywhere but his crib or bed. He wouldn't sleep on a red eye and we'd be miserable for days with that kind of sleep interruption. I'd never do it. Ever.

I like the idea of arriving the day before embarkation. I'd rather pay for a hotel for one night than stress about flying in the same day.

Good luck with whatever you decide and have a great trip!
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Old 02-03-2014, 05:23 AM   #9
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I'd say it all depends on your child. My oldest would be fine, as he can sleep anywhere. My youngest never slept a wink on a flight until she was almost 5, and we regularly fly from the UK to the US and back so they are long flights. Flying London to LA and back with a young child who did not sleep a wink was not good.
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Old 02-03-2014, 08:03 AM   #10
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We tried this once (not to Disney) and it was the most miserable experience ever- my son would fall asleep and then try to turn over on his side. Since he was strapped in, he couldn't turn and woke up, repeating the pattern all through the night. No sleep for any of us and he ended up getting a nasty cold within a day. We thought it was the perfect plan and it totally backfired. Just giving you a different perspective!
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Old 02-03-2014, 08:54 AM   #11
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I fly a lot. Lots of kids do not do well on the red eye. Even more parents don't sleep. So you will be the one exhausted and snapping at your family. It tends to make that stressful first day into a disaster
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Old 02-03-2014, 08:56 AM   #12
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I would do the day flight. We have done both (and unfortunately, we are doing a red eye again in a few weeks but only because the price was WAY less). We do cross country trips twice a year to visit family so we have had a lot of practice with both over the last 12 years.

It probably depends on the child but I remember the very first time we tried a red eye out of Sea Tac to BOS and I thought it would be great. Kids would sleep and I would sleep and no time during the day would be wasted. I WAS SOOO WRONG. It was our worst flight. (DD was 3 at the time and DS was 2). Neither slept. Both had WAY too much energy. We were exhausted. We landed at 7 am EST on Christmas morning and my parents were so excited to rush us home and open gifts. DH and I were dead by the time afternoon hit and our kids were so cranky! They got so overtired that they fought going to sleep that night. It was rough.

I am happy to say that things have gotten better and now our kids are pretty good at red eye flights, but they are never easy flights. Out of the 4 kids, at least one can't sleep. Every time. They are great sleepers at home, or in the car, or at hotels, but they are just not good at sleeping on planes. My youngest is really sensitive to the pressure in her ears and cries almost every time the plane takes off and lands because her ears hurt. Often she will wake up when she does fall asleep and complain about her ears. So I have to say, it is usually her that I am up with.

Good luck, and I agree with PP, if there is anyway you can fly in early, do it! We allowed an extra day of travel before our cruise and I was so thankful we did. We flew out of BOS on the day of the marathon bombing. Our flights were massively delayed, we almost missed our connecting flight. There were no other flights out that day into IAH. Delta ended up holding the plane for us, which was beyond nice, but it was still too close for comfort, and that was a day before our cruise left. I learned my lesson that day. Always allow EXTRA travel time before a cruise.
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Old 02-03-2014, 11:15 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wallawallakids View Post
It probably depends on the child but I remember the very first time we tried a red eye out of Sea Tac to BOS and I thought it would be great. Kids would sleep and I would sleep and no time during the day would be wasted. I WAS SOOO WRONG. It was our worst flight. (DD was 3 at the time and DS was 2). Neither slept. Both had WAY too much energy. We were exhausted. We landed at 7 am EST on Christmas morning and my parents were so excited to rush us home and open gifts. DH and I were dead by the time afternoon hit and our kids were so cranky! They got so overtired that they fought going to sleep that night. It was rough.
This reminds me of the time my sister drove with her husband and kids to visit us one summer. The kids were 5 and 2 at the time. It is an 18 hour drive, and they drove through the night. In the words of the 5-year-old at the time: "We drove overnight because Mommy thought we would sleep in the car and it would be better, but we didn't so it was worser". That was nearly 8 years ago and they haven't been back since.

Agreed though, it depends on the kids. Most kids probably don't react this way, but it can happen. And when it does, it's probably "worser".

Put me in the camp of those who wouldn't even consider a cross-country flight that didn't arrive until the day of the cruise departure. Any delay and your cruise is toast.

Also keep in mind that your flight time is only about 5 hours, so even if your child sleeps the entire time it's probably not enough. Maybe okay if you think (s)he will sleep more before or after. My kids likely wouldn't, especially given the excitement of going on the cruise.
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Old 02-03-2014, 11:41 AM   #14
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I personally would only do the red-eye if you arrived the day before the cruise. That leaves a cusion in case of flight problems or just inability to sleep on the plane. I wouldn't want to miss the cruise or even spend the first day exhaused.

But my opinion is based on my personal experiences so I'm jaded, LOL. For our Dream cruises, we were flying out the day before and got all the way to the gate to discover the plane was having problems. As I watched our departure time pass by, I started to get really nervous. When they started asking for volunteers to take a flight to Miami instead (that would arrive at midnight), even more stress. But luckily they got everything fixed and our flight went out only slightly delayed. But if that was a red-eye flight with even less room for corrections, I would have really been stressed.

Then this last December my Dad and stepmom were leaving on a red-eye to Miami for a cruise the next day. Unfortunately it had a layover in Dallas...right when the Dallas airport shut down due to the ice storm. Talk about last minute scrambling. They had booked through their cruise line so they had to take whatever the cruise line could come up with, which ended up being LA -> Las Vegas -> Boston -> Miami. They made it, but barely...
They have vowed never to book flights that way again.

Best of luck with your decision. Chances are, everything will work out just fine no matter what you decide. Just go with what you are comfortable with
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Old 02-03-2014, 11:46 AM   #15
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We have done the SFO to MCO trip several times over the last few years - all on United. My kids are now 11 and 9 but the first was at 5 and 3.5. We have never take the red eye. The kids just never seem to sleep much on flights. The most we have ever gotten out of them on flights to Orlando or Hawaii is about 1.5 or maybe 2 hours. They are great sleepers at home, but not on flights. It is tempting to try to red eye due to price and not losing time during the day, but I think we would pay for it (me included).

What we usually do for the cruises is take the United flight that leaves in the morning. It does not leave too early (around 10) so we do not have to stay near the airport the night before and it puts you at MCO at about 6 or so. We then stay at the Hyatt at MCO, walk around the shops, go to the Disney store, grab dinner, and then try to get some sleep on the East coast time schedule before heading to the port in the morning. We usually take the direct flight to Orlando, but have also switched in Denver when the kids were younger. It actually was not too bad as it broke the flight up and gave us time to stretch our legs and get a snack.

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