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Is this your first plane flight or do you need some tips about flying?
Maybe it feels like you’re the only one in the world that has never flown on an airplane or maybe it is your first time flying alone. Guess what, you’re not alone!
The majority of the world still has never stepped foot on an airplane. According to Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg less than 20% of the world’s population has ever flown on an airplane.
For many of you, this is an exciting time, and it should be. For others, the thought of flying causes anxiety and fear. Either way, you have worked hard to get to this point, to save, to plan, and to make the decision to go.
Believe me, I still get and have some of those same fears that you are feeling, even though I’ve flown many times now, to multiple countries and continents.
One thing I always tell myself is that flying is the safest way to travel. Did you know that more people are killed in car accidents than on airplanes? The likelihood of something bad happening is super low. When my anxiety kicks in, I repeat this to myself over and over.
I remind myself that flying on an airplane is super safe. Believe it or not, air travel is far safer than you think, read here for more information.
Stick with us and we will walk you through some of our first-time flying tips.
There are a few things that you need to know to make your first flight great. We will try to help you take some of the stress out of flying and make your travel comfortable.
Booking Your First Flight:
If you’ve booked your tickets already you can jump to the next section or read on so you know what to do next time. If you are still in the planning phase here are a couple of tips on booking your flight.
Schedule and time of year:
If you’re like us, you have to balance work schedules, school schedules, and after school activity schedules. This can be a challenge for two parents as you will have to both plan days off from work; sometimes it may even seem impossible to coordinate everything. Even trying to balance kid’s schedules can seem impossible.
Those are all things to consider. Reminder: If the summer or over a holiday is the time you are considering to go, the cost of flights will be higher. If you can arrange traveling in the offseason or even leave a couple of days before a holiday you can save hundreds of dollars.
The time of day you pick to fly out can actually save you time and money. If you are limited on vacation days at your office, you might pick a late afternoon flight or evening flight. These might be cheaper as many business travelers opt for morning flights. This is also a great way so you don’t have to burn a vacation day or if your company allows, only use half a vacation day for your trip.
Shopping around and finding flight deals
Shopping for airline deals has become so much easier than even 5 years ago. There are so many tools and apps you can use. There are also bloggers and Instagrammers that do the searching for you and they will post it when they find great deals.
Some of the apps that we recommend to use are Hopper & SkyScanner. If you have a destination you can create a watch on both of these apps, they will alert you when your destination flight is at a lower cost. We almost always use gooogle.com/Flights to search for our flights. Google Flights has a couple of awesome features and we will share with you a couple for your first time flying.
It will search almost all airlines, including budget and traditional airlines. The next thing is the calendar feature. It shows you the price per ticket, for each day of the month or week. (I love this feature because it helps me pick the best day to fly and the cheapest routes.)
This can save you anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. If you are traveling with kids, those few dollars of savings can add up. Let’s take a look at the two images above on how to use the google flight calendar.
1st – Input your location airport and then your destination.
2nd – Select the approximate dates you would like to fly.
3rd – Click on the calendar to look for cheaper options. You will see in the example that if you are able to fly out the following week you can catch a flight for $75 USD! That is a savings of $141.00 USD.
That’s enough savings to book your next trip!
Layover vs. direct/nonstop:
If you are traveling from Los Angeles to New York, and the route you have booked has a stop in Atlanta. This is called a 1 stop flight and your time in Atlanta is considered a layover.
If your flight from Los Angeles to New York does not stop at another airport, this is what is called a direct or nonstop flight.
Both have their benefits and sometimes you cannot avoid a layover. For those of you who are flying alone for the first time or for those of you who this is your very first time flying on a plane ever, we recommend trying to book a direct flight.
This is usually less stressful and you only have to board the plane once, you only have to take off once, you only have to do everything one time, and you don’t have to navigate another airport.
Sometime nonstops are more expensive. I know it doesn’t make sense to me either. You get there faster and you fly less but your ticket is more. It’s because they are more desirable tickets. If you have to layover, there are a couple of things you should know and we will go over later.
