Flying for the first time can be super daunting, overwhelming, and stressful! Particularly with the constant changes to travel requirements, major staff shortages, and an increase in cancellations and flight delays. These top tips for first-time flyers aim to prepare you for anything!
Working in the travel industry I am equipped with the latest news and have access to exclusive industry data that uncovers travel hacks every traveler should know!
If you’re not a first-time flyer, maybe you just haven’t travelled since pre-covid and are a bit rusty on preparing to travel, keep reading, you may find a travel hack you never knew.
How do you fly for the first time step by step? How do you navigate all the travel industry changes?
Must Know Tips for First Time Flyers
Preparation is key when it comes to travel. There’s no such thing as being over prepared… at least in my books.
I have created a very detailed pre-travel checklist that I use EVERY TIME I travel. It ensures I don’t jump in the car to head to the airport only to realise I have forgotten my passport or left the back door unlocked.
Pack your carry on essentials
What do I need for my first time flying?
Packing your carry on essentials, including packing and printing out all important travel documentation is extremely important. I highly recommend you check out my detailed carry on essentials packing list.
Check your Airlines Baggage Allowance
Before even starting to pack your suitcase, check your airline’s baggage allowance. Each airline has its own restrictions so it’s important to confirm.
As a general rule suitcases should not exceed the following total linear dimension (length + width + height):
- 140cm for Qantas domestic and Virgin domestic and international short haul
- 158cm for Qantas international and Virgin international long haul
In terms of weight and number of bags, this varies between airlines and class of travel. If you arrive at the airport with bags that are overweight, be prepared to pay a fee when you check in your bag.
Or, if it’s only slightly over, take out a couple of items and chuck them in your carry on. This is usually what happens on the way home after doing some shopping!
Below are some links that may help you find your airline’s baggage allowance. This list is not exhaustive, if you are traveling on a different airline, I recommend you Google “your airline” + baggage allowance.
Also be sure to check the restricted items, to ensure you don’t get held up by security.
- Qantas Checked Baggage
- Virgin Checked Baggage Allowance
- Ethiad Airlines Baggage Allowance and Information
- Emirates Checked Baggage
- Air New Zealand Checked-in Baggage Information
- Delta Airlines Baggage Policy and Fees
- Singapore Airlines Checked Baggage Allowance
- Turkish Airlines Free Baggage Allowance Guide
- Qatar Airlines Baggage Allowance – Carry On and Checked Baggage
- Japan Airlines Checked Baggage
You may be wondering, how do I weigh my bag before I leave to check if it is below the allowance?
That’s where baggage scales come in handy! They are super cheap and a great way to avoid excess fees when arriving at the airport.
Be Prepared For Security Procedures
First-time flyers may not be aware of all the airport security clearance procedures. Being stopped at security is a setback you can easily avoid.
The most important airport procedures for first-time flyers that you need to be familiar with are around prohibited items.
Familiarise yourself with prohibited items before you leave as well as the airport screening process. Australian Border Security has a great outline and this factsheet is full of great info I recommend you check out.
For your carry-on, International flight packing rules limit liquid containers of 100ml/g or less and containers must be packed into one transparent and re-sealable plastic bag (snap lock back). The bag should be under 20 x 20cm. For more information check out here.
For beauty product recommendations for traveling, check out my post detailing the essentials for your carry on and how to stay under the limit.
Make your Baggage Easily Identifiable
Loads of people have black suitcases, including myself, which makes it pretty difficult at baggage collection to identify which bag is yours.
Add a distinctive ribbon to the handle of your suitcase and add a baggage name tag with some basic details such as your first name and mobile number.
If someone does happen to grab your baggage by accident and leave the airport only to realise later it’s not theirs, they can get in contact with you.
Trust me this happens all the time, I’ve heard the horror stories!!
Adding a lock is also worthwhile to prevent theft. An easy addition to your pre-travel preparation that can save you the huge hassle of dealing with a stolen bag.
