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First time flying: Useful tips before you fly

First time flying is super exciting. Here is everything you need to know

First time flying and seeing the world from above with a view of the plane's wing

First time flying? You must be nervous and excited. You will always remember your first flight and I'm here to welcome you to the traveler's club! In this article, you will find all the recommendations and help you need to get over the initial hurdles. You'll learn how to prepare for the flight, what to do to minimise any discomfort and have lots of fun instead. We'll touch base on how to select your seat, the differences between domestic and international flights, how to get ready for airport security and what sort of bag you need for your flight. We'll even talk about the boarding pass, the dos and the don't and all the tips for first time flyers. So if you're flying for the first time, this is the only complete guide you'll need.

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FIRST TIME FLYING - THIS IS EXCITING!

You will never forget your first flight. The moment the flight attendants welcome you on board for the first time, the butterflies in your stomach as you take off and meet the person sitting next to you. You'll always remember your seat number and the first safety demonstration by the cabin crew. It's an incredible feeling and you should feel really excited! The journey is just as important as the destination and your first flight is something memorable, unique.

There's a difference between a long haul flight and domestic flights. Long haul flights are more tiring and demanding. The plane is usually bigger and there will be more flight attendants on board as well. Long haul flights for international travel usually require several connecting flights and are very rarely operated by budget airlines. Most likely you will have a checked bag as well as a carry on bag and there will be in flight entertainment like movies, series and games.

A domestic flight is usually under three hours and the cabin crew operates several of these flights a day. You'll normally only travel with carry on bags and you'll have to bring your own entertainment on board.

Flights booked? All you need now is to get your boarding pass ready, make sure you pack your carry on well and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime.

If you love planning everything in advance, I cannot recommend enough that you purchase a Travel Planner. This is not only handy to write down your flight information (like your flight number) but also things like accommodation address, plans for every day and getting to have a travel diary handy. This is going to be like a great piece of memory for years to come.

Cory travelling with her Trevi dress from Bluffworks

What do you do when it's your first time on a plane?

There are a few things you can do when you're flying for the first time. If you are on an international flight, make sure you find out how much luggage you can bring with you. If you have checked baggage, you will need to arrive at the airport at least two hours in advance. Head over to the check in desk to leave your hold baggage there. They will measure to ensure you don't go over the weight limits and print out a new paper ticket for you. You can check vital information on suitcase sizes here so you know how much you are allowed on planes otherwise you might have to pay extra.

You will keep your carry on with you and now go through to security.

If you are on a short flight where you travel with your carry on only you don't need to go to the check in desk. Just go straight through security. Make sure you have your electronic boarding pass ready for inspection. You can get this when you check in online a few hours prior to your flight.

At the security, remove all electronic items from the cabin bag and put them in the trays provided. You will need to remove phone, watch and belts and any wallets or small metallic items from your pockets. Remove your large coat and big boots and go through as instructed. You might be asked to open your cabin bag to show a personal item to the airport security staff. That's standard procedure.

Many airports have a designated food court as well as duty free shopping areas. While you wait for your flight, have a look around and buy what you like. Remember that on long haul flights you will get a free meal. On budget airlines, you might get a snack or nothing at all, depending on the carrier. Don't board the plane hungry!

Once you are boarded, place your carry on above your seat and make sure to secure your seat belt for your own safety. Dress comfortably and bring a neck pillow. Staying hydrated is super important!

Airplane View Tenerife

Is Flying scary the first time?

Flying is exciting the first time and if you are fully prepared it's not scary at all. In the unlikely event that you're feeling sick just flag the flight attendant and ask for a little advice. Some people have issues with the air pressure during take off or landing. That's normal and nothing to be worried about. Just swallow or chew on some gum. You can pop your ears by holding your nose and gently blowing out.

This is especially common with first time flyers. You will very likely not feel any of these issues on your next flight. During take off, keep your head straight if you start feeling a little dizzy when the plane is turning. Don't release your seat belt until instructed by the flight attendant that it's safe to do so.

