Giving Yourself Plenty of Time to Make It To Your International Gateway City

A new blog with promise, Heels First Travel, describes using a Starwood award night for a day room by the Charlotte airport during a 6 hour layover.

I’m a fan of this exact thing, back in August during some terrible storms my flight back home from Florida was cancelled and US Airways was offering me travel only two days later. I finally constructed a three-segment 12 hour travel day that included several hours in Raleigh, rather than killing time at the airport I grabbed a few hours at the Four Points and was far more comfortable.

Heels First created the long layover to start an international award ticket. Sometimes you want to get to your international gateway city with plenty of space to cover for delays and cancellations, if you miss that international flight it can be hugely inconvenient for the rest of the trip. I have an upcoming Asia trip where I’m leaving the US out of San Francisco, and heading there a full day early.

Living in DC, mid-February can mean terrible weather. And booking a few months out I don’t know what the weather will be like on my departure date. I didn’t want to fly through New York or Chicago, that only adds additional risk to the start of the itinerary. So I decided to use San Francisco as my gateway, but I also realize that getting to San Francisco could be problematic so I gave myself plenty of time to do so.

Some folks don’t want to ‘waste’ any vacation time with an ‘inefficient’ itinerary. I’ll just enjoy my day in San Francisco as part of the vacation itself, a little dim sum at Yank Sing alone is worth it. And I won’t stress weather blowing the whole trip.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Completely agree with this philosophy. Living in the middle of the country, in a snow-prone area, we do this consistently with all of our international travel, as well as trips to Hawaii. We fly to LAX or SFO (for Asia or Hawaii) or NYC (for Europe) the day prior to our long-haul flight, and spend the night. This method makes our travels much less stressful, as we don’t have to worry so much about weather delays getting to the gateway. It’s often cheaper/easier to buy a short hop to a major gateway and then book a long-haul ticket (whether paid or award) from that gateway to our destination. It is also a great excuse to hit our favorite NYC and SF restaurants, or go to the beach in Santa Monica for a few hours!

  2. Sorry, I don-t agree about Heels First. Sounds like a couple of kids with information that is really not for a seasoned traveller, maybe for someone who never travels. I look for travel sites to teach me something, not go back to the basics. This site belongs in elementary school, and looks like these teeny boppers just graduated high school.

  3. The issue at SFO can be delays caused by morning fog. IIRC, this occurs more often in the spring and the fall. The best thing to do is to schedule a connecting flight with no longer than a 24 hour stopover( 23 hours 59 minutes max), so it does not count as a stopover. This should work well for charges for stopovers on a revenue ticket or an award ticket. The enjoy a leisurely day and night in the city. The BART to SFO makes transfers easy.

  4. @chitownflyer it’s a midnight departure in february so not as worried about fog, and an american award so the only permitted stopover would be my north american gateway city anyway..

  5. Heels First girls blow 10,000 starpoints each night at the Swan hotel in Orlando… SPG recently had a starpicks for $109-$119 per night at the swan and its pretty often.

    They also blew 4,000 starpoints for a dayroom on a CAT2 hotel.. are you crazy??

  6. @Jamison that a hotel is on Starpicks doesn’t mean a great rate is available on one’s particular date of travel. The dayroom at CLT makes good sense to me actually.

  7. The issue I’ve run into is that I’ve been booking CX flights through AS and BA, so I can’t add an IAD-xxx leg on for no charge.

    This forces a separate ticket, which leads to extra-long layovers just in case. As I too have no desire to spend hours in airports, we’ve been flying into our gateway city a couple of days early to make a real weekend of it. The first time we were able to mattress run and take advantage of some FWN at the W Times Square (good way to start the trip!) and this time around we got three C&P nights at the Westin Chicago River North.

    It’s just less stress all the way around.

  8. Booked a trip on CX from LAX-BKK for this fall, connecting thru HKG. Had choice of 1 hr connection or 3+ hour connection (both ways).
    Given lounge access, I opted for the long layovers, so I won’t be in a rush. Missing the connecting flight on either leg — although a VERY slim risk — would completely screw up my trip. Better safe (and well fed!) than sorry!

  9. Living in Hawaii, my international gateway is often on the West Coast, so I always travel to the gateway a day ahead of time, even though i have never been delayed due to good weather here and also in LA. But often my gateway flight is on a revenue ticket, so i am not protected on the award ticket if i don’t make it, thus better safe than sorry.

  10. Defintely often a good idea to build in a buffer, especially if there aren’t many backup options or it would really mess up your overall vacation plans.

  11. I have been a loyal member of AA Advantage program. I currently have 980,000 miles accumulated and find it increasingly difficult to book flights for 3 from LAX to BCN late next August. I recently opened a BA mileage account to try to tranfer miles from AA and find I cannot do it. Suggestions?

  12. @Chris you cannot transfer miles from American to British Airways. And you don’t want to. 3 passengers transatlantic in August is tough. But you’ll see basically the same availability between the AA and BA programs. You may need to relax some constraints — dates, traveling together, destinations.

  13. When doing this, do airlines allow for such a long amount of time between connecting flights? Or, do you just book a RT flight a day before/after the long haul flights separately?

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