How to book a nonstop flight to avoid a layover:
We love to use Google Flights to not only check for the best rates but also the best route to take. You can use this tool for your first time flying on an airplane or your one-hundredth time. Here is what you need to do:
Step #1 – After you have input your destination and the dates. Your screen should look like this. You can see that there are a number of nonstop flights on this route that include Sprint Airlines, American, Alaskan, and Delta Airlines
Step #2 – Check on the “Stops” drop-down and select “nonstop. See the picture below for the dropdown menu. This will list only the nonstop flight and helping you to avoid a layover. You might not be able to get a nonstop depending on your location or the destination. Flying in and out of smaller airports, you will most likely have a layover at some point.
A typical layover for domestic flights is between 1-2 hours. It could be a lot more, but try to avoid a really long connection. Also for first-time travelers, try to avoid too short of a connection.
A short connection would be 45 minutes or less. Do not do this to yourself! Plan time for getting off the first plane (20 minutes), bathroom breaks, walking from gate to gate, etc.
There are so many things that could mess up your connection and slow you down. Just think if your first plane takes off a few minutes late or if your flight takes some time taxing to the gate. Those unplanned minutes can stress you out if you don’t have much time.
Especially if you are not familiar with airports or even the specific airport you are stopping at. There is a possibility that you have to take a train or a bus to get to your next gate to catch your flight.
You should stay at the airport for a layover. Do not go out unless you have plenty (more than 4 hours) of time or if you are planning to meet someone.
But once again this is your first time traveling on a plane. Let’s keep it simple and just stay at the airport. Take in what you have just accomplished and walk around the airport.
What to do in an airport during a layover
There is a lot to do in an airport; maybe try some food or look through some of the stores. I like to find a local store that has souvenirs from that state or city. If that’s not your thing, find a quiet place and maybe read a book or put in your headphones and watch the airplanes taking off. Airports are fun to just take it all in.
If you have your kids with you, check if the airport has a kids zone. A lot of airports have a play place for kids. This is a great way to get their energy out before your next flight!
Another fun way to get their steam out is to walk on the moving walkways. Our kids think this is a blast. A lot of times, I can sit and rest while they walk on and off the moving walkway.
I actually love layovers when I’m traveling with my kids. It is a great chance to get off the plane, get their wiggles out, and reset before the next flight.
If you are traveling with a baby, also check the airport’s directory or map. They may have special rooms for parents flying with babies or toddlers. I have taken advantage of these rooms multiple times. They provide quiet and privacy for feeding the baby and clean space for the baby to stretch.
**Pro-tip~ I always locate the gate where I will be departing from next before I get busy doing other things. This way if you have to rush to your gate you know where you are headed.
Checking in for your flight
We totally understand how flying can be confusing for the first time flyer. Even before the day of your flight, the airline is sending you emails and texts about checking in for your flight.
Do you need to check-in online before you arrive at the airport?
The airlines are extremely efficient at sending you emails saying that it is time to check-in for your flight. Is this required?
As a general rule, it is not required; but each airline differs. So read your emails about the check-in process!
Make sure to have your identification and any other travel documents ready to go on the day of departure. **Also find out which terminal your flight will be departing from before you arrive at the airport.
Your departure day
The day you’ve been planning for is finally here! It’s time to leave life behind and discover new places. You just have to get through this flight. Don’t worry, we’re here to help!
Don’t forget to set an alarm if you have an early flight. It’s actually a good idea to set an alarm on your phone for when you need to leave for the airport. Sometimes we get distracted with other things and the time creeps upon us.
How early do I really need to arrive at the airport?
I would suggest you arrive 90 minutes to 2 hours before your flight’s departure time. You have a lot to do before you get on the plane and you don’t want to be pressed for time.
Also keep in mind, most flights board (load the plane) about 30-50 minutes before departure time. If you arrive at your gate 10 minutes or less before departure time, the airline may not allow you to board the plane.
Checking in for your flight
Alright, you’ve arrived at the airport with plenty of time, your bags are packed, and you have all your documents in order. Now what?
