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Imagine booking an amazing international trip for your family. You book all of your flights and hotels. And then you discover that your dates are all off by one day! How is that even possible?!?!? It’s actually pretty common when crossing the international date line. To prevent this nightmare from happening to you, here are my best tips for planning a trip across the international date line.
I know from experience how easy it is to mess up travel arrangements in this situation. It took me three trips to correctly plan and book a trip that required us to cross the international date line. The first time, I messed up our flights and hotel. The next time, I got the flights right, but still screwed up our hotel reservations.
- What is the International Date Line?
- Tips for Planning a Trip Across the International Date Line
What is the International Date Line?
Before we get into how to plan a trip across the international date line without messing it up, let’s talk about the line itself. What exactly is the international date line? And where is it located?
The international date line is an internationally accepted imaginary line that runs from the North Pole to the South Pole to mark the difference between one calendar day and the next.
It is located at roughly 180 degrees longitude. It is exactly halfway around the world from the prime meridian. This line lies in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, right in between the small island nation of Samoa and the US territory of American Samoa.
Whenever you cross this line, you leave today and are instantly transported to either tomorrow or yesterday, depending on which direction you are going.
Crossing this line is why you can take off on a flight today and land in another location on yesterday’s date.
Tips for Planning a Trip Across the International Date Line
So, now that you know what the international date line is, let’s talk about how to plan your trip so you can avoid getting your travel arrangements wrong when you have to cross it.
Tip #1: Think about dates and times where your feet are.
The easiest way to plan a trip across the international date line is to think about dates and times from the standpoint of where you will actually be at that time. This also helps when planning a trip that crosses one or more time zones.
Flight departures and arrival times are listed like this anyways. So this will help a little when booking your flights.
When booking flights, think about your departure date and time as your normal time zone. Your arrival date and time, however, will be whatever date and time it is at your destination. Keep this in mind and then “translate” it to your home date and time to keep it straight in your head.
For example, when we lived in American Samoa, we flew to Samoa pretty often. And it required us to cross the international date line.
So, when booking our flights, I had to remember that we would take off on one day and land the next day, even though it was only a 20 minute flight. And for our return flights home, I had to remember that we would leave one day and land the day before.
Tip #2: Have a calendar handy when making your reservations.
Another way to make sure you get your dates right when planning your trip is to have a calendar handy with you when you are making your reservations.
This, coupled with the above tip, will make it easier to know which date you will be leaving and which date you will be arriving. It will also help you to make your hotel reservations for the right nights.
Tip #3: Double and triple check before actually booking.
The next tip on planning your trip across the international date line is to double and triple check your dates before actually booking your flight or hotel.
I know this sounds super simple and common sense, but it is the most important tip of them all. There have been times when I thought I had everything correct and then found a mistake at the last second.
Taking a few extra seconds to double check your dates will give you that extra assurance that your travel plans are perfect.
Tip #4: Write down both dates in your trip planner.
For me, I find it easier when I keep track of both the date at home and the date at our destination for everything. This helps me wrap my head around the fact that we will be skipping (or reliving) a day.
I do this by writing both dates down in my trip planner and notes for each reservation and activity on our trip.
For example, when I write down our flight information and hotel reservations, I write down both the date at home and the date in our destination. And on our daily itinerary, I put both the home date and destination date.
Even though you really only need to know both dates for your travel days, I find it easier to keep my days straight if I write down both dates for every day of our trip.
Tip #5: Pay attention to midnight.
One thing to be very careful of when planning your trip across the international date line is midnight. It can be an additional complication that will trip you up if you aren’t careful.
If you will be taking an overnight flight, be sure to factor in that you will be arriving two days after you depart instead of just one. So, definitely pay attention to midnight in these situations when booking your hotel reservations!
Tip #6: Don’t forget to go in reverse.
My last tip for planning your trip across the international date line is to remember to think in reverse when you travel back home.
If you will be “skipping a day” when you leave home to head to your destination, then don’t forget that you will be “going back in time” to relive one day when you return home.
If you are going in the opposite direction on your trip, then you will “skip a day” as you return home.
Planning a trip across the international date line can be fun, especially for kids. But, it can be easy to mess up your reservations by forgetting to account for the fact that you are skipping or repeating days on the calendar. These tips should help you keep it all straight so you can have a great trip without any issues!
For more trip planning tips, see how to plan an epic family vacation, how to take amazing vacations on any budget, the best places to start your trip planning, the best places to book hotels, and tips for getting through airport security easier.
And check out how to actually enjoy long flights!
P.S. Need help finding the best places to go on your family vacations? My Ultimate USA Bucket List for Families will instantly give you 60 of the best vacation destinations for families in the United States! Get it for FREE in the box below and start planning your next trip today! Plus, as a bonus, you will receive my weekly email newsletter full of family trip tips and inspiration!