Getting on board an aircraft for the first time to fly to your destination of choice is certainly an exciting moment. But with the thrill that comes with a new experience, nerves can become an influential factor as you start to anticipate what’s to come. 

The last thing you’d want to worry about is coming across as a rookie flyer, but the alternative world of the airport truly is an entirely new entity that does take some getting used to. 

Here are the top 5 tips for first-time flyers to ensure you’re packed full of useful knowledge and ready to board your flight. 

1. Check your airline’s luggage requirements 

Overpacking is easily done but can prove very costly when boarding a flight. Before your flight, make sure to familiarise yourself with the suitable luggage size and weight restrictions and pack accordingly. It is always tempting to overpack, it is also something often done by mistake. However, being diligent with your packing and having the materials to weigh your luggage will help you avoid being surprised by unexpected extra fees!

Equally, if your carry-on bag is too heavy you may have to check it in with your other luggage. Ensuring it adheres to the required size and weight will avoid the extra faff and allow you to get on with your travels as scheduled. 

If you’re a new flyer, especially if you’re nervous about it, unexpected fees can throw a spanner in the works and cause additional stress. It is always best to avoid these kinds of little but costly surprises. 

passengers dropping off luggage at Zurich Airport
Heavy luggage goes under the plane in the baggage hold – they are called ‘checked luggage’. | © Zurich Airport / aviation24.be

2. Arrive at the airport two hours early – at least!

Unfortunately, getting on a plane to reach your destination is not as streamlined of a process as catching a bus is. Many underestimate how long it can take to get to the point where you board the aircraft, not only new flyers but regular veterans too.

Giving yourself enough time to check-in, go through security (and even do the leisurely bits and bobs like wandering through duty-free and grabbing a coffee) can make your entire travel experience much more enjoyable. Yes, checking in and getting through security can be as quick as 15 minutes, but it can also take much longer. Airports are unpredictable! But being prepared to ensure that you are not caught out by any curveballs will allow you to remain in holiday mode as soon as you step foot at the airport. 

Extra tip = many airlines allow you to check in online. By doing so, you can skip check-in queues and go straight through to security.

3. Have a backup plan ready 

A trip to the airport usually goes as smooth as anything but sometimes you can be unlucky. This year, travellers have unfortunately been caught out much more than normal because of the constant delays and cancellations faced by airlines and airports due to staff shortages, unprecedented demand and other factors. 

So now, more than ever, it is important to have a plan set for if you do miss your flight… just in case. 

It is crucial to be proactive – have your airline’s customer service phone number and email easily accessible, and be aware of where the customer service desk is at the airport.

Thankfully, airlines are legally required to help you out if you miss your flight for reasons out of your and their control such as cancellations, major delays, etc. The airline will typically put you on standby for the next available flight without you having to pay extra so long as you notify the airline with enough time for them to take action. 

Security lines at Denver International Airport during the Thanksgiving holiday in 2014
As of June 2022, London Heathrow Airport continues to be the busiest airport in the UK. | © Photo by RJ Sangosti / The Denver Post via Getty Images

If you think you’ll miss a connecting flight, double-check to ensure that you will actually miss it! In many cases, a connecting flight is delayed, giving you the chance to board. But if you do miss the connection and the first airline you were on was responsible, they will rebook your flight free of charge. 

Overall, your airline should help you out. Extenuating circumstances can catch you out, but it is important to remain calm, be proactive and remember that you will at some point make it to where you need to be! 

Extra tip = travel insurance is very important to sort out before you travel, especially for long trips away. It can also protect you if the airline you flying with goes bust while you’re away and can cover other frustrating travel disruptions, emergency medical expenses, lost or stolen baggage, and more.

4. Prep for security proactively

Going through airport security can be the most stressful part of flying but steps taken beforehand can make it much less taxing. 

Firstly, ensure that you are not accidentally carrying anything that will be flagged up by security. Before flying, the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) in the UK recommends that you read the latest security advice before boarding any flight from the UK. 

Simple things like wearing easy-to-remove shoes, and not carrying many items in your pockets can speed up the process. 

Ensuring you adhere to the rules can have you in and out of security as quickly as possible.

Extra tip = ensure that you have all relevant travel documents and ID with you. Research exactly everything you will need and remember to have it all easily accessible. 

An almost empty check-in area at London Gatwick Airport
As the pandemic dominated the country, Gatwick was the quietest it’s ever been. You will be greeted with a far more chaotic site if you travel to Gatwick now! | © REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

5. Keep hydrated 

Spending a decent to a long time in high altitude and low cabin humidity can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea if you are not used to it. This will especially be an issue for new flyers. 

The best way to combat feeling ill during the flight is by drinking lots of water before and during the flight. 

On your first flight especially, it is advisable to be wary of alcohol and coffee – especially if you are nervous about how you could react on your first flight to the altitude and turbulence. Alcohol and coffee can also make you more dehydrated the more you drink. 

Extra tip = you can overcome dry skin on a flight by taking a small moisturiser or facial spritz to apply when you need it. A lip balm can be helpful to combat dry lips, and a nasal spray can target dry and painful sinuses. 

Most importantly, try and relax and focus on the trip ahead! Whether you are flying for the first time for pleasure or business, it is practically guaranteed that it will be an exciting milestone. 

Are you planning to fly for the first time this year? Hopefully, these tips helped you out! We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 

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