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What is The Perfect Arrival Time?
5 Ways to Find the Golden Hour

Kids from a large family, very happy to arrive in Athens
In Athens:  Our Kid Was So Happy to Be off the Plane that She Ran
the Wrong Way on the Moving Sidewalk, on Purpose!
Figuring out what time of day to arrive in a new place can be a major factor in the success of your big family trip. But after a lot of trial and error, we have discovered the one perfect time to arrive to a new city...
Our big family's tips are:

#1:  Arriving Too Early is The Worst
Almost every time, arriving too early means having to find a way to kill time. We've tried departing at 4am (Barcelona, Spain) to catch a 640am flight to Geneva, then arriving to our new city (Montreux, Switzerland) around 930am. This was over 4 hours before check-in time. We went out and explored while we waited (after stowing our bags in a train station locker), but, this made for a seriously exhausting day. By early afternoon, our little ones were confused: Why is it still daylight outside? What day is this? Were we in Spain today or was that yesterday? Did we have breakfast yet?

#2:  Arriving Too Late is Also The Worst
We also try to avoid arriving after dark, at all costs. On a recent trip we chose to arrive to a new city (Hong Kong) after 10pm, after a full day of travel with a 5-hour flight from Thailand. Wow, was that late night arrival time ever a terrible idea! It's always exhausting and frustrating to arrive after dark. This is not the best time to be figuring out transportation and directions in a new city. You have no time cushion for things going wrong - like when we got off the airport bus at the wrong stop, or when our host's key confusion left us stranded on the sidewalk until nearly midnight while the kids were almost falling asleep on their feet!

#3:  Things Will Take Longer Than You Think
You're arriving to a new city, and possibly a new country - so you don't know for sure how long anything is going to take. You might find yourself in an excruciating 2-hour line to get your passport stamped where only one official is working the entire line (yeah you, Honduras). You might find that the 20-minute drive to the city is going to take over an hour, because you arrived at rush hour. You find your apartment key doesn't actually open the door, and the host lives 750 miles away (ahem, you know who you are) - More on that in this post. You may even find that nobody cleaned the apartment after the last guests checked out, so the beds are unmade and the trash is overflowing!

#4:  Avoid Skipping a Meal
We've also found it can be very difficult for our big family to arrive too close to meal time.  If you typically eat lunch every day at noon, arriving somewhere new at 12:30 can be hard on the kids. You might be tempted to wait till you get from the airport to the city to eat, then the next thing you know, you're still trying to organize lunch at 3:00pm, and you're postponing your afternoon plans until the next day. Sometimes, that airplane food may be the best option (here's our full post on that).

#5:  Don't Forget Nap Time
We admire kids that can zonk out anywhere, anytime, whenever there is an opportunity to catch a few ZZZ's. But if any of your kids have a specific nap time, you may have to adjust your plans to avoid arriving at nap time. However, if you properly prearrange your airport-to-apartment transportation, this may afford some very nice nap-in-motion opportunities for the kiddos, as discussed in this prior post.

The Golden Hour
So what is the perfect arrival time when you are moving your family to a new city while traveling on a long trip? Our big family has put a lot of thought into this and we believe there is a wonderful time-slot best described as:

 "one hour before check-in time."

For most hotels and rentals, the earliest check-in time, without prior approval, is going to be early afternoon, say, 2 to 3pm, or whatever the listing says.

We've come to believe that when traveling with our big family, the best time to get off the plane or train in that city is one hour before check-in time, because this:

  • Gives you time to make any necessary quick stops before arriving at your lodging.
  • Avoids meal times.
  • Avoids rush hour.
  • Avoids the need to find a way to spend several hours waiting for check-in time.
  • Is safer and easier, because it avoids having your introduction to the new city happen after the dark.

When is the best time of day to arrive at our destination?
Arriving in Bangkok in the Mid-Afternoon

More Soon!
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What About You?
What is your favorite time of day to arrive? Have you had success with early morning, or late night arrivals?

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