Are you nervous about your first time flying?
Would it help to know you’re not alone in this?
So much goes into flying — arriving at the airport, boarding the plane, and getting through the flight — that most first time flyers get antsy about all the details.
It helps, though, to know what to expect when flying for the first time.
When you know what to prepare for, there are fewer unpleasant surprises at the airport and on the plane. And that alone can make the experience less stressful.
And for that reason, we created this post with 19 of the best tips for first-time flyers.
19 Tips for First-Time Flyers
The tips that follow come from the minds of those who’ve been there and done that.
They’ve been through the process enough to know how to help a first-time flyer get through the experience with minimal trauma.
1. Book your flight early to get the seat you want.
It’s best to book your flight as early as possible, so you can reserve the seat/s you want — whether you want an aisle seat or you’re hoping to sit in the middle of the plane.
Also, if you’re traveling with others, the sooner you book the tickets, the more likely you’ll be able to reserve adjacent seats.
2. Check the luggage requirements for your airline.
Every airline has its restrictions when it comes to luggage.
If you’re checking luggage, you’ll want to know ahead of time whether you’ll be charged a fee for it and how large it can be at that price.
It’s also good to know their policy regarding carry-on luggage.
You’ll want to make sure nothing in your carry-on bags is forbidden by airport security.
3. Pack as light as you possibly can.
Pack as little as you can, especially if you have the option of laundering your clothes at your destination.
If you can fit everything you need in your two carry-ons — one for the overhead compartment and a smaller one on your lap or underneath the seat in front of you — you can completely avoid the hassle of checking luggage.
4. Make sure your carry-on is the right size.
Once you know your airline’s luggage restrictions, make sure your carry-on luggage — both the larger one for overhead storage and the smaller one to keep with you — are the right size.
If the larger one is too big, you’ll be required to check it. If the smaller one is too big for the under-seat area, you’ll have to stow it overhead.
5. Arrive at the airport two hours early.
The length of the line waiting to get through security can be long enough when it’s not the busiest time of the day.
And if you have bags to check beforehand, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of time to get to your gate before the plane leaves — especially if you’re traveling with little ones.
6. Keep your ID handy (but not easy to steal).
You’ll want to keep your ID someplace you can quickly and easily access it without drawing attention to where you keep your money (unless that can’t be helped).
At the very least, you’ll most likely have to show a photo ID to check your bags and claim your ticket.
Related: The Fine Art of Traveling Well
A passport holder keeps important documents close at hand but also hidden.
7. Wear slip-on shoes and comfortable clothing.
Since you’ll have to take your shoes off at the security check-point, make it easier by wearing slip-on shoes.
And stick with clothes you can comfortably lounge in for hours. Thick sweaters and tights might feel fine outside; but on the plane, layers are better.
You don’t want to waste precious minutes relacing your boots after the security checkpoint.
8. Keep metallic accessories to a minimum.
No one’s saying you can’t wear your jewelry on the plane.
But the fewer things you have to take off at the security checkpoint (before walking through the metal detector), the fewer things you have to reclaim before heading to your gate.
It’s also best to avoid items that can catch on things and scratch people.
9. Pack essentials in your carry-on bag.
When it comes to packing your carry-on bag — particularly the smaller one that you’ll keep with you — prioritize items you’ll need to keep accessible to you during your flight.
These include a bottle of water, some face-friendly wet wipes, lens cleaning wipes, your headphones or earbuds, etc.
Save non-essential items for the larger carry-on or your checked-in luggage.
10. Bring your own water, snacks, and wet wipes.
While you’ll probably be offered drinks and possibly a snack, you’ll want your own supply of refreshments — including water and snacks that won’t spoil at room temperature.
The wet wipes are great for clean-up afterward. Keep a small bag in your carry-on for waste disposal to contain the clutter from empty containers and wrappers.
11. Bring plenty of chewing gum.
For take-off and landing, you’ll want a supply of chewing gum to keep your jaws moving, so the pressure won’t build in your ear canal.
It’s also best not to fly with a stuffy head, if you can avoid it, since it makes it more difficult for your ears to “pop.”