First, you need to find the correct terminal. Terminals are typically broken up by international and domestic or by the airline. I would suggest Googling which terminal you will be leaving from before you arrive at the airport.
Now you’re standing at the correct counter to check-in for your flight and you are faced with countless electronic kiosks. What do you do now?!
Now you pick a kiosk (the one with the shortest line) and you start checking in for your flight. Typically you will need to put in your passport or reservation number to find your reservation.
The kiosk will walk you through a few questions. After you’ve completed all the questions, it will print your boarding pass and baggage tags. Since this is your first time flight, don’t hesitate to ask an attendant for help.
I still ask for help sometimes so don’t be embarrassed, that’s what they are standing there for!
You need to put your baggage tags on your suitcases. This is just a sticker that you put through the handle of your bag and then stick it to itself. Again don’t hesitate to ask if this is difficult at all.
Next, you need to drop off your bags so they can go on the plane too. Follow the signage (or ask) for where to put your bags. Each airport and airline is slightly different so follow the posted signs.
How to get through security easily
Alright, you are all done checking in and now it’s time to head towards security. Follow the signs to security and I’m sure you will find a lovely long line awaiting you.
Don’t panic, this is why we planned to arrive early. Just hop in line and prepare yourself for your turn. When you get to the TSA agent, you will need your identification and your boarding pass.
After you’ve passed the agent, it’s your turn to “get through security”. Here are the things you need to know:
- You need to remove your laptop from your bag and place it in a bin to go through the scanner.
- Empty your pockets and place everything in another bin with your bag.
- Remove your belt and shoes, place them in a bin.
- You will push all of your stuff through the scanner.
- Now you walk through the metal detector or body scanner.
- Your things will come out of the scanner about the same time
- Pick up your things and walk out of the way of others to put yourself back together.
**Pro tip~If you are traveling with a baby or child that needs extra help, check out this post for more information about TSA Cares. This is a great resource for anyone who needs extra assistance getting through security.
Congratulations! you did it!! You made it through the hardest and most rushed part of your time in the airport.
Tips for the departure gate and boarding
Find your gate first. Your gate number will be printed on your ticket. Or it will be posted on one of the many electronic boards in the airport.
At the gate, for most airlines, they will have you board the plane by your boarding zone. This will be printed on your ticket. Some load the plane from front to back and others load from back to front just depend on the airline.
The first group that they will call to board the aircraft is for those that need assistance. These are passengers that might need special assistance, maybe they are in a wheelchair or just need the extra time.
Next will be those traveling with infants. If you are traveling with a baby for the first time, we highly recommend boarding at this time. This will alleviate a little bit of stress as you will have time to get your bag, the diaper bag, some of the toys, and baby bottle out and place your bags somewhere for easy access.
After that, the gate agents will call for First Class, Business class and elite member passengers to board.
When all of those groups have boarded, they will then start boarding by zone. Once again this will be printed on your boarding pass. If you don’t know, just ask the gate agent at the counter.
What to do on the plane:
Where do I put my bag? When can I use the toilet? Is it safe to use the toilet? Do I get a meal? Can I have a soda or a drink? How many bags of peanuts can I take? For those around you, they might find these questions funny but these are great questions that many people are thinking about.
Where to put your carry-on.
If you have a roller bag with wheels as a carry-on, it will have to go in the overhead compartment or bins. Try to place it as close to the row that you will be seated as possible. You might need to place if a couple of rows before your seat or a couple of rows behind you.
We recommend getting out everything you will need before you place it above you. This could be your book, headphones, tablet, cell phone, wallet, passport, snacks, etc…
If you have a purse, backpack, shoulder bag, briefcase, or really any other smaller bag; then you have the option to place over your head in the compartments or at your feet.
If I am able to place it at my feet, I always prefer it because then I still have easier access to my things. I will still pull out a few things before take off though. Such as my headphones or a book. If I’m traveling with my kids, I always pull out some form of non-electronic entertainment for them.
**Pro-tip~ If you’re traveling with a baby, make sure to have a bottle, pacifier, or nursing cover out before take-off. This way you can easily soothe them during take-off.
