If you’ve never flown on a plane before and have only done road trips, thinking about it can be both exciting and nervewracking.
You’re not sure what to expect of the process or the actual experience.
But flying is often the key you need to get to faraway places or go traveling further than outside your own bubble.
In this list of first time flying tips, I’ll talk about what you should do to prepare yourself and what to expect on your first flight.
These differ slightly based on whether it’s a long haul flight or not, but the basics of your first time flying will help you with any flight.
Sidenote! If you want more tips on US travel and to chat about all of the wonderful places to see in the USA, consider joining my Ultimate USA Travel Chat group on Facebook. Just click here and I’ll add you!
First Time Flying Tips Before You Get to the Airport
1. Book a Flight on a Less Crowded Travel Day or Time
If you’re taking your first flight, try to book on a random weekday or at a time that most people wouldn’t be interested in, like 7am or a really late flight.
This might inconvenience you a bit more when it comes to traveling, but it will probably mean less people on your flight which gives you a bit more space and time to get used to flying without dealing with the chaos of a completely full flight where they’re having to bump people off.
2. Pay to Choose Seats if You Think You’ll be Nervous
If you feel as though you’ll have anxiety about flying, you don’t want to add to it by not knowing what seats you’ll get.
Paying for your seat choice is often an extra cost in flying nowadays, but you should go ahead and pay this if you want things to go as smoothly as possible.
The other thing that can happen if you don’t book seats is that you and the others in your party get split up – it doesn’t happen often, but if it does, you’ll regret it as you’ll want to be with your people!
3. Make Sure to Read All Rules About Baggage
Luggage requirements are always changing among airlines, and they don’t always stay standard, especially if you’re taking a domestic flight and connecting to an international flight.
Be sure you have read and printed out all of the information about your baggage allowance before packing or getting to the airport.
You should always plan on the safe side, buy a scale to weigh your luggage at home so you don’t have to ditch anything in the trash in the airport, and make sure you’re aware of the actual size of the bags you’re allowed to bring.
Often, there is a weight restriction for carry-on bags as well, so be sure to check this.
4. Note Check-In Rules to Find Out How Early and How
Some airlines require you to check-in online beforehand or you pay an extra fee, this is particularly true for budget airlines like Spirit airlines.
Others offer apps, or checking in in person once you get to the airport.
Find out the rules for our airline, and also make sure to see when you can check-in.
Most airlines allow you to check in 24 hours in advance, and I alway do it as close to that point as possible.
5. Leave Yourself an Hour Extra than the Recommended Airport Arrival Time
When it comes time to get to the airport, take the amount of time the airline says to arrive at the airport early, and then go ahead and add an hour to that.
So if it’s a domestic flight and they say 2 hours, add an hour.
If it’s 3 hours for an international flight, make it 4 hours.
If it’s your very first flight, which is probably is if you’re reading these first time flying tips, then you’re going to want to give yourself as much time as possible to get through security and get to your gate in a relaxed way as you start to learn how the process works.
What to Expect for your First Time Flying at the Airport
6. Watch What the People in Security Ahead of You Are Doing
Going through security is one of the most stressful things for many people at the airport, even if they’re a frequent flyer.
The rules seem to change frequently and based on airport and their scanning equipment, so you don’t always have to take your shoes off now and sometimes they ask you to keep food/your laptop/electronics out of your bags, and other times you can put them in.
As you weave your way through the security line, keep an eye on what’s happening in front of you with security and what the security workers are asking of passengers – if you see everyone taking their shoes off, plan to take yours off too.
Whatever you can do to be alert and be aware of what’s expect of you will make it much easier.
You can also prepare in advance by already having your elecronics in a separate bag in case you need to take them out of your luggage.
7. Keep Your Passport/License and Boarding Pass Handy at All Times
You’ll need your passport or license and boarding pass when you go through security, as well as when you drop off luggage if you have any to be checked in, and again at the gate.
Make sure that you have a special compartment for these items so you’re not digging through your purse every time you need them.
8. Don’t Get Fancy with Your Clothes
While flying to some people is a chance to get dressed up and try and get bumped to first class (don’t count on it), most travelers these days have prioritized comfort over fashion.
You don’t want to have to unbuckle 86 things to get your shoes off for security or be contrained by really tight jeans while sitting in your tiny seat for hours.
You can feel put together and wear what makes you feel confident about yourself, but try to go for clothes that don’t have too many bells and whistles involved.
