Taking your first flight? From navigating the airport to keeping track of the right travel documents to boarding and departure, there’s a lot to learn about air travel etiquette and protocol. The WORST thing you could do is stress about it. Stress and air travel are a match made in anxiety heaven. Take it easy and trust your own common sense, along with the smart tips listed in this article.
If you’re anything like us, nothing puts your mind at ease quite like a good list. It’s all about being prepared! If you’ve checked off every item and run through every likely scenario, you’ll be ready to face the flight with confidence. And really, there’s no need not to. Flights are a thoroughly modern, clean, and safe way to travel! "In pure statistical terms, it’s more dangerous to drive a car than to fly on a plane," reports Fortune Magazine.
You may not have heard of these ways to make your first flight a smooth one, so be sure to keep them in the back of your mind as you launch your new status as a high-flying traveler. Even once you have a few flights under your belt, these hacks are great to keep in mind every time you fly. Consider sending them to a nervous flyer friend to pass the knowledge along! With the right info, we can all sit tight and enjoy the ride, the first time and every time.
20 20. Exercise Before You Fly
It might sound weird, but this is a great way to shake off pre-flight jitters. Plus when you think about all the time you're about to spend confined to a tiny seat between strangers, it's easy to recognize the appeal of moving your body freely for a while.
If you don't have time to hit your gym the day you take off, consider reaching the airport with an extra hour to spare. Walking, stretching, and even yoga are possible there. Some airports have dedicated workout or yoga rooms for passengers to enjoy. We promise that a quick jog or stretch will clear your mind and prep your body for the flight ahead.
19 19. Choose the Security Checkpoint Furthest Left
It might seem random, but research shows that most flyers are right handed and tend to intuitively choose security queues that are on their right sides. If you go left instead of right when you're given the chance, you're more likely to encounter a shorter line.
Airport security isn't anything to be scared of, but we can bet that it isn't where you want to spend a lot of your travel time. Saving time in the security section of the airport gives you more time to spend in the (more fun and relaxing) gate and boarding areas. Even if choosing a left line saves you just a few seconds, they're seconds worth saving!
18 18. Personalize Your Checked Bags
Your mom has probably already told you to do this one. Believe her! Luggage that looks like everyone else's is next to impossible to find identify you land. Black wheelie suitcases might look sleek with your travel outfit, but they're hard to spot in the split-second they roll onto the luggage carousel. Or worse, they're easy for some other passenger to accidentally swap with their own.
Unique-looking luggage can be pricey (looking at you, Louis Vuitton) so opt for personalizing your bags yourself. This can be as easy as adding a ribbon to your handle or a few cute badges to your front pockets. And of course, a custom luggage tag is a must. These are cheap investments that can save you from mix-ups down the line.
17 17. Join the Back of the Boarding Line
Everyone is always in a rush to board the plane, especially first time flyers. We get it! You're ready to go and you want to make sure you reach your seat with time to spare. In reality, pushing to the front of the boarding line makes your boarding experience much rougher.
Passengers who board first have to deal with dozens of people trying to push past them as they hoist their luggage into their overhead compartments. Passengers who board last, however, have a much clearer path to their seats and less trouble tucking their luggage away. Bonus: boarding last gives you the chance to ask flight staff if any seat upgrades are available! First class your first time? Yes please.
16 16. Sit Near A Wing
Not only will this give you better photo ops, sitting near a wing means less feelings of turbulence. As a first time flyer, it's possible that a little turbulence will freak you out - even if you know that logically, it's nothing to worry about. It's fair! You've never felt it before!
Sitting between a plane's wings (or in airline speak, "over the wings") gives you access to it's relatively stable middle section. For example, someone sitting by a wing will feel much fewer bumps and jolts than someone sitting near the back of an aircraft. Let the physics be on your side.
15 15. Sync Your Tech to Your Destination's Time Zone
These days most phones, laptops, and tablets automatically sync themselves to new times during Daylight Savings, leap years, and so on. They are NOT all capable of recognizing when they've traveled across time zones, though. It will give you a nice moment to prepare for adjusting to your destination by changing the time on your devices yourself.