Getting settled in your seat and preparing for take-off.
If you have an aisle seat you may want to wait to put your buckle on until all the passengers have filled the seats next to you. If you have a window seat, go ahead and put your seat belt on.
Once everyone in your row has sat down go ahead and put your seatbelt on. You will have a few minutes until all passengers have boarded the plane. You can continue to use your phone until the boarding door is closed. Once the boarding door is closed you will need to switch your phone into airplane mode.
After the boarding door is closed there will be a short safety briefing either on the TV in front of you or the flight attendants will demonstrate in the aisle. If you have concerns you can always check the safety card in the front seat pocket in front of you.
Taking off and air sickness hacks
If you are going to have any airsickness issues on your trip it will most likely happen on the take-off or landing. Let’s chat about a couple of things to do to help with taking off. Before you get on the plane we recommend having chewing gum and a bottle of water.
Chewing gum helps to pop your ears and to keep the pressure off of them. As you take off, you will climb fairly quickly to 10,000 feet, this is the normal altitude for airplanes. Try to have spearmint or peppermint gum. The spearmint and peppermint can help ease an upset stomach. Also, if you do happen to throw up it’s more refreshing to have one of those two types of gum.
The water is to keep you hydrated but sometimes taking a drink will help to pop your ears. Always stay hydrated when flying, this helps with so many things. Trust me!
If you have a history of being motion sick here are a couple of things you can take to help with any air sickness.
- Dramamine and meclizine – Both of these have a longer-lasting cycle. Most recommend taking about an hour before a flight to give them time to work. Some people will start a cycle a day before a flight to get the medicine into the system. Both will make you sleepy but they are not sleeping medicines.
- Pressure bracelets
- Ear patches
During the Flight
So now you are gliding peacefully through the air to your destination. You’ve made it this far, now let’s try to enjoy it. Here are some things to look forward to.
Many of the new airplanes have entertainment systems in the headrest in front of you. If you are luckily enough to have one of these then you can plug your headphones in and watch some of the latest movies or TV shows.
If you are not as lucky to have an entertainment system in the seat, many airlines offer in-flight entertainment for your phone or tablet. Once the plane gets to the cruising altitude they will turn the WIFI on you a link up to the entertainment options through your phone.
The only downside to this is that you are using your own battery on your phone. But some airplanes have USB or outlets in the seat by your leg to plug your phone in.
How to know if my plane has either of these before? Check out your airline’s website and your reservation. You should be able to find out if your flight will have in-flight entertainment this way.
**Pro-tip~Many major airlines have an app that they use for their in-flight entertainment on your phone or tablet. (For example, Delta uses an app called Go-Go). Download this before your flight!
Drinks- Snacks- food on the plane
Many airlines have taken away food and snacks as part of their normal services. But all airlines will still provide you with a limited choice of drinks and some sort of small snacks, such as peanuts, pretzels, cookies or crackers.
All of the major US airlines, Delta, United, American, JetBlue, and Southwest will offer you a soda, juice, and even some wine For Free!
If you opt for a sip of wine to help take some of the nerves and edge off your first time flying, just don’t overdo it. (It could make air sickness so much worse.) They do also have other alcoholic beverages available for purchase.
**Pro-tip~ If you get nauseous or airsick, ask for a ginger ale. The ginger helps to calm the stomach.
Most domestic airlines don’t give you a meal for free anymore. Sad, I know, but if the pretzels and peanuts don’t cut it for you, they all offer snacks for purchase. Usually, you can get a sandwich with chips, a fruit platter, or a cheese and cracker option. Prices are usually reasonable between $8 -15USD per option.
**Pro. Tip~ Buy some of your favorite snacks at the grocery store, Wal-Mart, or Target before you pack. If you are looking for a healthy alternative this is easier than airports. Granola or protein bars are easy to take just a few. Almonds and dried fruit are other easy options.
If you’re like me, sometimes you can use the trip as a treat. I like to pack my favorite candy bar, but my husband almost always takes Swedish Fish or Sour Watermelons. You can also pick a few things up at the airport if you need to, but they are always more expensive.
