I remember my first flight: I was a bit stressed as it was a total new world for me. Everything is brand new: from getting your tickets, to check-in your baggages, to going threw security, and boarding into the plane. I know some people who are taking their first flight soon, so I thought it was a good time to write a small post about what to think about.
How is it going to be?
Firstly, I highly suggest you to take the public transit or the taxi to go to the airport: it’s more expensive, but less complicated. Once you’ll be on site, you need to find the place for you. International airports usually have two sections: one for local flights, and one for international one. Find the right one for you as you can’t check-in with your airlines for a local flight, if it’s not. Once you found the right section, find your airline counter: you usually can take your ticket with an electronic born or with an agent (the first is usually way faster). You’ll only need an ID (or passport for international flight), and your reservation number (most of the time, not even the last one, but just to be sure). Once you have your ticket, you may want to check your baggage: if you were at the counter for your ticket, they will do it, if not, most airlines usually have a line just for this.
Once you have your ticket, and checked your baggage, you need to go to the security lane. Check on your ticket as the airport may have more than one entry. At the security, it’s time to remove everything from your pocket, remove your jacket, and your shoes (depending on the airport-flight). You’ll also need to remove any liquids from your bags, and your laptop (iPad too I think – not sure, I don’t have one). They are usually not so friendly, but get over it, be respectful, and you’ll be good. If you are taking an international flight, you may have another step depending on your airport (if not, you’ll have this step at your destination): custom. Depending where you go, those guards may seem to be rude, but again, no stress, be honest, and everything will be good: you need to give them your passport, tell them where you go, for how long, which purpose, and usually you are good to go.
You are now on the secure side of the airport. At that point, I suggest you to find your departure gate on screens for this purpose (they all have those), as your gate may have changed. I also suggest you to go through the gate before doing anything else, as in a big airport, that gate could be at 30 minutes of walk. Once you find it, you’ll have plenty of time to buy a snack, or send the last email before boarding.
Review the airports, and airlines’ rules
The rules from one airport to the other as from one airline to the other are kind of the same, but it’s always good to read those rules: I would say that once you read it once, you’ll be ok for most of your travels. You’ll be able to know what is the recommended time you should be at the airport, what you can bring in your personal baggages as in the one you will have check in, and a lot more information. As an example, my next trip will be with Air Canada, departing from Montréal, and arriving at Barcelona: as you can see with all the links, I can read the rules of my airlines, but also from the two airports I’ll depart from.
Prepare your baggages
Since you read the rules from the airport, and the airline, you now know what you can or can’t bring with you. If you can avoid to check-in some baggage, and bring it with you in the plane, I highly suggest you to do so: you will save some time when you’ll need to retrieve your baggage at your destination. Be sure you have everything you need, but don’t over pack: whenever you are in the world, there will always be a way to buy the stuff you are missing. The only thing I constantly get with me is medicines, in case I’m sick (cold, flu…) in a city I don’t know: I learn the hard way that most drugstores are closed on Sunday in Brussels, and when you don’t feel right, it’s no time to find the nearest one. No matter of the duration of your flight, once the excitement of being in the air is gone, it will be boring: be sure you bring in your personal baggage (the one you’ll bring with you in the cabin) some books, music, computer, or whatever that you can help you kill some time.
Better be early, then late
The usual rule is three hours before your flight if it’s international, and two hours if it’s local. Most of the time it will take you less than that, but worst case, you’ll have some time to read your preferred book if you are too early. It seems a lot, but you’ll have to wait to get your ticket (most airports have electronic born now so it’s faster), wait to check your baggage (if you used the electronic born), wait to the security, and if it’s an international flight, wait for the custom. Most flight starts to board between 30 to 60 minutes before the departure time, depending of the size of the flight. If you plan to flight more often, depending on your country, you can find some frequent-flyer program. As an example, I’m a member of Nexus, and the Global Entry: in most Canadians, and US airports, I have vip lines for customs, and security (it saved me a lot of time).
Be ready for your flight
Is your flight during meal time? Buy something at the airport! You can bring with you in the plane everything you bought after the security line: it’s usually cheaper than in the plane, and far better. Since it’s your first flight, bring some gum with you: take one at the take off, and at the landing as your ears will hurt a little because of the air pressure changes. You’ll get used to it, and won’t need gum after a couple of flights (or you may never have any problem), but better be safe, than sorry. Keep in mind that, except if you fly in first class, most airplanes don’t have much space for legs, so feel free to get up, and take a small walk in the aisle (if you are in the middle or a window seat, please don’t do this too often).
Those are simple tricks for people traveling a lot, but can be very helpful if it’s your first flight: there are so many things to think about. One last tip: don’t stress, everything will be ok! As you’ll hear quite often: sit back, and enjoy your flight…