Flying for the first time might seem intimidating, but it is not as complicated as it might seem. We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of tips for first-time travelers to make your experience stress-free and comfortable.
Let’s begin the first time flying tips!
We’ve broken them down into four traveling sections; before your flight, at the airport, in the plane, and after landing, to help you understand each stage of your flight. And now we are ‘ready for take-off!’.
Before your flight:
1. Add your flight to your calendar.
Set the alarm for your flight and include the flight details on your smartphone. Make sure you have the correct date, time, and departure gate. Let others know you will be flying and give all the flight information in case of an emergency. If you book your own flight, make sure to know when to find cheap flights.
2. Create a checklist.
Give yourself some peace of mind and make a checklist of things indispensable for your trip, like chargers, medication, and passports, and a checklist of things you must do at home before leaving, like; closing the garage door, turning off the stove, and taking out the trash.
3. Know your cancelation and travel rights.
Assuming you already purchased your ticket from the best flight booking sites, learn about their cancelation rights, compensation for lost luggage and delays, and moving flight dates. This will come in handy if there are any issues during your flight, be it with your baggage or connecting flight.
4. Check-In from home.
Before the pandemic, check-in at home was optional. Now, most airlines charge a check-in fee if you don’t check-in 24 hours before your flight. In addition, print or take a screenshot to have with you and present at the check-in counter.
5. Baggage requirements.
Know the difference between a personal bag, a carry-on bag, and a check-in bag. A personal bag is like a purse, a carry-on bag is small and fits in the plane’s overhead compartment, and luggage is the heaviest bag that has to be checked in. If you’re traveling with a car seat or a stroller, make sure to check the airline’s policy about it.
6. Weigh your bag.
Each airline has slightly different weight limits on their check-in bags. Know what the limit is with your airline. If you have a connecting flight with another airline, check their bag weight limits too. You might have to pay a price difference at some point during your connection flight if there are any differences in weight limits. You must know what is included in your tickets.
7. Plan for the worst.
Load your carry-on with a change of clothes, medication, supplements, makeup, chargers, items essential for your trip, and priceless possessions in case the airline misplaces or losses your checked-in bag.
8. Pack smart.
Know what is and isn’t allowed on to avoid any issues during the security screening at the airport. For example can you bring a razor on a plane? Check the TSA list of permitted items on a carry-on and a check-in bag. This list will help you determine what to bring and leave behind and will make the security screening process faster and without incident.
9. Arrive with time to spare.
Allocate enough time for travel and traffic from home to the airport. If traveling internationally, arrive two or three hours before your flight check-in. If you are traveling nationally, an hour or two is enough before check-in. Remember that summer is the busiest traveling time; consider this if you are traveling to a popular destination, and add an hour or two to your check-in time to avoid losing your time while waiting in line.
10. Wear comfy clothes.
Don’t hold up the line at security screenings; keep it minimal and practical by wearing comfortable clothing. Things like necklaces, lace-up boots, fashion statements, excessive jewelry, and complicated outfits will delay you and others at the security screening points.
11. Secure your travel documents.
Pack the pertinent travel documentation and ensure all your traveling documents are in order before leaving your house. Use a passport and travel organizer to secure essential documents in one place. Keep it attached to your carry-on bag.
12. Snacks for the trip.
Pack sealed snacks such as chips, baked goods, bread, solid homemade meals, and fruits. Here is s list of foods acceptable on a plane. Be mindful of others and bring food that is not smelly or messy, like tuna or soups. Keep your snacks simple.
13. Items to declare.
If you travel from abroad into the U.S.A. or the other way around, you will be provided a customs declaration form. You must fill out a declaration form and provide it at customs. Because all airports and aircraft are different, ask an airport staff or a police guard to point you in the right direction. These include baby carriers, baby formula, car seats, golf tour bags, snowboards, technical instruments, cash, and expensive gifts, among other things.
14. Carry an empty water bottle.
Water bottles with water are not acceptable through the security screening checkpoint; however, you can always refill them once inside the airport gates.
