Here are 12 Practical Air Travel Tips that first time travelers ought to know. After learning these tips, you can set your mind at ease because you will be far more prepared for your first trip.
Air Travel Tips for the First Time Traveler
It’s perfectly normal for first time travelers to feel a little uncomfortable about their first trip. However, with the brilliant and practical air travel tips provided here you can put those concerns aside and focus on enjoying that first trip instead of stressing out about it.
Before we dive into the details of these practical air travel trips here’s a quick summary:
- Give yourself plenty of time
- Don’t over pack
- Learn the check in, seat assignment and boarding process for your flight
- Get your boarding pass before you get to the airport
- Figure out your parking situation
- Learn the TSA Security Rules
- Charge everything before you get on the plane
- Eat before you get on the plane
- Stow your bag near your seat
- Bring something to do on the plane
- Follow good airplane travel etiquette
- Don’t stress out
Ok, let’s get into the details!
Air Travel Tip #1: Give yourself plenty of time
A critical air travel tip to use for your first trip is to make sure you give yourself plenty of time.
As a rookie traveler you are going to be a little slower than a travel pro so you need to give yourself a little more time. A travel pro can show up around and hour before their flight (even shorter at some cases). Conventional wisdom suggests you give yourself about an hour and a half.
But, for your first trip – give yourself two hours. yeah, it’s probably overkill, but better safe than sorry. For more tips on how early to get to the airport check out our entire guide here.
As you get more proficient at traveling you will start to dial in a time frame that fits your rhythm and “travel skills.”
Air Travel Tip #2: Don’t over pack (and don’t check your bag!)
The second air travel tip might be hard one to follow, but it’s critical: fight the urge to over pack.
First time travelers often want to bring more than they ought to. It’s normal, but it’s also a total rookie move.
The cold hard facts are that you really do not need as much you think you do! Traveling light is key. Just bring the minimum and remember things like you get toiletries in your hotel room so limit those too (don’t bring shampoo or conditioner – the hotels give you that).
Moreover, never check your bag. Always pack light enough to be able to use a carry on. This gives you flexibility and helps you travel a little faster.
Pro Air Travel Tip: Get yourself a great piece of luggage (like the TravelPro Crew 11 21″). Listen, if this is your first trip and you are not going to have too many more trips in the near future, then get something more affordable. But, if this is going to be a regular occurrence (e.g. you took a job that has regular business travel) then spend the time to get yourself a great piece of luggage. You can read our review of the TravelPro Crew 11 21″ here.
Air Travel Tip #3: Learn the check in, seat assignment & boarding process for your flight
Each airline has a different process for seat assignment, check in and boarding process. Depending on the class of ticket you purchase you may be able to select your seat assignment. But, in some cases you can’t – and you have to select it at check in or when you actually board the plane (like Southwest Airlines).
Learn the process for all of this for your airline and adjust your behavior accordingly. For example, with Southwest Airlines you gotta check in 24 hours before and depending on your status and how close to that 24 hour window you check in determines you boarding group (A, B or C). The boarding group will often be the difference between getting a good seat and getting a middle seat.
Here’s a few examples for you:
- Learn the Southwest process here.
- Learn the Delta process here.
- Learn the United process here.
Make sure you learn this process for your airline!
Air Travel Tip #4: Get your boarding pass before you get to the airport
Unless you like standing in lines and wasting time, print out your boarding pass before you arrive at the airport. Better yet, download it to your mobile phone.
If you do find yourself needing to get it at the airport make sure to use a kiosk. Skip the lines and find a kiosk – it’s much quicker. And, if you aren’t checking a bag (which shouldn’t be!) you can save yourself even more time.
Figure out your parking situation (Air Travel Tips #5)
Surprisingly, parking your car can sometimes be a debacle at certain airports. You may have to park well off airport property or pay a significant amount of money to park it on property. This means you are riding a shuttle to/from the airport – again adding time. Try to get a bead on how and where you are going to park your car on your first trip. Or, if you can, take a taxi or Uber.
Pro air travel tip: If you do take a parking shuttle, bring a few bucks to tip the shuttle driver. 2 bucks for a small bag, 5 bucks for a big bag. Only tip if they actually load and unload your bag
Air Travel Tip #6: Learn the TSA Security Rules
Airport security can be a little disorienting your first time through. Make sure you read up on what you are allowed to take and not take through and how you are supposed to take it through.
For example, no liquids or gels greater than 3 oz, (like water, toothpaste, shampoo and the like).
You will have to take your shoes and coat off and remove your larger electronics (like laptops and tablets) from their bags.
The more ready you are for this the easier it will go and less likely you get pulled for secondary screening (which slows you down) and/or fumble around with your stuff like a newb.
You can read all of the TSA requirements here.
If you have time, try to get TSA Precheck. If your trip is international sign up for Global Entry. Both of these services speed up your security processing time making it a little easier to get in and out of the airport or country by going through a background check. Definitely worth the money.
Charge everything before you get on the plane (Air Travel Tips #7)
Always be charging! This is a critical air travel tip unless you enjoy your phone sputtering out somewhere over Kansas in the middle of your fourth episode of Game of Thrones.
Charge whenever you can! Better yet, buy a portable charger to bring with you for backup. I personally recommend the Anker PowerCore 20100. You can read my review of it here.
Number 8: Eat before you get on the plane
For a shorter flight this is less important, but for longer flights it’s wise to eat before you get on the plane. Most domestic flights no longer serve meals unless you are upgraded to first class and you happen to cross a meal time while in flight.
Some airlines will sell you a boxed meal – but it’s usually pretty expensive. Instead, eat before you get on the plane and perhaps bring a few snacks (no hot food though! We don’t want to smell your stinky pizza!).
You might be interested in 9 Healthy Travel Snacks
Stow your bag near your seat (Air Travel Tips #9)
A rookie mistake I often see newb travels make is stowing their bags nowhere near their actual seat. Or worse, stowing it BEHIND their seat. Never do that!
If you stow your bags behind your seat you are going to be swimming upstream when you deplane – which sucks. More likely you will just be sitting in your seat waiting for enough people to deplane so you can get to your bag.
If the plane happens to be pretty full when you board, stow your bag IN FRONT of your seat in the first available bin you find. Make a mental note of what bin it was stored in so you can find it on the way out.
Number 10: Bring Something to do on the Plane
Flights can be a whole lot of boring! Make sure you bring something to do for you flight. A book, maybe download a few movies. Make sure you get some good headphones too – and a backup pair (wired, preferably).
Follow good airplane travel etiquette (Air Travel tip #11)
When you are actually on the plane make sure you employ good travel etiquette. Things like not bringing stinky food on the plane, letting the middle seat passenger have the armrests, not listening to your music without headphones and more. Proper airline behavior is always a good thing to learn and will not only make your trip go a little easier, but it will make sure you don’t earn the ire of your fellow passengers of the airline crew.
For more air travel tips on Airplane Etiquette make sure to read our entire article: Airplane Etiquette: The Unwritten Rules for Traveling on a Plane.
Final Tip: Don’t Stress Out!
The final piece of advice we have for you in this collection of air travel tips is both simple and difficult, but incredibly important: don’t lose your crap! Regular travelers know that you win some and lose some when traveling. Sometimes the flight is delayed. Sometimes it’s early. Sometimes you get the upgrade, sometimes you get the middle seat.
You gotta just roll with it. Don’t stress out. It ain’t worth it.
Final Thoughts on the Best Dang Air Travel Tips
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