While you're waiting to board or take off, select your destination's time zone in your devices' settings, or use everybody's pal Google to figure out what time it is in your destination and change your times to match. This will make you literally ahead of the game, and ready to hit the ground running when you land.
14 14. Don't Overdo it with drinks
We can see the temptation. You're about to blast up into the sky and hover around the planet with nothing between you and the ground but 30,000 feet of air. Diving into duty-free drinks could take the edge off. Most international flights even serve alcohol for free! The truth is, drinks can affect the brain differently at high altitudes, so you might get more tipsy than you'd expect.
One drink at 30,000 feet is likely enough to make you extra light-headed, so limit yourself to one and cut your chances of getting sick in the air/being hungover once you land. Jet lag and a hangover don't mix well, especially when you want to be enjoying a city you've never seen before.
13 13. Dress to Relax, Not to Impress
For your first flight, don't try to make any big fashion statements with your look. Your fellow passengers don't care about what you're wearing. The flight attendants have seen it all. The best outfit for a plane is one that DOESN'T turn heads - think track pants, layered tops, and sneakers.
Layers are important because temperatures on planes are known to fluctuate. They generally hover slightly below room temperature, so cozy long sleeves are a must. Even if it's sweltering outside the airport or over in your eventual destination, thin tops and short bottoms will probably leave you asking flight attendants for a blanket in the daytime.
12 12. Keep Your Shoes On
One reason it's ESSENTIAL to dress comfortably is that you do not want to have to take your shoes off on a plane. Lots of people do, but flight attendants know that this is never a good idea.
Firstly, it's just better etiquette to keep your feet under wraps. Secondly, the carpets of an aircraft are rarely washed. They get spot treatments after a passenger has a puking incident, but even that just gets rid of surface-level stains. The bathroom floors also often have pee residue on them which gets tracked throughout the aisles. There are some things only the thick rubber soles of a shoe should touch.
11 11. Bring a Portable Battery Pack
Do you own one of those battery packs that you can charge up and plug your tech devices into when you're on the go? If not, invest now. They're widely and cheaply available, and can make a huge difference to your travel experience.
Imagine taking your first flight with a dead phone. You would be searching for outlets in the airport, and disappointed when you found them all plugged up with lines of other passengers already waiting to do exactly what you need to do. Portable battery packs eliminate every ounce of that stress. You might even make a friend if you're willing to share - and we won't blame you if you're not. Battery juice is a precious commodity!
10 10. Make an In-Flight Playlist
Having headphones over your ears can help you block out the distracting hustle and bustle of air travel and focus on what really matters: getting in the zone for your trip! By making your own personalized travel playlist, you can control the exact kind of vibes you want to be channeling on your flight.
Float through the clouds while listening to songs that make you feel calm or that remind you of the destination or people you're visiting. You can even add podcasts to your playlist to have some fun and informative in-flight entertainment options that you can enjoy with a sleep mask on. Download them all before you fly so you don't have to worry about inconsistent airplane WiFi.
9 9. Research Your Seat Beforehand
Sites like SeatMaestro and SeatGuru let you peek inside your plane before you even book your ticket. They offer maps of standard air cabin types that you can search to find the layout of your soon-to-be plane.
Check out where the best-reviewed seats are, and where the cabin has things like washrooms, more legroom, and the rare power outlet. This can help you make the most informed decision possible about the seat you choose to book, or just give you insight into what your view will be once you're inside the plane. Knowing what to expect can do wonders for easing some of those pre-flight worries.
8 8. Skip Airline Food by Packing Snacks
Eating right at during your flight can help you stay comfortable to your landing and beyond. The most affordable airport food often also has the most salty carbs, like potato chips, bulky sandwiches, and packaged pasta salads. These are the foods that are most likely to make you retain water and bloat while you fly.
Travel smart by drinking plenty of water and packing your own protein-rich snacks to keep you full. You won't be able to bring a water bottle through security until it's empty, but once you do, fill it up at a gate's water fountain and get to sippin. A few extra visits to the airplane washroom are worth it for a healthy holiday bod.
