Advice for First Time Flyers


From packing to navigating the airport to getting through security, traveling via air can be a scary experience for first-time flyers. If you are an infrequent or first-time flyer, it might be overwhelming to think about all the things you’ll have to do just to get to your destination. But, don’t worry! We’ve got tips and tricks for first-time flyers that are sure to set your mind at ease!

Tips for Packing

Before you go, you’ll have to pack! Be sure to pack for the activities you’ll be doing on your trip, pack coordinating clothing so you can mix and match outfits, and be sure to wear bulky clothing like hiking boots and coats to save on luggage space.

A Few Tips for Packing Light

  1. What Will You Do? – Think about what you will be doing on your trip. If you’re going hiking then there is no reason to take your formal attire! Take only what you need.
  2. How to Pack Light – Pack coordinating clothes. Try to pack coordinating pieces or clothing in one color scheme. This will allow you to mix and match clothing to create more outfits.
  3. Save Space – Try to wear bulky items instead of packing them. This will save you a lot of luggage space e.

Carry On vs Checked Luggage

There are a lot of different ways to travel… Some people enjoy traveling light while large families and extended stay travelers may have a lot of luggage.

If you travel with a carry-on, you can keep your luggage with you. This will allow you to avoid the lines at the checked luggage counter and baggage claim. Personal items and carry-ons are usually cheaper (or free) to take!

Checked bags might be better for some travelers because they are transported by airline professionals. This can be helpful if the bags are heavy or you need help carrying them. Checked bags also have fewer restrictions on what you can pack. Checked baggage usually has a fee so be sure to check before you fly.

There’s no right or wrong way to travel. Just do what’s best for you! Check the FareCompare Baggage Fee Chart for more baggage fee information.

Security Tips Before You Go

If you’ve never gone through airport security, it can look a little scary. TSA agents will usually tell travelers what is needed of them. If you are unsure what to do, ask them for help.

Tips for Security

  1. ID – Have your ticket (digital or paper) and ID ready and accessible at all times. Passports must be out of the holder.
  2. Security Check – Unless instructed differently by an official agent, remove your zip bag of toiletries from the carry-on before sending it through the x-ray machine and place all your electronics in a bin. Place all small items in a bin as well. Remove everything from your pockets, shoes, hats, and belts before stepping into the scanner. Remove your shoes and place them on the conveyer belt.
  3. After Security – Once you’re done, step aside to collect your belongings and to put shoes back on. You’ll want to move quickly to avoid holding up the line.

TSA Guidelines

Remember to follow TSA guidelines for a speedy experience for you and other travelers. Also remember, no liquids in containers bigger than 3.4 ounces and don’t take any unacceptable items. A complete list of what not to pack is available on the TSA website.

For a faster experience, you might like to join the TSA PreCheck program for a streamlined security experience. You can learn more here.

At the Airport

Every airport is different but they all work exactly the same. Make sure you have enough time and take it one thing at a time. If you need additional help, you can always look up airport maps online or ask airport personnel for help.

What to do at the Airport:

  1. Arrive – Park or get dropped off at your terminal. There are a variety of ways to get to the airport including hired drivers, driving your own car, public transportation, and getting a ride from friends or family members. If you take your own car, research where to park before you arrive. There are usually options for terminal parking, remote parking, and more. The farther away you park, the cheaper it usually is.
  2. Check-In – You can usually check-in 24 hours before your flight online or through the airline’s mobile app. If you need to check-in in person, go to your airline’s customer service desk and drop off your checked luggage.
  3. Security – Go through Security. Have your ticket and ID ready!
  4. Check Your Gate – Once through security, check your gate and boarding time on the airport’s flight information boards or via the airline’s app.
  5. Take a Break – Grab a snack and a restroom break if you need.
  6. Go to Your Gate – Wait at your gate. You can usually spend some time charging your phone, eating a snack, or relaxing once you arrive at your gate.
  7. Get Your Bags – Once you deplane, head to baggage claim to get your bags. Most airlines will announce which baggage claim is for your flight. Just follow the signs!
  8. Get Your Rental Car – Head to Car Rentals to pick up your rental car. If you don’t have one, you can shop for a rental car here.
  9. Leave – Leave the Airport and have fun!

Finding Your Seat

Different airlines board passengers differently. You’ll want to select your seat when ordering your ticket. But, some airlines, like Southwest, have open seating options so you’ll want to check in online as early as possible to grab a good boarding group.

Make sure to check your boarding pass before boarding so that you know your seat number.

Getting to Your Seat

  1. Rows – Seat Rows start with 1 and go up. The higher the number, the further back your seat row is.
  2. Seat Numbers – Seat A is on the left side of the plane and goes up from left to right.
  3. Carry On Bags – Your Carry On goes overhead.
  4. Personal Item – Your personal item goes under the seat in front of you.

If Your Airline is Open Seating…

  1. Boarding Groups – Board with your group.
  2. Decide Before You Go -Know what kind of seat you would like to sit before boarding.
  3. Pick a Seat – Pick your seat quickly.
  4. Carry On – Your Carry On goes overhead.
  5. Personal Item – Your personal item goes under the seat in front of you.

Use Your Manners

Be sure to practice good manners while onboard a plane. Everyone is in a tight space and everyone has a better experience when good manners are practiced by all.

Some Good Airplane Manners Include:

  1. Flight Attendants – A Flight Attendant’s primary responsibility is to ensure your safety while on board. You should pay attention to the safety introduction and remember to be courteous to your airline crew when they are serving snacks and beverages.
  2. Window Coverings – Don’t open window coverings when people are sleeping.
  3. Lights – The same thing goes for lights, phones, and tablets. Don’t turn lights on or be concious of their use when people are sleeping. Be mindful of the brightness of your device when others are sleeping.
  4. Chair Etiquette – Be mindful of leaning your seat back and how you use your drop down tray as it can disturb other passengers.
  5. Stinky Food – Remember that airplanes are small and crowded. Don’t bring anything smelly onboard. It may be delicious to you but the other 99 people may not feel the same way!
  6. Bathroom Lines – There are usually bathrooms at the front and rear of the plane. Do not crowd the restrooms.

Don’t let the fear of the airport discourage you from traveling! The more you travel, the better and faster you’ll get. You’ll pick up more tips and advice along the way and before long… You’ll be the pro!

Jodi Robbins
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