Must-Know Tips for First-Time Flyers

If you’re taking a plane for the first time, flying might seem overwhelming – from how to check in to how to stow your luggage properly – but it doesn’t have to be.

Here are some tips so you know what to expect. This way, you can feel confident and well-prepared for your first flight.

Pack ahead of time

Packing what you’ll take ahead of time can eliminate a lot of stress. You’ll have limited baggage space, so it can help to tackle packing a day or two beforehand. Consider making a list of what you need, planning outfits by day and testing what will fit in the suitcase or personal item you intend to take.

Understand baggage constraints and costs

You’ll also have to decide between a carry-on, which will have to fit in an overhead bin on the plane, and checking a bag, which will allow you to bring a larger piece of luggage (keep in mind that airlines have weight limits). If you check a bag, that will mean waiting for your bag at the baggage claim at your final destination. Depending on the airline and destination, checking a bag may also mean having to pick your bag up and check it again for your connecting flight. Depending on the kind of ticket you purchased, you might have to pay a fee for the type of bag you bring. Check your ticket beforehand to see what’s included. For example, with certain ticket types, you might need to pay to check a bag, or you might only get under-seat baggage. If you’re taking a carry-on, be aware of limitations on items you can bring. For example, carry-ons can’t contain liquids larger than 3.4 ounces. If you’re checking a bag, it’s often better to take your electronics and anything fragile on the plane with you.

Have your essentials in a carry-on

If you check a bag, unfortunately, it can get lost. That’s why it can be helpful to have some essentials, like a change of clothes and regulation-size toiletries, in your carry-on. Besides, if you’re on a long flight, you might need your toothbrush or an extra sweatshirt, so it’s a good idea to keep those things close.

Check in beforehand to save time

Most airlines let you check in for your flight online 24 hours before takeoff. Checking in early can save you time by avoiding long check-in lines at the airport.

You can typically check in and print the tickets at home or check in on your phone and add the ticket to your digital wallet. Having your ticket on your phone can mean one less thing to keep track of when trying to get to your gate.

Checking in early isn’t an option for every flight, however. You may need to check in at a kiosk or a desk for certain flights. And if you’re checking a bag, you’ll still need to drop it off with a gate agent.

Consider travel rewards when booking

If it’s your first time booking travel, it can help to familiarize yourself with some basics about points and miles. Some credit cards offer additional points or miles for travel-related purchases like hotels, flights and car rentals. Check to see what offers are available for your cards.

Get to the airport early

It’s generally recommended that passengers get to the airport 2 hours early for a domestic flight and 3 hours early for an international flight. This may seem like a long time, but it’s important to give yourself time to check in, drop your bag off, go through security, walk to your gate and even get a snack.

Particularly if you’re a first-time flyer, it can take some time to figure things out and get oriented. An airport is unfamiliar territory, and the last thing you want is to feel rushed or confused.

Wear comfortable clothes

Once you’re on the plane, you’ll be sitting in the same space for a long time, so it’s important to wear something you’ll be comfortable in. Sweatpants, sweatshirts, leggings and sneakers are favorites among frequent flyers.  

Know how you’ll fill the flight time

The hours sitting still on a flight can go by much faster if you have the right entertainment – and it can be a great time to catch up on your favorite TV show! A day or two before your flight, download movies and TV, get a book or grab a game to play with your travel companion. Your flight may not include internet access, so make sure you download your entertainment before you board the plane.

Have (the right) ID ready

You’ll need your ID when you go through security. Check ID requirements for your flight beforehand. For example, you might need a passport for an international flight or just a driver’s license or state ID for a domestic flight. When you get to the airport, have what you need at the front of your wallet or in an easily accessible pocket. This will make going through security a little easier.

Know how baggage space works

Put your carry-on in the overhead above your seat. The overhead compartment is for carry-ons only. If you have a smaller item, such as a coat or purse, put it under the seat in front of you.

Be mindful of personal space

When you’re in a smaller space like an airplane seat, personal space rules change, and this might not be intuitive to a first-time flyer. Staying in your own space means not putting your legs in the aisle, keeping to your own seat and keeping your personal item under the seat in front of you.

Know which card you'll use

Which credit card you use during travel can mean more points or miles. Some cards offer additional rewards on travel purchases. 

Have a plan for when you land

After your land, the last thing you want to think about is how to get to your final destination.

Having a plan for this final leg can make things much more convenient. This might mean booking a shuttle, knowing where you’ll get a taxi, having a friend or relative pick you up or reserving a rental car beforehand. You can even book a rental car through the Citi Travel portal while you’re booking the rest of your trip.

Disclosure: This article is for educational purposes. It is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and is not a substitute for professional advice. It does not indicate the availability of any Citi product or service. For advice about your specific circumstances, you should consult a qualified professional.

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