Simple is better.
9. Go Directly to Your Gate When You Get to the Airport
I always go directly to my gate when I get through security, even if I’m really early.
This allows me to do the walk to find out where, exactly, it is, and I can see what’s going on there.
If it’s completely empty and no one is at the desk, you know that you have quite a bit of time to kill before you need to go back and get ready, but equally if there’s a flurry of activity, you may want to find a spot and see what’s going on before going off to the bathroom or to get food.
10. Prepare for Airport Food Prices and Pack Your Own
Airport food is incredibly expensive with such a captive audience, and plane food isn’t very good either!
You can pack your own food and take it through security with you, which is a great idea to have something familiar and something that you know will bring you some happiness as opposed to a $10 bottle of water.
11. Go to the Bathroom Right Before Boarding
When they start to call boarding groups, unless you are someone who needs to be pre-boarded like a family with young kids or something with a mental or physical condition that means you need to be on the plane first, you’ve got some time before your boarding group will be called.
I always used this opportunity to quickly go to the bathroom before my boarding group was called, as there’s nothing worse than needing to go during take-off when you’re not allowed.
First Time Flying Tips for the Flight and Arrival
12. Tell the Flight Attendant You’re Nervous if You Are
If you’re nervous about your first time flying, tell a flight attendant!
This is such second nature for them , and they see new flyers all the time.
If they have a moment, they’re usually happy to chat through any fears with you and reassure you about how long they’ve been flying and how normal it is.
They might also check on you during the flight to see how you’re doing.
13. Wait for Your Boarding Group to Be Called and Go Directly to Your Seat
There is a term for people who hang around the gate waiting for their boarding group to be called, and it’s “gate lice.”
You don’t need to be one of them, especially early in the boarding process.
Wait until your boarding group is called, then get in line and proceed onto the plane.
When on the plane, find your seat and stow your luggage in the overhead bin if you have any that can’t go under the seat in front of you, and sit down.
The quicker people sit down, the less there will be a chance of delays with the take-off.
14. Try to Use the Overhead Bin Above Your Own Seat
If you have luggage that needs to go in the overhead bin above your head, do so as close to your seat as possible, if not directly above it.
You don’t want to be putting your luggage to any old bin you can find, as that’s not the proper plane etiquette.
If you have problems finding space for your luggage, ask a flight attendant where there might be room and they are usually monitoring these things to help you out.
15. Prepare to Put Your Electronics Away when Requested
At a certain point before take-off, you’ll be instructed to put certain electronics away and switch your phone into the airplane mode.
This is for safety, so that you are paying attention during take-off in case of any emergencies, and the plane can not take off if the pilots hear from the flight attendants that people are not following these rules.
16. Understand the Noises You’ll Hear in Flight
Planes make some funny noises while in flight that are completely normal, but odd for us who are usually on the ground!
This could be anything from the sound of the engines to the sounds of the wheels going up and down.
If you anticipate being nervous about noises during the flight, make sure to bring ear blockers or some headphones to constantly play music through.
You can also watch Youtube videos ahead of time that take you through these noises ahead of time so you know what to expect
17. Leave Your Phone Charger Out if You’re Using it in Flight
Some flights, especially those used for international travel, have USB outlets in the backs of the seats for charging.
This is essentiall if you’re going to use your phone in flight to play music, podcasts, or take notes on or take pictures with.
Don’t pack your charger too far into your luggage or in your checked bag, as you’ll want to be able to use it to charge your phone during the flight.
18. Don’t Be Afraid of Turbulence
Turbulence is one of the most natural parts of flying, and can often feel like brief bumps in the road or full out shaking depending on what type of turbulence you’re flying through.
Familiarize yourself with why it happens and what it is so it doesn’t take you by surprise.
Some flights will be incredibly calm, while others may have you shaking the entire 10 hour flight.
Pilots won’t keep you in situations that are unsafe, and they have so many ways of forecasting turbulence and flying around it if possible, so put your trust in the people up front who also really want to get to your destination and don’t be worried by turbulence.
19. Have the Phone Number of Your Ride Written Down for When You Arrive
You’ve done it!
When you’re exiting the plane into the airport, the next steps will be to figure out how you’re getting home or to your hotel or friend’s house.
And if your phone did run out of battery in flight, you’re going to be thankful you’ve written down either your friends phone number or the instructions on how to take public transportation to get where you needed to go.