Can I walk around on the airplane?
Most of the time you will and should be seated. However, there are times that you can get up and walk around or use the lavatory (toilet). Once the airplane has reached the appropriate altitude, you will normally hear a “ding.”
Then the flight attendant or captain will announce on the intercom that you can move about the cabin. This is also the same time you can lay your seat back if you don’t want to get up and walk around.
If you are not sure what the captain said, as some speakers are hard to hear or understand and you’re wondering if you can get out of your seat; you can look by your air vent and lights. There should be a seat belt symbol illuminated in red if you cannot get up. If it is off or green you can get up.
Toilets on the plane.
If you have to use the toilet you will most likely have to walk to the rear of the airplane. The front lavatory is usually reserved for 1st class or business class passengers. On some larger aircraft, there are lavatories located in the middle of the aircraft. These too are also okay for you to use.
It is good to use the toilet any time the fasten seat belt sign is not green (or not lit up at all).
**Pro-Tip~ When using the toilet. Don’t hit the flush button until you are all done with your business and standing up. You don’t want to push the button while you are still seated -Trust me!
What should I do if there is turbulence?
This is a great question not just for first-time travelers but for anyone traveling. Most of the time the captain will announce that we might be going through some rough air or turbulence and that the seat belt sign is turned back on.
What is turbulence? Pilots liken turbulence to waves in the sea. They are bursts of warm air coming up from the ground. Large aircrafts can easily navigate these “waves”.
If you are in the lavatory, you don’t need to rush too much, but quickly finish and get back to your seat. You will need to make sure your safety belt is fastened. If you are traveling with kids, make sure they too are buckled. Usually, it just gets a little bouncy.
The flight attendants might stop serving drinks during this time. I have experienced some pretty rough air but nothing serious and nothing to worry too much about.
Remember first time travelers, you are still safer on a plane then driving. You might want to put in a fresh piece of gum to help with any nausea or pressure changes.
Sleeping on the plane:
If this is really your first time on a plane, you probably won’t do too much sleeping. But if you can relax enough you might be able to get a couple of minutes of shut-eye. This helps to make the flight go by faster.
Make sure your seat is laid back to help you rest. Push the button on the armrest and lean back, your seat should go back a couple of inches.
Sleeping in the window seat
If you have a window seat and you are feeling sleepy. Go ahead and lower your window shade. If you have a pillow, prop it up on the wall, rest your head and go to sleep. You have the best seat for sleeping on the plane. Great job!
Sleeping in the aisle seat
If you have an aisle seat you and you fall asleep, you might be woken up by one of your neighbors. Especially if they need to be let out to use the restroom. If you are feeling sleepy, you can politely ask them if they need to use the restroom before you fall asleep. This way you can get some uninterrupted sleep.
Make sure your arms and legs don’t fall out into the aisle or they could get bumped by people and the drink carts.
Sleeping in the middle seat
If you have a middle seat. Hopefully, you can sleep without leaning to one side. You don’t need a neck pillow to sleep on a plane. They work for some but don’t work for other people. I personally think they take up way too much space so I hardly ever pack one.
Like I mentioned before, this is your first time on an airplane, you probably won’t be sleeping. Don’t waste your money on a neck pillow at this point. Unless your flight is longer than 6-7 hours or is a redeye flight.
Preparing for landing.
The flight attendants will announce that we will be landing shortly. You have plenty of time. This still gives you time to get up and use the toilet again. Typically you have at least 30 minutes before you will be on the ground.
If you have a few things out, such as a laptop or other games, you can put them back in your bag. Reading a book or magazine is something that you can continue to do until it is time to get off the airplane.
If you are watching TV or a movie on the plane headset you can continue to watch. If it is on your mobile phone or tablet, and it is the airlines’ system, it will shut off automatically.
The flight attendants will come back around and collect all the cups, snacks, wrappers, and anything else that you might want to discard before landing.
This is also a good time to refresh with a new stick of gum. Once again to keep those ears popping and the pressure off of them.
