I absolutely love airplanes.
My family loves to travel so I took my first flight when I was fairly young—and to this day, I’m still fascinated by the entire experience. If I can manage to snag a window seat I always make sure to stare out as the ground sinks away and reappears during takeoff and landing, totally enthralled by the fact that we’re literally flying through the air. In fact, I’ve made it my personal mission to never grow bored of the miracle of flight, even though sometimes I’d rather ignore the process and dive right into my Netflix.
Still, even though I love flying and have boarded many an airplane through the years, there are still parts of this experience that can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never been on a plane before. If you’re unprepared, you might walk away with a negative view of your travel experience, rather than an eager desire to repeat the whole thing ASAP.
Thankfully, preparation and knowledge can help your airplane experience run smooth as possible, and I have plenty to share. Keep scrolling for everything I wish I knew before my first flight.
Check Everything Before You Leave the House
Unlike road trips, airplane travel is on a very strict schedule. There’s nothing worse than arriving to the airport and realizing you left some essential item back at home. You either have to forget about it and move forward or risk missing your flight to go retrieve it. Either way, it’s far from ideal, and the best way to avoid this stressful situation is to check everything before you leave the house. Right before you head to the airport, double check that you have all your essential toiletries, necessary clothing items, ID, boarding pass (if you printed it beforehand) and any entertainment you want to bring with you. If you tend to be a forgetful person (like me) you might even benefit from making a checklist and ticking off your items right before you set out for the airport to ensure that nothing is left behind.
People Can Be Grumpy
Airports are known for their bustling, high-stress environments. Some passengers are trying to organize their large group for a fun family vacation, some are headed out on an important business trip and others are frequent fliers just passing through on their weekly excursions. Employees deal with thousands of people a day, many of which have complaints and travel issues that they’re not always the kindest about.
Point being, people can within the airport aren’t always the friendliest—but don’t let it get to you. Everyone has their own stuff going on and there’s always the chance that you’re going to run into some very impolite folks. If you let yourself get annoyed and frustrated, you’re only going to ruin your own experience. You can’t be aware of what those people are dealing with or what kind of stress they might be under, so do your best to let any frustrating interactions roll off your back.
Get There Early
You probably know how essential it is to arrive at the airport early, but I’m going to reiterate it anyway. You know how I mentioned that people tend to get grumpy and rude at the airport? It’s usually because they’re stressed about missing their flight, often because they didn’t give themselves enough time to comfortably make their way through security and find their gate. Arriving at least two hours before your flight leaves will give you plenty of time to make your way through the airport without becoming frustrated and stressed. When you know you have enough time to get to your gate, small hiccups or a busy security line aren’t going to get to you, making your overall experience that much more enjoyable.
Wear Comfy Clothes
Ahhh, my favorite rule of flight, and the one that people seem most hesitant to follow. Although some people like to dress to the nines for their travel experience, I’m a big fan of comfy clothes as the preferred dress code for any flight. A sweatshirt and leggings or jeans and a loose t-shirt will ensure that you stay comfortable in the cramped quarters inside the cabin. Not to mention, simplistic outfits will make it much easier to get through security, guaranteeing that you don’t hold up the entire line taking off 30 pieces of jewelry—not that I’ve personally experienced that, of course.
Know the Rules
While TSA is more than willing to tell you all the rules of airport security, often in a gruff and irritated tone, it’s much better to know what you can and can’t bring before you get to the airport. Check the recommended carry-on bag size before you arrive, and ensure that your bag meets those guidelines. Verify that any carry-on toiletries are three ounces or less. Knowing these rules before you get to the airport will help everything run smoothly once you arrive. Being stopped at security or getting hit with last-minute fees can be frustrating and potentially ruinous for your experience, so familiarize yourself with the regulations beforehand and try your best to stay in line with those guidelines and avoid any irritating delays.
Organize Your Carry-On
After you know the necessary rules of airport security, you can organize your carry-on for the easiest possible experience. Put your ID and boarding pass within easy reach, either in an accessible pocket of your carry-on bag, or in a designated place in your purse. Your laptop and tablet will have to come out of your carry-on bag when you go through security, so try to place them somewhere that you can easily remove them and return them to their spot following security.
In addition, any small toiletries will have to be removed from your bag, so it’s best to put them all in a Ziploc that can also be taken out of your carry-on without much effort. Security is often the major hold-up at airports, so anything you can do to make that process go quickly will be incredibly beneficial to you, and to everyone behind you in the security line.
Use the Bathroom Before You Board
Because there’s a bathroom on the plane, it can be easy to forget to take care of business before you board. However, you can never be quite sure when the seatbelt sign will turn off or how long the line might be. On top of that, airplane bathrooms are small and cramped, so it’s best to limit your use of them as much as possible while you’re on your flight. In the interest of that, make an effort to use the bathroom before you leave, thereby avoiding the stress of timing your bathroom trip and dealing with the confined space on the plane.
Bring Plane Activities
While enjoying the miracle of flight is very cool, simply staring out the window of the plane isn’t going to sustain you for an entire trip. Make sure you plan activities ahead of time and put anything you need to entertain yourself with into your carry-on. Since you likely won’t have Wi-Fi access on board, you should download any entertainment you want to watch or listen to at home where your Internet connection is most reliable. Download your favorite Spotify playlists, a few episodes of your newest podcast obsession or even a Netflix show that will keep you occupied while you’re in the air.
It can also be helpful to bring noise-canceling headphones if you have them, as there’s always the possibility that loud young children might be onboard. Bringing something to entertain yourself will keep you from becoming bored and restless on the plane, therefore making the entire experience more enjoyable.
Turbulence Is Normal
If you’ve never been on a plane before, turbulence can be really scary. Heck, as a twenty-something woman I still find myself gripping my armrest with white knuckles at the slightest bump during a flight. But you have to keep in mind that turbulence is completely normal and not at all an indication that something is wrong.
While I can’t give you a full scientific reasoning, I do know that certain combinations of airwaves and flight patterns often create a slightly bumpy ride. Pilots usually know when turbulence is coming and they’ll give you a warning. They also know exactly what to do and how to correct their course to create the smoothest ride possible. If you find yourself panicking over little bumps during your flight, keep in mind that it’s just part of the flying experience.
The best thing you can do while traveling by airplane is simply be patient. There are lots of people around, lots of things going on and a lot of factors that go into each flight. It can be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and allow yourself to feel frustrated or overwhelmed. While you can’t always fix a bad travel experience with a good attitude, being patient through your airport experience can only help. Things might go wrong, but if you can keep your head on straight you have a good chance of avoiding the negativity and creating a positive first flight experience.
Most important when it comes to your first flight experience—enjoy it! It’s not every day that you get to view the world from 20,000 feet in the air. Don’t forget to take some time to stare out the window, watch the world from afar and just enjoy the incredible ability to soar amongst the clouds. Flights might just be a normal part of modern technology, but you should definitely take a moment on your first one (at least) to just appreciate the many amazing qualities of this form of travel.
If you’re boarding a plane for the first time you obviously have to commemorate your first flight on Instagram. Click HERE for clever captions perfect for all your flying pics.