15. Choose a ride to the airport.
Plan your ride to the airport ahead of time. If you take a car, keep the parking ticket somewhere you will remember. Also, allocate time for the shuttle bus to take you to your gate since it can take time from your flight check-in. If hiring a car service, ensure rides are available close to your location.
16. Mark your bags.
Add tags, stickers, or anything else you can use to identify your travel bag at the conveyor belt and avoid mistakenly taking the wrong bag. If you want to tighten the privacy of your things, add a key or combination lock to your check-in bag.
17. Bring your entertainment.
Examples of things to pack are an e-reader, card game, notepad and pen, downloaded movies, laptop, tablet, or anything else you use to stay distracted. Charge your electronics before your flight to use them throughout your flight.
18. Get comfy.
Planes are uncomfortable. If you are going on a long flight, bring a neck pillow, blanket, blindfold, warm socks, or anything that helps you sleep and relax. The traveling process is already stressful, so it’s good to catch a few hours of sleep while you can.
19. Don’t overpack.
You are responsible for bringing back everything you pack. So do yourself a favor and pack the absolutely necessary and leave space for souvenirs and anything else you buy along your trip.
20. Anxiety, medication, and cabin pressure.
If you take anxiety medication, keep your prescription with you and any other medication you need. In addition, drink water, chew gum, or swallow saliva constantly to avoid the effects of cabin pressure on your ears. If you feel sick, let the airplane staff know, they will help you nurse your flying symptoms.
21. Check pandemic requirements.
While most countries have returned to somewhat normal activities, it’s essential to be informed of the COVID-19 restrictions of the country you are departing from and arriving. In addition, the airline you are traveling with should have information on their website about the requirements of the country you are traveling to.
At the airport:
22. Find your check-in counter.
Check-in your bags and find your gate. The airline staff will point you to your gate and give you any information you need for your trip. If you have questions about your trip, COVID-19 restrictions, or connecting flight, this is the right place to ask them. If you’re flying with a lap infant, you might be able to ask the staff for a seat with empty seat next to it.
23. Keep your things with you at all times.
Don’t leave your things, bags, or documents unattended or trust them to others. On that same note, don’t lend your things or hold items for people you don’t know. Finally, if you find unattended bags or suspicious-looking items left behind, don’t pick them up. Instead, report them to the airport staff.
24. Not the place for jokes.
Don’t make inappropriate jokes about the safety of the plane, airport, or your fellow passengers while at the airport or during security screening. No matter how well-meaning you think you are, airport security takes any mention of compromised security seriously.
25. Be ready for the security screening.
When you approach the security screening line, pay attention to the instructions from the staff. Be cooperative. This is why dressing comfortably is practical and packing only the essentials is important, so you don’t take a long time and hogg the line.
Once done, ensure all your belongings and travel documents are in your possession from the trays. Then, make an inventory of the things you took off and the things you got back. If something is missing is probably being inspected by the security staff. You might be pulled to the side and asked questions about it. This is part of the security screening procedures.
26. Find your gate.
If you arrive early, your gate might still need to be announced. Keep an eye on the monitors inside the airport to find the right gate using your flight code. As soon as your gate is announced, head that way. Stay within your gate area and check the flight monitor regularly to see if the gate designated for your flight has changed last minute.
27. Fill up your water bottle.
Once you pass the security screening and are closer to your gate, find a water fountain to fill up your drink.
28. Take a bathroom break.
Airplane bathrooms are small and uncomfortable. Instead, use the restroom at the airport before your flight.
29. Charge your electronics.
Most airplanes have weak power charging stations. So save your battery for the flight or charge your electronics while you wait for your flight at airport charging stations.
30. Last chance to shop.
Ideally, you would get all your snacks outside the airport since it’s more expensive once inside. But things happen, so this will be your last chance to buy snacks, coffee, gum, books, or magazines or check out the duty-free area.
In the plane:
31. Board with your zone.
Wait until your boarding zone is announced to get in line to board. The boarding zone will be printed on your ticket. There is an order of things that flows easily if everyone follows the instructions. Avoid waiting in the wrong line by paying attention to the instructions from the flight attendants at the check-in counter.
