Having a weekend fling with another city is a fun way to see a new place without eating up any annual leave. I managed to have 61 days abroad for my 20 annual leave last year and much of it comes down to coordinated weekend trips. Below are my time saving basics:
1. Outgoing Flight: Spend more on a convenient Friday night flight.
To make the most of a weekend trip I always recommend you always fly on the Friday night. I know what you’re thinking, those flights are £££. Yes, they are more expensive but I believe it is always worth it to spend a bit more and get there on the Friday. Flying directly after work not only makes your Friday more exciting (what’re you doing tonight?, oh flying to Lisbon, you?) it means you get at least one full day in your destination of choice and potentially an insight into what TGIF means in your destination.
Because you’re flying out in the evening. Planning is crucial. You need to be at the airport with 2 hours to clear customs, so you need to think about how long it will take to get from your workplace to the airport. This could mean only searching for flights from your nearest airport, for me this is Gatwick and I can get there in 45mins from work, one change at Clapham Junction. See my airport analyser post here for the cheapest/most accessible London airports.
2. Landing: Check your public transport connections.
Another thing to consider is the landing time in your destination. Run through these questions in your head, or in Goggle. ‘By late friday evening; is the metro still running? Is it running frequently? When is the last train? If I can’t get that, then what?’ Some cities run a reduced or no service after midnight. London only recently adopted the night tube.
3. Accommodation: 24/7 check in or pre-arrange late check in.
Arriving to accommodation late in the day can be tricky if there is no 24/7 check in, so that needs to be one of the first things you check before booking. With Airbnb I always contact the host to check that my arrival time is suitable, and keep them updated on my progress to their place to avoid being left out in the cold. (How to be an Airbnb Expert post coming soon).
4. Inbound Flight: Mid-afternoon is best.
I find the best time to fly back is mid-afternoon. What?! While this might seem like not making the most of my time in a fun foreign destination, travelling back later means arriving later, unpacking later, washing, no milk in the fridge, and potentially being tired for work tomorrow. It also usually means you’re lugging around a bag from check-out till flight time which can really inhibit your enjoyment of a place.
Flying mid-afternoon is definitely something I have learned. I always used to catch the late plane home. However after waiting out in Glasgow till 8pm on a Sunday while it was hailing outside in order to get a late flight, then arriving at London Stansted (not near home), getting a bus to London Victoria (as the trains weren’t running), then getting a taxi home as the tube and trains were closed… I have learned my lesson. Mid-afternoon still allows for half a day of adventure while still getting some admin done back at base.
5. Landing: Immigration takes time and always carry a mini-cabs number.
Best you check you can still get home after your scheduled landing time. If you’re from outside the EU/UK (like me) you will also need to budget time for re-immigrating into the UK. I allotted 1hour before coming a Registered Traveller (read my Registered Traveller Review here).
Despite all this planning, there can be unforeseen delays, like that time I had a 2hr 45min flight delay leaving Rome. This meant I was going to be out of sync with an infrequent train service upon arrival. Knowing this before, I used Skype to call my local mini-cab company before I left Italy. Sometimes it worth spending £30 to be in bed in 40mins after landing when you’re already 3 hours behind schedule.
Weekend trips can be exhausting, so don’t do too many in a row. Trust me, in July/August last year I only spent one weekend in London, visiting Athens, Greek Islands, the Isle of Wight, Porto, St Petersburg, Moscow and Rome all within a two month period, all the time working and studying in between.