If you are traveling with a baby, this is also time to prepare to feed them a bottle, nurse them, or give them a pacifier.
If this was your first plane ride, then this is your first landing. The landing is pretty straight forward but here are somethings that you might feel. As you descend towards the runway, you might feel as if the plane is dropping quickly.
It’s not but sometimes it does feel that way. Once the airplane is close to the runway, you will notice the nose or the aisle of the plane starting to point up. This is so the rear wheels will touch first.
Once the wheels touch, you will hear a quick screech. Just like car tires breaking quickly. You might even bounce just slightly, and then the plane will do it again.
At that point, you will feel that the wheels have connected to the runway, and your momentum will start to slow down. You might even sit up straight in your seat or feel the momentum moving you forward.
Next, the front wheels will touch down. Once they are connected to the runway, you will really start to slow down. The engines will get louder. They too are slowing you down.
Don’t be alarmed when they get louder, and your body starts to move forward. Now you should be slowed way down.
First, give yourself a pat on the back and clap for yourself. You did it! You survived the first time on a plane, and if this was your first time flying alone then this too is a time to celebrate.
Taxing to the gate:
You’re not quite done yet. Depending on the airport you fly into this part can take some time. Taxing is when the airplane comes from the runway to the gate or airport to park. Some airports are large and can take time to drive there. Sometimes there are other planes parked at the gate you need to get out on.
This can happen for a number of reasons. 1st and my favorite – your flight arrived early 2nd– the other flight is delayed maybe for mechanical issues or late passengers. 3rd -Weather or other unforeseen issues. 4th – Construction.
I know you are excited that you just finished your first time flying. You will need to wait for that same “ding” that you heard when the seat belt sign got turned off. Once you hear that you can then stand up but depending on where you are seated on the plane you might just need to have patience and remain seated.
You can turn your phone back on at this point. You can text, but please don’t make a call unless you need to. If you are towards the back, just stay comfortable, talk to your neighbors, read your book, or try to finish putting all your things back in your bag.
You will be able to see as the plane disembarks row by row. When the people 2-3 rows in front of you are getting off, you can then start to move a little. If you have that window seat, you will just have to wait till the middle person has moved.
If you have a bag in the overhead bin. You can ask one of your nice neighbors to hand it to you while you are waiting.
What do you do if you have a connection?
If you have a connection. The first thing you will want to do, especially if you are flying alone, is to walk off the plane and head to the screens to find your connecting flight.
They are usually posted not too far from most gates. Better yet, use the app. I bet the airline you flew on has an app. If you put in your flight details, the app will tell you the gate and time of your next flight. If you are not familiar with the airport, the app will even show you a map on where you need to go.
If you can’t figure it out, just ask the closest gate agent.
If you don’t have a connection you have arrived at your final destination. Once again, great job on finishing your first time on an airplane! You will want to look for the “baggage claim” signs. They will lead you to your luggage and the exit.
If this was an international flight you will need to pass through immigration and customs, but for a domestic flight, you can head towards the exit.
If you are meeting anyone at the airport, they are allowed to come into the baggage area to meet you.
Getting your luggage:
As you exit toward the “baggage claim” area. There will be monitors that show flight numbers and area numbers as to where your luggage will be coming out. Many of the airline apps allow you to track your luggage and they also show you what area to pick up your luggage.
The luggage will begin to come around the carousel. You can stand anywhere, you don’t need to be right at the front. Just find a little open space and stand back a little. It can take your bags from 5 to 20 minutes to arrive.
What should you do if your luggage doesn’t arrive?
If for some reason your luggage doesn’t arrive with you, don’t panic. There is a luggage service desk close by. Head to your airline’s service desk. They will let you know if your luggage is just late or if all the bags from your flight are off. If it is done, then here is what you will need to do.
When you checked in they should have given you a luggage sticker. Typically they put these on the back of your boarding pass. The airline will need these to track your bag. Then, they will have you fill out a claim.
Once they have located your baggage, they can estimate how long it will take to arrive. Typically if it is going to be a while, the airline will deliver it to your hotel or home.