The universal rule is that you should be rested when flying for the first time and bring with you plenty of snacks.

Seat on Qatar Airways Business Class

What does flying for the first time feel like?

Everyone has a different experience but flying for the first time feels pretty incredible. The general feeling is similar to that on a fast elevator. You will feel the gravity at work as you take off. Some might feel a little fuzzy sensation in the head. Others will experience a state of drowsiness. These feelings only last for a few seconds or minutes. Once you are at cruise altitude, you will feel as if you're driving in a car.

How do you fly for the first time alone?

You should plan everything about your trip down to the minute. This will give you a sense of comfort. You might feel nervous and it's perfectly ok. Talk to the cabin crew and tell them you are a first time flyer. As previously mentioned, check in online to reduce any anxiety and have your bags ready at least 24 hours in advance. Have your travel planner handy to write down anything you experience and to make sure you have all the steps handy. Download an app for music or games just to keep yourself occupied.

You've got this! Once you get over the first hurdle, your second flight will feel like a breeze.

Carry On Luggage

How do I prepare for Covid flying?

This is new to all of us and some extra precautions should be taken to ensure you are ready to fly. Make sure you check with the local governments on what documentation you need to bring with you. Many countries and airlines will require to see some vaccination passes and results prior to boarding. Some might require a test as well just to prove that you are fit to fly. Make sure to plan for these extra tests in advance. Countries will ask you to complete a passenger locator form prior to your arrival. Do so before boarding.

You might need to wear a mask on a plane or/and the airport. Bring several clean masks with you and change them every 3-4 hours. We recommend buying N95 masks as they are safer, especially given the proximity to other passengers on a flight.

Many countries are requiring an up to date vaccination card anyway, so having the extra covid vaccine should make no difference to you. It's just standard procedure to keep you and everyone else safe.

Cory and G walking in the hotel corridor with masks on - circus hotel

What should you not do before flying?

There are a few things you shouldn't do before flying. For example, avoid drinking alcohol as it can make you very dehydrated. Don't leave packing and organising for the last second. And try to book your airport transfers well in advance.

Don't forget to prepare your carry on bag for security and remove any large liquids from it. Don't wear clothes which make you feel restrained or uncomfortable and ideally you'd avoid any heels.

What should I know before flying?

There are a few first time flying tips for you. We put together some great tips to help you select the best seat.

First time flyers tips: Make sure to check in online as soon as the check in opens. This will allow you to select your preferred seats. When booking your seat, check seatguru to see if you're preferred location is good. Avoid seats next to the bathrooms as there will always be a queue there and you might feel disturbed by the constant movement and noise. Check to see if your seat offers you enough legroom especially if you're tall.

As a rule of thumb, the middle seat is the equivalent of the most cramped airplane seat and you will want to avoid it if possible. If you travel alone it's unlikely that you will go for the middle seats. The window seat is most comfortable if you like to have your own space and want to admire the world from above. Window seats are generally the preferred seats amongst seasoned travellers. The aisle seat is best if you need to stand up a lot and use the bathroom or stretch. I use the window seat for short flights and prefer the aisle seat for long hauls.

One of the best first time flying tips is to pre-select your meal in advance. Even if you don't have dietary preferences, go for vegan or vegetarian meals. They are usually a lot tastier and you will be served first, before anyone else which means you will always get your choice of food.

Noise Cancelling Earphones / Headphones

There are two reasons why you will need these. Firstly, because you will actually enjoy the sound of silence, as opposed to the continuous background engine noise. Secondly, you might find yourself very unlucky, being seated right in front of a family with small children. Nothing wrong with small kids, of course, but sometimes it can happen that they cry a lot due to cabin pressure. It can happen to any of us. So you want to make sure your sleep doesn't get disturbed no matter what. Put those noise-cancelling headphones on and listen to relaxing music or download a white noise app that allows you to sleep in silence.