Once you no longer need it, dispose of your gum in your own garbage container.
12. Take your vitamins.
The recycled air in airplanes is fantastic for spreading germs.
So, keep yourself as healthy as possible with a multivitamin and multimineral supplement, get adequate sleep, and stay hydrated to avoid developing a head cold just in time for your return flight.
13. Keep yourself well-stocked with distractions.
Even short flights usually have a lull that you might want to fill with comforting distractions like a good book, some music, or some podcast episodes.
However, you prefer to pass the time, keep your favorite distractions close at hand.
Choose those that won’t be disruptive or annoying to your fellow passengers.
14. Visualize a smooth landing at your destination.
One of the most powerful things you can do before distracting yourself with a good book (or something else) is to visualize a smooth landing at your destination.
Any time you’re tempted to fear by turbulence or a general “bad feeling,” close your eyes and visualize an uneventful landing and think of how excited (and relieved) you’ll be when you arrive.
15. Practice deep, mindful breathing.
While visualizing the best possible outcome for your flight, take a moment for some deep, mindful breathing.
If you brought along a particular crystal to help you feel calmer, take it out of your bag and hold onto it with your non-dominant (receiving) hand.
Then take some deep breaths, visualizing something good, and allowing yourself to feel gratitude for it.
16. Listen to soothing music (or other soothing audio).
If you have some headphones or earbuds and a supply of downloaded music on your phone or tablet, settle in and listen with closed eyes to a calming playlist.
Let the music accompany your visualizations or mental playback of fond memories.
Allow yourself to enjoy it, and lean into the positive emotions that surface.
17. If traveling with kids, plan ahead to keep them quietly engaged .
If you think first-time flying is tough on adults, you should try it as a kid — when you have far less control over your comings and goings, and there are far too many people crammed into one place.
Plan ahead to keep them entertained or at least calmly occupied with something during the flight. And make sure they have something to help their ears pop.
18. Avoid wearing perfume or anything strong-smelling.
You know how it is when you’re in a confined space and you can suddenly smell the perfume and other emanations from the people around you.
And some are more sensitive than others, so be considerate and avoid wearing any fragrance (perfume, cologne, body spray) that might make it harder for others to breathe and to relax on the flight.
19. Bring along something new to celebrate your first flight.
Why not celebrate your first flight by buying a new book, a new set of headphones, a neck massaging travel pillow, or something else that will make your time up in the air more enjoyable?
Give yourself something to look forward to when you board the plane and settle into your seat.
And make sure it’s easily accessible to you when you’re buckled in.
Common Mistakes to Avoid with Air Travel
It also helps to know of mistakes other first-time flyers have made, so you won’t have to learn their lessons the hard way (as many have).
- Using a (smaller) carry-on that doesn’t fit below the seat in front
- Bringing full-sized bottles of toiletry items
- Packing forbidden items in your carry-on (and having them confiscated).
- Eating foods that result in gassiness or more frequent trips to the bathroom.
- Not checking your airline’s luggage restrictions beforehand
- Not informing your credit card company of your travel plans
- Not planning for enough transition time between flights
- Not checking Visa requirements (and being turned away at foreign checkpoints)
- Not keeping track of your reservation details
- Not keeping your valuables safe.
- Not packing cash for onboard food (unless you’re in First Class)
- Not making copies of important documents (passports IDs, credit cards, etc.)
- Not checking airport monitors for changes to scheduled flights
Here’s to a first flight as free as possible of preventable headaches.
Did these first-time flying tips make you more comfortable?
Now that you’re armed with 19 helpful tips for first-time flyers, what have you learned that will help you make your first flight as low-stress and enjoyable as possible?
Did any of the tips surprise you?
Ultimately, the more you prepare for your first flight, the more easily you’ll avoid the headaches that many first time flyers suffer as a result of not looking into those details beforehand.
We want your first flight to go as smoothly and painlessly as possible — which is why we wrote this article.
Wherever you’re going, the more you know about what you can expect, the more time you can spend just enjoying the flights (both to and from) and your destination.
May your proactive thinking and sense of adventure influence everything you do today.