So you’ve picked your destination, bought yourself a snazzy new swimming costume, and booked your flight and hotel. But if you’re dreading your first flight, it may be putting a dampener on the pre-holiday excitement. It’s understandably daunting, regardless of how old you are. “What should I pack?” “How will I know where I should go?” “How do I get through security?” – These are likely to be just a small selection of questions running through your mind. Let us put you at ease with this helpful first time flyers guide.
“Always Be Prepared” – Every Scout ever.
Make sure you’re prepared for the destination you’ve chosen. Is it exotic? Then make sure you’re up to date with vaccinations and you have the necessary Visa if needed. Do you have a passport? If so, check the expiry date. If not, get one! Passports should be bought well in advance of a holiday to allow time for processing and mistakes.
Many airlines now want you to check in before the date of your flight. Follow the steps on your email confirmation and check you’re sitting next to the family/friends you’re travelling with, (this may cost extra), add any hold luggage you require, and print out your boarding pass.
Forget Me Not’s
Before you leave for the airport, run through a mental checklist of the essentials. Be certain you have your Boarding Pass, Passport, Mobile Phone, & Cash/Cards in your hand luggage. Your boarding pass may be a printed paper copy or a mobile friendly version (barcode), but it’s wise to have a paper version too if you opt for mobile, just in case. Make sure all these items are easily accessible within your hand luggage to get through security quickly.
Hand Luggage No-No’s
When it comes to Hand Luggage, it’s important you’re well-versed in the restrictions on what you can pack.
Image Credit: www.cardiff-airport-guide.co.uk
Some airlines allow you to take a regular piece of hand luggage plus a small handbag/laptop carrier free of charge, so check what you’re allowed.
Always leave room in your carrier so you can stuff it with hand luggage-friendly items from your hold luggage in case it’s over the weight limit for any reason. It’s also useful to have room for snacks/drinks you buy once you’re past security.
Are We Nearly There Yet?
Transportation to the airport is something you should arrange at the same time as booking your holiday. Work out how far away your hotel is from the airport when you arrive at your destination and make sure a taxi or hire car is there waiting for you if needed. You don’t want your holiday to start, stranded at the airport!
If you are taking a taxi to the airport, make sure you tell them to come a little earlier than you need to leave, to allow for traffic. However, if you’re leaving at 2 in the morning, then traffic is very unlikely to be a problem! Do make sure you check traffic reports regularly on the major roads the day before you leave so you can change your route if needed.
If you are taking any large suitcases, they will need to be checked in once you arrive at the airport. Locate the check in desk near the entrance and you should see lots of rows of desks with long queues of tired looking people. Find the desk with your airline and flight information on, and join the queue!
Once it’s your turn, the attendant will take your luggage from you and put it on the belt to be weighed. If it’s under the weight allowance, you’ll see it disappear along the conveyor belt, to be sent to the airplane hold. Make sure you always weigh your luggage before leaving the house to avoid the embarrassment of unpacking your case in the middle of the airport if it’s too heavy.
After checking in, you’ll need to follow the signs to locate security, where again, you’ll have to join the queue again.
When it’s your turn, place your hold luggage in a tray and place it on the conveyor belt, in another tray, put in any electrical items on your person in another tray and include your loose clothing such as jackets, hats etc. You may have to remove any jewellery, belts, and shoes too as these can all cause the metal detectors to go off.
If you have metal plates in your body for medical reasons, this may also set off the detectors. You’ll need a second scan with a handheld scanner. Just explain what is setting the machine off to the staff and it shouldn’t be a problem.
The land of Duty Free
You should have plenty of time to spare if the queues have been kind, so why not make the most of it? In large airports, you’ll usually find a healthy dose of cafes, restaurants, and the odd designer outlet. A nice, warm dose of caffeine is often enough to soothe any first flight jitters, but there will usually be stronger available if you’re really biting your nails! Don’t worry, you won’t miss your flight, there will be plenty of screens situated around departures with your flight number on.
Once your gate number becomes available on the screen, just head towards the corresponding numbered exit. Make sure you leave for your gate as soon as the number appears to leave time to get there. No one wants to be the cliché, frantically running down the tunnel last minute before their gate closes.
The Scary Bit…
At the gate, your passport and boarding pass will be checked again, and once the gate opens, you’ll be let onto the plane.
Upon boarding, show the steward your boarding pass and they will tell you where you can find your seat. Place your hand luggage in the overhead cabin or below your seat if it fits. Ask a member of the cabin crew if you’re not sure where to put it. Take your seat, plug yourself in, and turn all your devices to airplane mode for the flight.
Once everyone has sat down, the cabin crew will explain the on-board safety procedures. Pay close attention as a newbie. Don’t let the briefing put you off as it can be a little worrying. It’s extremely unlikely you’ll ever need to put it into practise.
Take off can be a little scary so keep occupied by talking to your neighbour or reading a magazine. Once you level out, the change in altitude can make your ears “pop” which can be painful for some people. To deter this, suck a boiled sweet or chew some gum during take-off. As long as your throat is imitating a “swallowing” action, this should help to prevent it.
Once you’re in the air, you’ll be allowed to take your seatbelt off and the crew will come round with food and drinks you can buy. Get some sleep if you can, to make the journey seem shorter, and don’t be afraid of a little turbulence, the plane isn’t in trouble. Keeping your seatbelt fastened can make you feel safer if it’s making you a little anxious.
The landing can be a tad bumpy but this is normal. When the plane does come to a stop, your neighbours may feel the need to applaud the pilot, so don’t be surprised if this happens.
You’ll leave the plane with your hand luggage and make your way to arrivals which should be clearly sign posted, but if not, just follow the crowd! Once you arrive in customs you may have to present your passport again, before following through to claim your hold bags. After that, it’s a matter of getting to your hotel!
If it makes you feel more at ease, you can research the airports beforehand to have a look at their layout so you know where you’re going.
That’s it! Just remember to enjoy yourself! Once you’ve got it over and done with, you’ll wonder why you were so worried and soon be participating in typical airport activities like the rest of us: complaining about queues, and being kicked in the back of your seat by your airplane neighbour.