Check prices and read reviews: Amazon.com
Bose QuietComfort 35
Bose QuietComfort 35 on Amazon.com

Offline music available on your phone

Most airlines will have their own music available on the entertainment system, but sometimes you might find yourself on a plane that has some really bizarre playlists. Listen to some quiet, meditative music, nature sounds or just about anything that can allow you to sleep well. Some people might not be able to sleep with music on and that's ok. Make sure to purchase some earplugs as they might come in handy.

Have some snacks with you

What if you don't like the food you get on board? Or you get hungry in-between meals? Best to have some snacks with you just in case. Bring a bagel or two with you, some salted crisps, nuts, a couple of fruits (something like apples, bananas or blueberries) and some protein bars.

They don't take much space in your hand luggage and are sure to make your flight more pleasant. Try to avoid sugar as it might make you more susceptible to catching viruses.

Check prices and read reviews: Amazon.com
KIND Protein Bars, Crunchy Peanut Butter, Gluten Free
KIND Protein Bars, Crunchy Peanut Butter, Gluten Free on Amazon.com

Wet wipes and sanitising hand gel

Clean your hands and seats with some wet wipes and clean your tray in front of your seat as well. After you visit the restroom, use the sanitising gel to keep your hands clean. This is good practice as you never know who touched your seat before you. Keep it clean for your own safety.

You are more susceptible to getting ill so keeping your face and hands clean helps minimise the risk.

Check prices and read reviews: Amazon.com
Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizing Wipes
Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizing Wipes on Amazon.com

Avoid alcohol and drink plenty of fluids

I know, it's a difficult one. You totally want to enjoy the free booze included in your flight price. The alcohol will get you dehydrated, together with the already recycled dry air, you will end up having some killer headaches. Make a habit of drinking at least 2 litres of water during your flight. Hydration will also help you better cope with jetlag.

A super comfortable travel pillow

I'm sure you don't want to invest a lot of money in an expensive travel pillow, but honestly, sleeping is crucial on a long haul flight. Besides, the more you sleep, the faster time flies. Most international flights will have pillows and blankets available, but you can use those for securing your lower back and add extra comfort. Just buy the most comfortable (not necessarily the most expensive) travel pillow for your needs.

Check prices and read reviews: Amazon.com
Everlasting Comfort 100% Pure Memory Foam Neck Pillow
Everlasting Comfort 100% Pure Memory Foam Neck Pillow on Amazon.com

Vitamin C

Get some vitamin C just before your flight and one pill after. Your body will thank you for the extra immunity boost. Get an extra potent vitamin C (1000mg) just to be safe. It doesn't cost much but it can make such a difference to you enjoying a healthy time at your destination. Vitamin C is especially crucial when you travel for long or need to go through various airports.

Check prices and read reviews: Amazon.com
Vitamin C 1000 mg with Bioflavonoids
Vitamin C 1000 mg with Bioflavonoids on Amazon.com

Have a warm hoodie

Most airlines provide you with a free blanket but never underestimate how cold you can get whilst trying to sleep on a plane. Grab a warm, comfy jumper and sleep in it. It will give you such a fuzzy feeling. Nothing beats a nice jumper for added comfort.

Get a layer of thermals underneath and an extra comfortable hoodie on top. If you get warm you can remove some of your layers.

Flip Flops

If you don't like wearing your shoes on a long flight, have your flip-flops with you. Don't walk around in your socks or barefoot. People walk on the same carpet using their dirty shoes. A pair of flip-flops takes very little space in your hand luggage so they are the perfect compromise. As an added bonus, you'll be able to use them in your hotel room for the bathroom and the shower.

Check prices and read reviews: Amazon.com
Riverberry Yoga Flip Flop with Yoga Mat Padding
Riverberry Yoga Flip Flop with Yoga Mat Padding on Amazon.com

Aspirin

If you have oily skin and you are prone to spots, here is a handy trick. Crush an aspirin and mix it with club soda water. Form a paste and bring it with you in a small container. Use the aspirin paste to dab it on any forming pimples.

