Tips For First Time Flyers | Travel Like A Pro With Our Ultimate Guide
Tips For First Time Flyers | Intro
Part of the fear of flying is actually a fear of the unknown. If it is your first time flying, this includes not knowing what to expect at the airport or while you are in the air. I recently flew from here (Atlanta) to Minneapolis and decided at the last minute to take some video of the process. It’s with my phone, so the quality isn’t great, but it should give you a good idea of the process of flying from the moment you get to the airport until you board the plane and eventually land. For more details, I spell out this process below the video.
The first step in the flying process is booking the flight. Many people purchase their tickets online through airline websites or travel sites. The only thing you have to fear in this step is expensive ticket prices. (See the box below on more tips on booking your trip). Otherwise, it is a relatively easy process that you can handle yourself. You are also required to “check in,” which just acknowledges you are still planning to make the trip. As part of this process, you receive a boarding pass, a document that proves that you have purchased a ticket. Along with purchasing your ticket, you can also check in online.
Alternatively, you can purchase your tickets and check in by phone. If you haven’t purchased tickets and/or checked in online or by phone, you will need to begin at the ticketing counter at the airport. This is usually labeled “Ticketing” on the signage. You can purchase your ticket, check in, and receive your boarding pass at the ticket counter. If you have “checked” baggage (the kind that you don’t keep with you on the airplane), the ticket agent will weigh this (it generally has to be under 50 lbs. or so) and tag it to make sure it ends up on your flight. The agent may receive your bags then or direct you to a nearby dropoff station.
Tips For First Time Flyers | Booking & Airport
- I usually get the best dealsdirectly through airline websites (com, southwest.com, etc.). But if you are price conscious, you should also check travel sites such as travelocity.com, expedia.com and priceline.com. These are especially helpful if you want a package deal on a flight, hotel, restaurants and car rental. You can often get “early bird” pricing if you don’t mind booking a bit further in advance of your trip. Also, prices fluctuate on trips, and an airline may post a “web special” pricing for a limited period. If you start looking early, you can catch these deals.
- Plan to arrive at least two hours prior to your departure time, especially if you are flying for the first time or if it is your first occasion flying at a particular airport. You want to have ample time to be able to find parking (if you are leaving your car), get checked in and go through security before your plane departs. You don’t want to add the anxiety of being late for your flight if you are also experiencing a fear of flying.
When you’re finished checking in at the ticket counter, you will then head to the security checkpoint. A security agent will check your boarding pass and I.D.
You need a government issued I.D. such as a driver’s license. Next, you will place your personal belongings and carry on bag (the one you will keep with you on the plane) in bins that roll along a conveyor belt and under the x-ray machine.
This includes the contents of your pockets, belt and shoes. You then walk through a type of scanner that checks you personally for weapons or anything else you are not allowed to fly with on the aircraft. After that, you collect your belongings from the bin and head to your gate area.
Tips For First Time Flyers | Security Checkpoints
Airports have strict requirements regarding what you are allowed to have on your person and in your carry on bag.
- For a guide on permitted and prohibited items, visit this Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website page.
- For information about the “3-1-1″ rule pertaining to liquids, visit this TSA websitepage.
The Gate (Or Concourse)
The gate, sometimes referred to as the concourse, is the area where you wait until time to board. This area resembles a mall in that it usually contains restaurants and gift shops.
There are several gates, one for each flight. When it is time to board, passengers line up and present their boarding pass to a gate agent. You walk through a “jetway,” which connects the gate to the plane outside the gate.
Now for the fun part, the flying itself. For some people, this is where the fear and anxiety begins setting in. But if you know what to expect when you fly, you will hopefully be able to better manage the fear before you are in the air.
Passengers board the plane, find their seats and store any carry on baggage in the storage bins above the seats.
The crew gives safety instructions and the Captain gives a brief message to passengers along the lines of the weather in your destination city, any expected weather or turbulence issues expected and how long the flight is expected to take. People that already experiencing fear and anxiety when they fly tend to fear the worst during safety instructions, but this is something you can learn to overcome by educating yourself on flight safety statistics and recognizing that the fear is irrational. Accidents are very rare, so safety measures are seldom needed; the crew address them in the unlikely event they are necessary. If an emergency does occur, the crew is well-trained and equipped to assist passengers.
The Captain then “drives” the aircraft on the ground to get in position for takeoff. Before takeoff, passengers must fasten their seatbelts and remain seated until instructed otherwise. When the plane reaches a certain altitude, passengers are free to move about in the cabin and use the restrooms. If there is turbulence and moving around is not safe while in the air, the crew will instruct passengers to remain seated until notified otherwise. Turbulence is nothing to fear—it is caused by fluctuating air pressures and is a normal experience of flying.
Likewise, when you are close to landing, the crew will require passengers to be seated and buckled in. Some people fear this part of the journey, because the plane will often slightly roll (turn) and change altitudes in preparation of the descent. When the plane lands, the Captain drives to the gate, where passengers use the jetway to exit the aircraft and enter the destination airport.
If you checked baggage, you will then head to the baggage claim area. Shortly after landing, luggage is placed on a carousel for passengers to pick up. Once you have experienced the air travel process for the first time, you will at least have addressed the fear of the unknown, and hopefully will enjoy any future flights. Good luck, and hit us up with a comment below if you have any questions.
Tips For First Time Flyers | Resources
First time flying? Here are my recommended resources: