Crossing the International Date Line — Reader Mistake Story

May 4, 2018

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Karen, who misread her arrival time for an international flight. Here’s what she had to say:

We met up with another couple (old college buddies) for a fantastic, four-week trip to Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. Being retired, we enjoyed the time it took to book flights, hotels, ground transport and activities. As we boarded our return flight in Sydney to LAX, the four of us congratulated ourselves on a very well planned trip, scoring our plans as 99.5% perfect.

We left Sydney, Australia at 10:30 a.m. on a Saturday, and planned one more night together at a hotel by LAX before we went our separate ways. The other couple was scheduled to fly back to Newark on Sunday morning, while we had a rental car ready on Sunday to drive to San Diego. But half-way through the 14-hour flight from Sydney, we realized we hadn’t planned quite as well as we thought.

We had all looked at our Qantas reservation numerous times, but somehow failed to realize we were arriving at 6:30 a.m. Saturday instead of 6:30 p.m. It was a mind twister to realize we could get to Los Angeles earlier on the same day we departed from Sydney. We should have realized the flight reservation was in military time.

No one wanted to spend the day hanging around Los Angeles, so we changed our plans after landing. Our friends were able to get a decent last-minute flight back to Newark out of Long Beach. Meanwhile, we had to pay a bit more, but got one of the last available rental cars to take our friends to Long Beach and then drive ourselves on to San Diego. Fortunately, Wyndham Rewards was great about returning the unused points for our two hotel rooms.

Crossing the Pacific leads to some counterintuitive time changes. As Karen experienced, eastbound flights typically land earlier than they take off (in respective local times). You effectively get back the hours you spent flying, though you may be more jet lagged as a result. Equally confusing, westbound evening departures often lose an entire day in the air — for example, you might leave Los Angeles on Tuesday night and land in Hong Kong early Thursday morning, having skipped Wednesday entirely. It’s important to account for those time differences in any plans you make beyond your arrival.

Schedule mix-ups are the most common mistake I hear about from readers, and what seems most frustrating about them is how easily they can be avoided. I don’t expect every flyer to memorize which regions observe daylight saving time, which airlines use 24-hour time, or how dates are formatted in different countries. Instead, you just need to pay very close attention during the booking process, especially on long-haul flights that transit multiple time zones. Double check your itinerary before you buy (and maybe once more after) to make sure you’re going to the right place at the right time.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Karen for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Photo by pixonaut/Getty Images

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