Toothpaste, Toothbrush

Bring a good travelling toothbrush and some nice quality toothpaste. Don't ignore your normal routines, brush your teeth after each meal and before falling asleep on a plane. When you wake up, brush your teeth again. I also recommend brushing your teeth just before landing while freshening up a little. It feels really nice to have a minty breath and a fresh attitude.

Check prices and read reviews: Amazon.com
Wowe Natural Organic Bamboo Toothbrush Eco-Friendly Wood
Wowe Natural Organic Bamboo Toothbrush Eco-Friendly Wood on Amazon.com

Lip balm and Moisturiser

During the flight, you will get dry and your skin (especially your facial skin and the corners of your lips) can suffer from dehydration.

Once every few hours, you should clean your skin with water and facial wet wipes. Then apply a new layer of moisturiser. Use your lip balm as often as possible. Don't forget to use it after you brushed your teeth. Drink plenty of fluids. Your skin needs an extra level of care.

Check prices and read reviews: Amazon.com
Aquaphor Lip Repair
Aquaphor Lip Repair on Amazon.com

Eye drops

It's not just your skin getting dry during long flights, but your eyes too. Have some eye drops handy and use them every time you feel your eyes tired or drier than usual. Avoid wearing contact lenses if possible. Wear your glasses instead. However, if you must wear your contacts, then the eye drops are an absolute must!

Check prices and read reviews: Amazon.com
Multi-Action Eye Drops
Multi-Action Eye Drops on Amazon.com

Sleep mask

Although the plane's lights are switched for some of the flight duration, you might want to use a sleep mask and try and fall asleep in complete darkness. It really helps add a layer of comfort. Wear a good quality sleep mask, made from satin or silk. Not only it will help not to mess up your hair but good quality sleeping masks are a little looser and more comfortable.

Check prices and read reviews: Amazon.com
Jersey Slumber 100% Silk Sleep Mask
Jersey Slumber 100% Silk Sleep Mask on Amazon.com

Painkillers

Dehydration, air pressure, nerves and anxiety, all can cause you headaches. Drink lots of fluids but also have some paracetamol handy, in your hand luggage. Try to buy the ones you could potentially take on an empty stomach (like paracetamol). You never know, you might need them in between meals.

Kindle

Long hauls are a great chance to catch up with those top travel books you've been meaning to read for ages. I always try to find fascinating subjects to keep me entertained and excited. Download a few books on your Kindle to ensure you have options in case one of the novels doesn't turn out to be as great as you imagined.

Check prices and read reviews: Amazon.com
All-new Kindle Paperwhite
All-new Kindle Paperwhite on Amazon.com

Laptop

Bring your laptop or iPad with you to watch some movies or just to work on your personal projects. Sometimes it's nice to just write down memories or feelings, but it's also great to be able to watch your favourite programs to pass the time. Your laptop is great during a long flight. Just remember that your laptop needs to be with you in the cabin and you can't leave it on hold.

Tea bags

Ask your flight attendants for some hot water and bring your own tea bags with you. It will warm you up during the flight and offer you that extra level of comfort. Wrap up in a blanket, sip on your tea and take a moment to admire the sky and clouds outside. You are on a plane! You are going somewhere new, how exciting is this?

Check prices and read reviews: Amazon.com
Good Earth Green Tea
Good Earth Green Tea on Amazon.com

Medical compression socks

Use medical compression socks to help with your circulation. These socks are designed to apply pressure to your lower legs, helping to maintain blood flow and reduce discomfort and swelling. Magic!

There are times when your legs and ankle feel a little thick and swollen and these socks are solving this issue for you.

Check prices and read reviews: Amazon.com
EHbee 3 Pairs Compression socks
EHbee 3 Pairs Compression socks on Amazon.com

Hair Bubble

If you have long hair consider using a hair bubble, especially when you need to use the airplane facilities to wash your face and brush your teeth. It will also help you be more comfortable when sitting down or sleeping during the flight. On a plane, your hair can also get frizzy, so keeping it tight might help with that as well. Alternatively, you might want to invest in a silk scarf to keep your curls in check.

