Recently I’ve heard from a good handful of people that they hate flying, flying makes them anxious, or simply that they will NEVER go on a plane…out of fear. This breaks my heart because I feel you can miss out on countless opportunities and experiences. This could mean beautiful destination vacations, a fantastic job that may require traveling, or even seeing a friend or relative that lives out of state. Sure.. you can definitely still drive, but that limits your possibilities and can double and triple the time it takes to get there.
I’m writing this in hopes to prepare first time flyers and make them feel more comfortable on a plane, if they must fly or choose to take an awesome first step for an exciting opportunity.
Before the Flight
One thing I cannot stress enough is to actually PLAN, rather than winging it and getting everything together last minute. Search fares on various search engines such as Kayak or Travelocity to find the cheapest option, but remember to book directly with the airline. If any issues occur, such as delayed or missed flights, it’s easier to fix these problems with the airline. Whether international flight or domestic, booking your flight earlier is always better, but don’t book any later than 6 weeks before your flight.
Generally speaking, if you’re flying somewhere vs driving, it’s probably a rather big trip. Write a list to make sure you pack everything you need: for the suitcase and carry on. I’m a huge fan of lists, for school, work, personal life, and I have them everywhere in notebooks, sticky notes, and on my phone; it keeps me extremely organized!
Get a good night’s sleep beforehand, this means go to bed early if you have an early flight. You can’t guarantee you will be able to sleep during your flight. It’s recommended to get to the airport about 2-2.5 hours before a domestic flight. This gives you extra time to get your ticket, drop off your suitcase, get through security (which can vary), and even grab some food or take a quick bathroom break. Arriving early gives you time to expect the unexpected. For all of my flights, I’ve never had a problem with timing.
Go to the bank. You need to have cash, you never know if you’ll have issues with your card getting declined or some place may not accept credit cards. It’s also important to let your bank know the dates you’ll be gone and city/state/country you’re visiting to prevent your card from declining.
At the Airport
When it comes to your boarding pass, you have one of three options: 1. You can have it sent to your phone (if you’re prone to losing important items), 2. Print it out the night before at home, or 3. Print the boarding pass at the airport once you arrive. There are always employees walking around, so if you choose option 3 and come across an issue or have a question, help is nearby! After printing your pass, check in at the correct airline desk. Always have your photo ID ready. The agent will weigh your luggage, label it with the correct flight and destination, and sent to the plane.
Security is the next step. Before you enter, you will need to show your ID and boarding pass. Follow all of the rules: shoes, any metal belts, wallets/purse, electronics, liquids, along with your carry on bag should be in one of the bins before you go through the metal detector. Pockets should be EMPTY of anything metal. Electronics such as phones, laptops, gaming devices need to be taken out of your carry-on bag. The rest is easy! Wait for the agent to tell you when to walk through, then take your items and leave.
You can find your flight and gate number on your boarding pass, or one of the numerous electronic boards above you as you walk through the halls. Once you find your gate, you can grab a snack, take a quick bathroom break, or relax until the gate agent says its time to board. They call specific groups to board one at a time; your group number and seat number will be on your boarding pass.
Carry On & Luggage
It’s important to make sure your checked luggage and carry-on bags meet airline requirements. Each airline will explain the weight requirements, size, and fee for luggage and the rules for carry-on bags. You are allowed one carry-on item and one personal item – either a purse or laptop. Money, passport, medicine, and ID’s are recommended to be in your carry-on back for quick access. If travelling overseas, pack a change of clothes and a few essential hygiene items in case your luggage is delayed.
All liquids (this includes gels, pastes, and creams) must be 3 oz or 100mL or less if you must have it on your carry on. Each individual item must fit in one clear, sealable quart-sized bag. When passing through security, make sure take this bag out of your carry-on to place in the bin. Any liquids of larger size are allowed on the flight, but they must be in your checked suitcase.
Depending how long your flight is, I would recommend activities. If you have anxiety, or simply do not like planes, it’s great to have something to get your mind off the flight! If you’re a big reader like me, get yourself a nice FAT book! Something Harry Potter sized would suffice; hopefully it will last you to and from your destination. Pick a new read, or something that’s familiar to bring a little extra comfort. Other simple activities to help with anxiety(or to simply pass the time) are coloring, crossword/word search puzzles, listening to music, or watching a movie. These all get your brain focused, but won’t be exhausting. If you need to have a drink, please limit yourself to just one so as to not dehydrate yourself! Anxiety plus dehydration would make for a not so fun trip!