In December 2017 I flew to Europe to visit my brother and it was the very first time I had ever flown on a plane! I was excited, nervous and totally not well-prepared enough for flying overseas, or flying at all. While I was in Europe we also flew to and from Italy and by that second trip I discovered travel mistakes I had made on my first series of flights and learned many things that I wished I had known beforehand!
Traveling is fun and flying can be a really great experience if you prepare yourself before your first flight.
Bring Motion Sickness Medicine
This is the one thing that nobody told me about and I really wish I had known. I did research before my trip to try to prepare as best as I could, and none of the posts or articles I came across mentioned bringing medication for motion sickness.
If you have never flown before, how do you know that you won’t get sick? I never thought that I would get motion sickness, but boy did I ever and I was completely miserable for all my connecting flights and the entire 8 hour flight to Frankfurt. I couldn’t close my eyes because my head started to spin, I couldn’t stand up, I could hardly eat. I couldn’t even fall asleep because I was so nauseated. I was so miserable and there was nothing that I could do to feel better.
On my flights to and from Italy and the flights back home I had Dramamine and it was a miracle pill! I took a pill an hour before my flight left, another pill during my flight, and two more pills throughout the day between my connecting flights. BRING DRAMAMINE, just in case, because it’s better to be safe and prepared than vomiting 30,000 feet up in the air.
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Bring Pain Reliever
In addition to bringing motion sickness medication, consider bringing a pain reliever such as ibuprofen or tylenol with just in case. Traveling can be stressful and you never know when you might get a headache, a backache from sitting in those small seats for long periods of time, or any other issue that might require pain reliever. Better safe than sorry!
Download the App for your Airline
This was very useful to me! When I flew American Airlines, I downloaded the app and it showed me information on my flights, the times, the gates, I had electronic boarding passes, and there was even a map for the airports I was flying into so that I wouldn’t get lost.
Even when I was in the middle of my flight, I was still able to use the app and it updated throughout my flight and I was able to see which gate I was landing in and which gate I had to be at next. It got rid of a lot of stress, especially after my gates changed numerous times while up in the air. It also saved me a lot of time because I didn’t have to try to find a board with the lists of flights. I was able to look right at my phone and figure out where to go without having to stop and ask for directions.
Double check the airline you’re flying with to see if they have an app. I have also used the app for Air Portugal, and it’s also extremely helpful. If your airline has an app, you need to download it! I promise it will make things a lot easier for you.
Wear a Watch
This tip is probably most useful for people who are flying into different time zones or flying overseas. It might not completely prevent jet lag, but it certainly helps a lot. On my flight to Europe I changed my watch ahead so that I could “trick” my brain into adjusting to the right time. For 10+ hours I was going off of the time in Germany, even though I was physically in Eastern Time Zone. It really helped a lot and when I got to Europe I didn’t have any trouble adjusting to the right time. I did the same thing going back to my normal time zone and it made switching back very easy.
Bring an Empty Water Bottle
We all know how expensive the food and drinks are at an airport. If you don’t want to spend $5 for water (and I don’t blame you) bringing an empty water bottle is a really great idea. TSA has guidelines for bringing liquids onto the plane, but you’re allowed to bring empty containers without any liquids.
Once you’ve passed through security you’re able to fill up your water bottle and bring it onto the plane. You can also get refills of water on the plane. Most airlines will do it for you free of charge. I flew Ryanair to Italy and they only filled my bottle up with boiling hot water because it would cost a few Euros to get cold water. It was still worth it, but I was short on time and couldn’t fill it up before boarding the plane.
Wear Shoes you Can Easily Take Off
This one is a given. Going through airport security can be a bit stressful. There are hundreds of people trying to get through security at the same time, and holding up the line because you can’t get your shoes off quick enough will not only frustrate the people behind you, but the airport staff as well.
I wore my favorite knee-high riding boots that I can practically step right out of and it made it really easy to move through the line. They have zippers on the sides, but I can easily pull them off and pull them back on. On my flight to and from Italy I wore super cute heeled ankle booties with zippers so that I could get them off easily. It’s also important to wear shoes that are comfortable for you. If you’re not going to be comfortable wearing 5 inch heels, don’t wear them.
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Bring Hand Sanitizer
Germs are everywhere, especially on airplanes and in airports. Thousands of people fly daily and airplane seats are breeding grounds for bacteria. Whether you bring sanitizing wipes, or hand sanitizer, bring something so you can wipe down the seats, armrests, tray table, and your own hands. Make sure it’s less than 3.4 ounces if you bring a liquid sanitizer! You don’t want to leave on vacation and bring back a cold as your souvenir!
Travel in Comfortable Clothing
Wear cute, comfortable clothing. Wear an outfit that is presentable. You don’t necessarily need to dress to the nines, but it’s important to dress respectably, appropriately, according to the climate and the weather, and comfortably. Don’t show up to the airport in sweatpants and a ripped t-shirt.