Positive Mental Attitude

Hey, you are about to fly! How cool and exciting? Have a positive mental attitude, relax as much as possible, drink hot teas, read a book and watch tonnes of movies. Listen to your favourite song a dozen times and smile. I'm serious, just smile and you will start feeling better. Do breathing exercising and draw circles with your nose to ensure your neck and shoulders get a little lovin'. Stretch as many times as you can, and think how cool that in a few hours you will be in a completely different time zone, on the other side of the planet.

Are you ready for the first time flying experience? What helps you have the best in-flight experience? Let me know in the comment section below.

First time flying: Useful tips before you fly by Cory Varga

Cory Varga - Cory is a published travel writer and award-winning photographer based in North Yorkshire. She has a passion for storytelling with pictures and words.

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What do you think?

Did you like this article? Do you have any questions or suggestions? Leave a comment below.

Your Comment

S
Sonu
15 Jun 2022

This is really an essential steps to take before the airport.

H
Henry Killingsworth
20 Apr 2022

It's good that you mentioned that it is a good idea to prepare your carry-on bag before you go through security at an airport. With that in mind, it would probably be a good idea to use some kind of taxi service so that you can get to the airport with plenty of time available.

S
Sandy
14 Jan 2019

I am a first time flyer, I will be going from RI to NV. Your tips helped me greatly, especially about listening to MY music, wet wipes, aspirins, Snacks, staying hydrated. As long as I have my bag with me I figured I’d be all set, you pointed out a few extras I had not considered. I need to practice some peaceful easy feeling meditations as well as MY music and noise cancelling ear buds/headphones.
Thank you so much.
Sandy

C
Cory
17 Jan 2019

Hi Sandy,

Don't forget to take a vitamin C before your flight. You will be great. Have lots of fun, part of travelling is enjoying the journey.
Safe travels,

Cory x

J
Jonathan Kemp
29 Dec 2017

Some amazing tips! Would definitely keep them in mind, the next time I travel.

C
Chris
02 Jul 2016

There's one thing to add for long haul I think (or super long haul with New Zealand) - set your watch to the local time before you get on the plane.

That and try to avoid unknowns trying to hug you in their sleep...

C
Cory
02 Jul 2016

You are absolutely right about the time! I had to change the time several times (in UAE, Perth and upon landing in New Zealand). This is crucial to ensure you don't miss your flight. As for the hugging part, I think I was lucky enough to not be in that situation. Though I bet you have a really funny (and cringey) story you totally need to share with us. haha

C
Chris
03 Jul 2016

I was mopey as my (then fiancée) wife was working in NZ for the year and I was flying back after Christmas. I always try to sleep on a flight and was awoken by an arm wrapping around my chest and another on my leg... Quite how my 'friend' didn't wake up when I relocated her is beyond me. Turns out, as I saw her passport when we touched down that she was a German police officer.

C
Cory
18 Apr 2016

I'm so glad you liked the article. After the flight to New Zealand I felt I need to find ways to make the most out of my journeys. I'm sure you will start loving flying too.

B
Bryan (Bon Voya...
15 May 2016

I remember that LONG journey from the UK to New Zealand. I was lucky enough to get a whole row to myself and get stretched out.

T
Tony Ramonds
18 Apr 2016

Great article, keep up the good work.

C
Cory
18 Apr 2016

Thank you Tony.

R
Rebecca Emin
18 Apr 2016

What a brilliant list of tips. I have booked this for next time I fly. I can't imagine doing a 28 hour journey though, that must have been exhausting!

C
Cory
26 Apr 2016

It was crazy. I'm also quite a bad flyer which doesn't help much. I'm slowly learning all the tricks and tips to make myself super comfortable without disturbing other passengers of course.

R
Rebecca Emin
18 Apr 2016

Oops, I meant bookmarked!