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New York to Disneyland: Is a Red-Eye Flight Right For You?

Walt Disney's Original Theme Park at Disneyland Resort Draws Guests From Around the World
Walt Disney's Original Theme Park at Disneyland Resort Draws Guests From Around the World
Natalie Keller Reinert

Are you considering visiting Disneyland Resort in California? With so many flights from the New York City area to Los Angeles, finding a great airfare and making the California dream a reality is more likely than ever. And Disneyland, although smaller than Walt Disney World, provides a serious punch in a tiny package: its two theme parks contain as many attractions as all four Disney World parks. There's also the Downtown Disney District, with unique shopping, dining, and free entertainment, plus three beautiful resort hotels, one with a spa and its own private entrance into Disney California Adventure. Add in those dry, temperate Southern California days and you have a Disney experience that might just top your Florida vacations.

But there's no contest between flight times: Orlando is only about two and a half hours from New York City, while Los Angeles is closer to five or six hours. With all those hours in the sky taking away from your precious vacation time, you might be considering taking the red-eye home after your Disneyland vacation.

When flying from New York to Disneyland, is a red-eye flight right for you? We recently took a 10 PM flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to JFK here in New York City, and found it was definitely not for everyone. Take a look at these questions and see if you should use the red-eye, or go for an earlier flight.

1. Do you sleep through anything? Good. Somehow, I thought that everyone on a red-eye would be arriving tired and ready to sleep. I was mistaken--plenty of people on the plane were bright and bushy-tailed well into the flight, chattering, ordering food, and even spilling beer on me at one point. And the flight crew never toned down, even at four o'clock in the morning when most of the passengers had quieted down. Refreshed from sleeping all day and accustomed to the night shift, the flight attendants were bounding down the aisle and talking animatedly in the crew galley area throughout the entire flight. I'm a light sleeper, but being exhausted from a day of pool and vacation fun, I thought I at least had a chance. I didn't.

2. Do you like to work on your flights? Not so good. For some, flying is still the ultimate in quiet office time. Don't sign up for the wi-fi if your flight offers it, and you can type away on your spreadsheets and documents without a single tweet or email to ruin your chain of thought. But on a red-eye flight, the cabin's darkness and the eventual settling down of your fellow passengers can make you think twice about opening up the glowing screen of your laptop. If the person sitting next to you is trying to sleep, the glare from your workstation could be enough to earn you several angry glares from them. Although I couldn't sleep, I didn't have the courage to try it, especially since I was afraid I'd wake up the chatty woman across the aisle who had previously spilled beer all over me.

3. Do you have anything at all to do the next day? Bad. The longer you've spent on the West Coast, the more your body is attuned to the time. Add in next-to-no sleep on the red-eye and you'll be dragging through your first day back on Eastern Time. In fact, you might be dragging for a few days. The folks that routinely fly on the red-eye and head to meetings and work after their flight might find ways to minimize the struggle, but a first-timer should expect a very, very long nap in their near future.

4. Is your last day of vacation absolutely vital to your trip? Okay. If a short trip means that giving up your last afternoon to a flight is going to mean giving up some experiences, then take the red-eye by all means. You can always make up for lost sleep, but making up for lost vacation time is much, much harder. And when you're visiting Disneyland, there is always more to see. Grab some noise-canceling headphones, a sleep mask, and a neck pillow, then make that red-eye work for you.

Unless my answer to number four is "yes," I won't be taking the red-eye flight again, opting instead for a mid-afternoon flight that gives me plenty of time to get to the airport from Disneyland. But if you're a good sleeper, go for it--just remember that not everyone is planning on sleeping.

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