You don’t need to wear an evening gown or a pantsuit, but there are plenty of ways to dress nicely and still be comfortable. Even if you wear a cute hoodie or a nice sweater and black leggings, it’s much better than showing up in sweatpants or clothes that are ripped or torn. Dress in layers as well, especially if you’re going from a warm climate to a cold one or vise versa. I wore comfortable leggings, my favorite riding boots, a vintage sweater, a warm peacoat and a scarf when I flew in December. My outfit was well put together, but very comfortable and something that I wear daily, even when I’m lounging at home watching tv (sans boots).
Bring a Portable Charger
The last thing you want to happen when you’re flying and stuck in airports all day is for your phone to die and not have any way to charge it, especially if you’re traveling alone. There are a lot of really good, inexpensive portable chargers you can get before a trip. Walmart has some that range from $5 to $20. $5 is worth the cost to make sure you don’t get stuck in an airport without your phone.
If your flight is going to be longer than 30 minutes, or if you’re going to be stuck in an airport waiting for your connection, this one is a must. Bring a magazine, books, your tablet or kindle, something to watch movies or tv shows on, or something to listen to music on.
Some flights will offer movies and tv shows, but not every flight will. Download music or movies onto your phone and bring headphones to listen or watch. LISTEN TO PODCASTS. If you have time in the airport, pre-download tv shows or movies because even though your airline might offer in-flight wifi, it’s not always free. My overseas flight offered in-flight wifi for $20 for 4 hours. It would have cost me over $40 for the full 8 and a half hour flight. That’s more than my monthly internet bill at home!
I downloaded as many episodes of my favorite shows on Netflix that it would allow me to and had plenty to watch during my flights. I also had multiple books on my kindle to choose to read and tons of podcast episodes downloaded to listen to. It gave me something to do to pass the time, especially when the duration of my trip to and from home was around 30 hours long.
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Bring a Neck Pillow
On long flights or overnight flights some airlines will give you a complimentary pillow and blanket, but they are so uncomfortable. Balling up my jacket would have been more comfortable, but luckily I had a memory foam neck pillow that made sleeping, resting and relaxing so much easier on the plane. Neck pillows are really great, especially if you don’t have a window seat. You can practically sleep sitting up right with one, and it makes the trip much more comfortable. Plus, you can use the complimentary pillow to support your lower back if you wish, or for extra comfort!
If you have a really long flight, or if your flight doesn’t offer meals, bringing snacks with you is a game changer. There’s nothing worse than running through airports all day and sitting on a plane without any food and having your stomach rumble and grumble. Flying is much more enjoyable when you’re not hangry. I brought vegan protein bars on my second trip to Europe. You can even buy snacks and food after you’ve cleared security and there won’t be any issues. My brother and I even brought McDonalds onto the plane in Portugal!
This tip I saved for last because it’s only relevant for long domestic flights that offer meals, and overseas flights that offer meals. If your flight doesn’t offer meals or is too short, this one won’t pertain to you.
This, alongside of the tip on motion sickness is probably the main thing I wish I had known that nobody told me before flying.
If you have an in-flight meal, MAKE SURE TO REQUEST SPECIAL MEALS 24 HOURS BEFORE YOUR FLIGHT!!! This is so important, especially to people with dietary restrictions or allergies. I was not aware of this rule before flying and when it came time to meal time on my flight to Europe, I was not able to eat anything and was so incredibly hungry during my flight. Combined with my motion sickness, I felt terrible. I am allergic to dairy and I have a gluten sensitivity, and all of the meal options included both of those things. The flight attendants told me that I was supposed to request a special meal, but I had no clue.
They ended up giving me a first class meal that I was able to eat, after I explained to them that it was my first time flying, but I had to wait 3 hours after every else had eaten. If you have any sort of allergy or dietary restriction, you must contact your airline at least 24 hours in advance to let them know so they can accommodate you. The food on the plane is prepped beforehand and loaded onto the plane, so whatever they have on the plane, is all that they have.
They can’t just land and pick up something for you to eat, so make sure to call, email, do whatever you have to do to make sure you will be given a meal! Don’t be like me, because going without lunch and dinner while everyone else around you is eating is frustrating and stressful.
If there aren’t any meal options available to you, prep your own meal to bring on the plane. For my flight back to the states, I made grilled chicken and rice at my brother’s house, put it in a tupperware container and brought it on the plane. TSA had no issue with allowing me to bring my food onto the plane. Keep in mind there are restrictions on certain foods you can bring outside of the country, so do your research before making a meal for yourself.
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Another thing to remember is just because you have the option to request a special meal, it doesn’t mean that your request can be honored. I cannot eat dairy or gluten, but American Airlines wasn’t able to accommodate both my allergies, so I had to pack my own meals.
That’s it for my tips for first time flyers! If I think of anything else, I will update the list, but these are the most important things that stood out to me on my first experience flying, and on all my flights afterward. I hope these tips are useful to you, and if you’re a first time flyer, I hope you utilize these and have an awesome trip!
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