7 7. Take (But Don't Share) These Travel Documents
If your phone has a high-quality camera, download a scanning app. Scan your ID (including the photo page of your passport) and save the PDFs to your phone. For security reasons, ensure they don't also sync to a saving location outside of your phone, like Google Photos or Google Drive. Many places will accept scanned versions of IDs in case of emergencies, so it's good to have a few.
Also take time to photograph your parking spot, the security line you use, and the gate number you wait beside. These pics will come in handy if you happen to leave anything behind at the airport, or if you can't find your car when you get back. It's the simple things!
6 6. Pack Your Ziploc Bags At Home
Most frequent flyers already know how to bring liquids on planes without having anything confiscated. With the power of the Internet, you can too. Don't wait to learn about liquid baggie rules until you're in the security line.
Most airlines will allow you to bring liquid items that are 100 milliliters or less if you seal them into a clear plastic baggie. Aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes all count as liquids, so they should all be in containers no larger than 100mil and bagged into Ziplocs places in your carry-on. If your makeup and shampoo are larger than that limit, you'll have to pack them in a checked bag. Sorting these out at home will make all the difference.
5 5. Check In Ahead of Time
If you have the option of checking-in online, do it! Most airlines offer this option to passengers the day of their trip. It lets you check yourself in and print off your own boarding pass at home. If you're only travelling with a carry-on, this way you can just go right to the security check-in and then through to your gate.
If you're traveling with bags you need to check at the airport, you can still check in online and get your boarding pass while you're checking your luggage. Signs at the airport will direct you to the airline agent desks and conveyor belts where they check your luggage. Save valuable minutes by checking yourself in online in either case.
4 4. Use a Jacket to Your Advantage
It's easy for a first-time-flyer to keep everything under control with the help of one well-utilized jacket. First, designate each pocket for different important info. For example, use the left pocket for your phone and headphones, use the right pocket for your wallet and change, and use your breast pocket for your passport and boarding pass.
No matter how tempted you are to just keep something in your hand or to shove it in whichever pocket is closest, resist the urge! Keeping things in designated pocket spots will reduce your risk of losing them, and help you access them faster. You can also use this jacket as a pillow while you're flying! No $40 airport neck pillow needed.
3 3. Set Flight Info as Your Phone Lock Screen
We got this brilliant idea from YouTuber and travel guru Kristen Sarah. Because she travels so much, she knows that having easy access to all her key flight information is important for navigating the airport smoothly. If it's your first time flying, try this temporary hack:
"What I like to do is screen-grab my email confirmation that I got for my flight, which has all my information on it," she explains. "I make it my lock screen on my phone. That way when I get to the airport I'm not like going through all my emails trying to find the flight information."
2 2. Pack a Killer Carry-On
Your carry-on bag is your best friend for every hour you spend in the air. You'll need it to contain not just important travel documents but also any personal items you don't want to lose, snacks you've brought (see item #8) and options for keeping you occupied.
A few first-time-flyer carry-on essentials include hand sanitizer, gum, a toothbrush, your chargers, a change of underwear and clothes, a note about your destination's address, that empty water bottle we mentioned earlier, and more. For a more in-depth list of exactly what to pack in your carry-on, check these items off before you fly.
1 1. Talk to Your Flight Attendants
Flight attendants are not just trained to help you out, they enjoy doing it! Any question, worry, or wonder you have while taking your first flight, you can feel free to bring to a flight attendant. You might be intimidated to ask someone for help under normal circumstances (like asking for directions while you're driving) but there's no reason to hesitate when asking a flight attendant for help.
If you want the landing protocol clarified, information on what kind of turbulence to expect, or just to tell someone that it's your first flight and that you're nervous, you've got a friend in the cabin crew. When you finally land, they'll be there to celebrate with you! New life skill: unlocked.
References: Fortune.com, getawaytips.azcentral.com, ReadersDigest.ca, SeatMaestro.com, EnRoute.AirCanada.com, SmarterTravel.com