32. Find your seat.
Make sure you find the right seat. If you didn’t buy a seat with your ticket, you will be given a randomly assigned seat. Ask the flight attendants to help determine if you have a window, middle, or hallway seat.
Some facts about seats for your next trip: economy class usually has 31 in seat pitch, premium economy offers 38 in, and business class boasts 55 in. More about this in our articles:
33. Emergency seats.
If you are assigned a door seat, you need to be mentally and physically capable of following through with the emergency procedures. If you are not ready to assume these responsibilities, let the stewardess know immediately before the flight.
34. Stow away your carry-on bag.
No matter how compact your carry-on is, it has to be in your overhead compartment. Be mindful when loading your things to avoid hitting anyone with your bag when pulling it up or bringing it down. If you see a person struggling to get their bags in the compartment, offer help, this will help the line move along faster.
35. Personal bags go under the seat.
Keep your personal bag under the seat in front of you and keep the walkway tidy for your fellow passengers.
36. Listen to the safety talk.
The stewardess will give a safety talk showing you what to do in an emergency. You must understand the information that she is providing. Read the safety sheet on the backrest before you and obey the seat belt signs.
37. Practice plane etiquette.
Your seat is your personal space. Keep your space tidy. Make conversation if the person next to you is willing to talk. Wear headphones or earbuds to listen to music or watch a movie. Turn off your light at night. If you are traveling with kids, watch them and ensure they don’t physically invade the space of passengers around them.
38. Stretch often.
Keep your blood pumping by doing proper stretches on your seat or walking around the plane every hour if it’s a long flight. You can do many exercises that don’t require you to move from your seat.
39. Recline with caution.
Be mindful of you the person behind you. Even though seats are meant to recline, some people may physically struggle, and having a person recline might confine them to their chair. If you decide to recline up or down, take a moment to look back at the person behind you and do so slowly to give them time to prepare.
40. Alcohol consumption.
The airplane staff will closely monitor those who drink to ensure they don’t disrupt other passengers, start conflict, or create an unsafe environment. Then, the airplane staff can decide if they will stop serving you alcohol and if any other safety measure needs to be taken. Know your limits if you are going to indulge in a drink. Don’t be the drunk passenger on the plane.
41. Respect the flight attendants.
Flight attendants are professionally trained to keep passengers comfortable and safe, among other tasks. They are not maids; treat them with respect.
42. Don’t leave anything behind.
Do an inventory of your things to ensure you take all your belongings. If you leave any items behind, contact your flight’s airline to report the missing items. The airline will work with you to help you recover them.
43. Don’t push and shove.
The plane disembarks by zones; wait until it’s your turn to get out. Let the ones ahead of you come out before pushing your way through the line. Remember to hold your bags in front of you as you exit the plane to avoid those who are sitting hitting others with them.
44. Connecting flights.
If you have a connecting flight, look at the flight monitors and find your next gate. If you are having issues finding your way ask the airport staff or find your airline’s customer service desk so they can help you be on your way. If an issue with your flight causes you to be late for your connecting flight, go to the airline’s counter, and they will help you fix your problem. This is where your travel insurance and knowing your travel come in handy.
45. Go to baggage claim.
If it’s a national flight, pick up your bags at baggage claim and exit the airport to your destination. However, if it’s an international flight, you must claim your baggage, stop at customs, return the customs declaration forms, and then cross the last baggage check-up.
46. Double check you have the right bag.
Don’t make the mistake of picking up someone else’s bag. Instead, look for the tags you used to identify your bags. If you happen to take someone else’s bag, report it to the airline and return it. If the airline losses or delays your bag, report it at the baggage claim office.
47. Remove airplane tags.
This is the last tip that will prepare you for your next flight but remove any airplane tags from your bags to avoid confusion on your next trip.
Remember, everyone had to fly for the first time at some point, and you might be one of many doing so that day. It will be nerve-wracking and stressful, no matter how prepared you are.
Embrace the challenge, stick to these tips, ask for help if you need to and consider that you are one of many traveling somewhere unknown for the first time; you are not alone.