5 really good reasons for taking a red-eye flight

Some travelers loathe what they consider the most wretched choice of flights — the red-eye. Others claim these flights are the only way to travel. I used to think red-eyes would be like spending time in Purgatory.

It’s the middle of the night, you’re grumpy and tired and the flight is usually full of children; small children; screaming, grumpy, tired small children. Plus, even with maximum sleep, four hours doesn’t cut it for me.

But, here I was, even with my concerns getting ready to fly cross-country in the middle of the night.

A young mother traveling with three kids under the age of five told me she always takes the red-eye because by that time, her “kids are so tired they just go to sleep as soon as we take off. Traveling with them overnight is much easier for me and for them.” Since I was about to become a fellow passenger, I’d just had to wait and see for myself.

I had already figured out few cool things about booking this flight and here they are:

1. The money saved on the price of the airline ticket — Red-eye flights normally have the largest number of cheap seats allocated by the airlines. Even when the cheap transcontinental airfares during the day are long gone, chances are, they will be available on a red-eye.

2. The savings keep coming. The money saved on the price of an overnight hotel room if you had flown the day before and spent the night at your destination can be seen as another bargain.

3. I saved about a half-hour of time and hassle going through security at a time of day when airport and their security lines are almost ghost towns.

4. I saved time on the first day of my trip. Whether it’s for business or pleasure, having some breathing time on the day of arrival is always a bonus. Unpack at your leisure, take a shower and really freshen up, change clothes, scope out the venue, have a drink at the bar then dive into obligations, be they meetings, planned activities or explorations. Make friends with the concierge; discover the best restaurants and nightlife spots.

5. The opportunity to multi-task, i.e., sleep and travel at the same time.

As you might expect, with one red-eye under my belt, I am now an expert. Here are some tried and true red-eye travel tips passed along to me:

Use a pair of good noise-canceling headsets. Either plug into your own ipod with soothing music or turn on the headset’s noise reduction feature that shuts out surrounding sounds.

Carry an inflatable neck pillow. Deflated, it doesn’t take up much room and once blown up, it can help afford you a few winks while you’re on your way.

Wear lose-fitting, comfortable clothing and simple shoes that slip off easily. It’s pretty difficult to fuss with footwear in cramped, dark quarters.

By the way, I actually sat in front of those three small children. Their mother was absolutely right. They fell asleep as soon as we took off, woke up quietly when we landed and didn’t even take up much seat space. Here’s to more mothers and kids like that on all our trips.

Send in any red-eye trip tips you might have gathered over the years. Is there anything that would make you choose an overnight flight?