When scheduling business travel, the first question that comes up is: Do I have to spend the night? Well, this is a tricky question, because the answer relies on many things. On my day trip to Toronto this week, I learned a very valuable lesson….do NOT do a day trip again to Toronto!!!
First set of answers to determine are: when does the meeting start, what time does it end, and therefore, how long is the meeting. If the meeting starts late enough in the day, then I can fly from home to the meeting location, and I don’t have to fly in the day before. If the meeting ends early enough, then I can catch a flight home that evening. So, there is a ‘sweet spot’ of time that the meeting can occur, which means I can fly out in the morning, and then back home that night…..a ‘Day Trip’.
Second set of answers to determine are: how long will it take me to travel from the airport to the meeting location & back? will this be rush hour & how bad is traffic typically? See, the meeting times may allow me to fly in/out the same day, but I have to factor meeting location distance into this equation of can I make the flight or not?
Third answer to obtain is how long is the flight to the city where the meeting is?
These three sets of questions are the ones I typically go through to determine if I need to spend either the night before the meeting or after. But, my trip to Toronto presented me with a new set that I need to factor in future ones….how long does it take to go through customs & security at the foreign airport?
The Toronto Airport is very nice: large, spacious, easy to follow signs. In an effort to speed the entry back into the US, you go through customs clearance at the Toronto Airport, deal with all that stuff there, and then when you arrive in the airport in the US, you can go directly through without going through Immigration. The problem is that Toronto is a VERY busy airport, meaning a lot of people are in line! Then, once you go through that line, clear customs, then you wait in the security line. This alone took an extra hour!
Another factor to consider for me is that I fly in/out of Newark, NJ (EWR). Flights are typically delayed in/out of EWR because the air traffic over NYC is busy with 3 major airports within 30 mins of each other (JFK, Laguardia, and Newark). As the day goes on, flights start to back up & the delays add up.
Even though it had been many, many years since I’ve flown through Toronto, I factored that time into my overall plan of can I do a day trip or not. I decided to take a 6:30am flight from Newark, NJ, and then take the last flight out of Toronto back to NJ that day, which was leaving at 8:50pm. My meeting was at the Hilton Hotel at the airport, so travel time was very short 15 mins. The meeting started at 11am and ended at 5pm. And, it takes an hour to fly to Toronto in the same Eastern time zone as Newark. So, taking the flights I scheduled would allow me to do this trip in one day.
Wouldn’t you know it, my morning flight wasn’t delayed, it was so early there was no line in the customs line into Canada, and I made it to the hotel by 9am. This was nice because I had 2 hours in the hotel lobby to work on other things. Had a very awesome and productive meeting, ending on time at 5pm, and I’m back at the airport at 5:30pm. I thought, “YES! I can catch an earlier flight home!”. Well, then I hit the customs & security lines, and by the time I arrived at the gate it was 7pm. This was okay because it meant I had plenty of time to have a nice dinner and relax before the flight. But, I noticed the earlier flights were being delayed, and my 8:50pm flight would most likely get delayed until about 9:30pm or so. And, it had already been a long day, since I left home at 3:30am to catch my 6:30am flight.
I went to the Air Canada (the airline) customer service desk, and asked if I could get on the earlier flight? Even though it was delayed, it was now scheduled to take off at 7:45pm, which is an hour earlier than my originally scheduled one that is going to be delayed anyway. I grabbed the last seat on that flight, we took off, and by the time I drove home, it was 10:00pm. (My other flight was delayed and I would have gotten home at 12:30am)
So, I made the right decisions on flight, meeting, and travel and was able to do a day trip! However, this was a 20-hour trip, which meant I was spent by the time I got home and tried to wake the next morning!!
As a result, I now will re-examine future ‘day trips’ to make sure it doesn’t mean I’ll literally be traveling a whole day, and future trips to Toronto will be an overnight more than likely. As the saying goes, “It’s always better to sleep in your own bed.”