Plan your journey to the airport and arrive at least 2-3 hours before. As alluded to earlier, travel is booming again after 2 years of hibernation, however, airlines are short-staffed due to staff illness and hiring struggles.
How does this affect you? Long queues at major airports are a possibility and have been reported across several airports.
Don’t risk the stress of missing your flights, arrive early and arrive prepared.
Check with your airline if you are able to check in prior to arriving at the airport. This can often open 24 hours prior to flight departure time.
I also recommend checking if your airline has an app that you can download to your phone. This will provide you with a digital boarding pass that you can add to your phone’s wallet.
It will also allow you to receive notifications when check-in opens, if there are any flight delays or gate changes. You may even be able to track your luggage.
Onto more airport tips for first time flyers!
PASSPORT. PASSPORT. PASSPORT!!
Don’t forget your passport if you are flying internationally.
Do whatever you have to do to ensure your passport is packed in a safe place in your carry-on before you leave. Keep it in your carry-on in the same spot in your bag. You will only need to bring it out when checking in your bags, going through security, and boarding the flight.
Your passport is incredibly important, protect it at all times.
Print off all your important travel documents before you leave such as a copy of your travel insurance, your itinerary, details about your first accommodation and emergency contact numbers.
I also take a photocopy of my passport in case it is lost whilst you’re traveling.
Wear Comfortable Clothes
Long-haul flights are already uncomfortable. Don’t add to that discomfort with some stylish yet impractical clothing choices.
Check out my ultimate travel outfit ideas that are comfortable, practical, and cute.
Exchange money beforehand
If you’re flying with money from your home country with the plan of exchanging your cash into another currency, don’t use the currency exchange companies at the airport, they usually give terrible exchange rates.
I always prefer to exchange money before leaving with a reputable currency exchange after doing some research. This ensures when I arrive I have cash to pay for public transport, taxis or, to tip.
Packing a small amount of cash in your carry-on and the rest in your hand luggage is also a good idea. I usually travel with under $150 AUD in my carry-on and then have a few hundred dollars in my suitcase (depending on the length and destination of the trip).
If you’re traveling through Europe, ensure you check what currencies are taken, it’s not all Euros, unfortunately.
Be Prepared For Plans Going Wrong
By downloading the app of the airline you are traveling with you are already taking steps to prepare for plans going awry.
If your flight is running late and it looks like you may miss a connecting flight, check the app to find what gate your next flight is departing from. Some apps even have airport maps that can help you prepare your fastest route to the gate.
It will also detail if the flight has been delayed, if boarding has started and if the flight has departed.
Worse case, if you miss the connecting flight and the airline was responsible due to delays, you can usually rebook the next flight free of charge. And maybe even negotiate an upgrade for the hassle.
The key is to be proactive.
Add the airline’s customer service number to your phone contacts or add it to your printed travel documents folder. If you miss a flight head straight to the customer service desk and arrange a new booking.
Missing a flight can be incredibly stressful, but it does not need to ruin your travel plans.
Next for my top tips for first-time flyers is travel insurance. Often forgotten or deemed unnecessary. Travel doesn’t always go to plan. It can have setbacks and plans can change. When going overseas, travel insurance is as important as a passport.
Without it, you may suffer serious financial consequences if things go wrong.
Travel insurance is particularly important for healthcare and medical assistance. It will also protect you from lost or stolen luggage or cancellations or delays you may encounter.
Stay Calm & Collected
As a first-time flyer, the butterflies may set it in the night before you travel, on the way to the airport, or once you board the flight.
I still get anxious every time I travel. And I have travelled A LOT.
Ask for Help
Navigating an international airport can be overwhelming. Especially if you’re in a foreign county.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Know when it’s time to ask another traveller or an airport staff member for help. People are generally very happy to help so don’t be shy!
It’s better to ask for help than miss your flight!
Sit Back and Enjoy the Ride
Congratulations! You have planned the adventure of a lifetime and are about to embark on an unforgettable trip.
You’ve done all you can do to prepare by reading my top tips for first-time flyers, so all you can do is enjoy the ride and take it all in.