(That was sarcasm, if you didn't pick that up).
Some of you, like me, may have been flying since before you even knew what that meant. Others may have used others means of transportation. Nevertheless, whether this is your billionth time flying across the world, your first long distance flight, or your first flight at all, here are some basic guidelines and unwritten rules to help you get through it.
I'm going to take you step by step to help you get to your exotic (or not so exotic) destination and back safely and easily.
If you don't already own a suitcase, now is the perfect time to buy one. There are a bunch of different types, and they are definitely not all created equal. If you already own one you're planning on flying with, congratulations! Go ahead and skip to step two!
First of all, consider your budget and how often you'll be using the suitcases. Are you planning on going on this vacation for the first time in your life, and won't need the suitcase ever again? Are you going to be traveling frequently, or perhaps moving? Depending on your answers to these questions, think about if you want a suitcase set (large suitcase, medium suitcase, and a carry on) or just the large/medium sized one.
Next, consider what kind of suitcase you want. This is honestly just personal preference. The only thing you should make sure of is that the suitcase is light weight. Chances are, you already have a weight limit and you don't want to waste precious pounds or kg on how heavy that beautiful suitcase was.
I personally recommend hard shell suitcases, with 4 wheels. They are hard, so you don't have to worry about anything inside getting stolen, and they are the easiest to pull around with you through the suitcase. There are a ton of companies that sell these suitcases, so honestly I would say it just depends on your budget.
Just make sure the suitcase is light, and if you are buying it in person, go ahead and test the zipper and the wheels to make sure everything is running smoothly. Don't be afraid to ask for assistance from the sales people! They are there to help.
Also, just a final note, pick out a fancy outrageous colour. Honestly, I'm telling you from personal experience: don't pick the simplest black suitcase you can find. And if you do, please add a ribbon on the handle or a luggage tag or something to help you identify that it's yours. Especially since this is a new (and potentially your first) suitcase, you seriously don't want to be confused at your destination's airport because you have no idea which suitcase is yours.
Congratulations! You've officially picked out your travel companion! Now it's time to pack.
Depending on what you're doing and the duration you'll be packing for, the time you want to start packing changes.
If you're moving, when you are packing your house be sure to set aside what you'll want in your suitcase and what you want to send as shipment. Likely, your shipment wont arrive the same day you move in, so be sure to pack clothes, underwear, and other necessities you'll need.
If you're packing for the weekend, you can start a day or two before.
If you're packing for a week-long trip, I would suggest packing things you don't need right away about 4-7 days before. Pack your sweaters, jackets, wellies (rainboots!), whatever you don't need, and save your toiletries for the night before/morning of.
Here's a little checklist for you.
- Clothes: shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, etc.
- Undergarments: underwear, pantyhose, bras, etc.
- Chargers for your electronics
- Travel adapters/voltage converters
Step one: Check in!
24 hours before your flight is scheduled to take off, check in online. Why? It makes everything go faster in the airport and you get special perks, like potentially picking your seat and if you have a preferred dietary option (kosher, halal, vegan, etc). Keep in mind, if it's a long flight and you use the bathroom a lot, pick an isle seat. It's much easier to go to the bathroom this way and you don't have to bother everyone to get off your window seat every hour! I always pick isle seat, unless I'm flying with family, out of courtesy. Furthermore, If the flight is serving food, there will always be a vegetarian option and a non-vegetarian option for you to choose from, but sometimes getting a special meal is better. Also, you get your food like 10 minutes before everyone else if you get a special meal, which is awesome because everyone gets super jealous!
Wondering how to check in online? It's easy! If you're flying British Airways, log into BA.COM and just follow the instructions. You'll have to input your passport information, and they'll ask how many bags you're taking (you can put "not sure" if you're not sure). You'll also be asked about meal selection and perhaps seating. At the end, you'll be asked if you want to print out your boarding pass at home, at the airport, or collect it on your phone. Regardless of what option you choose, worst comes to worst, you can have another one printed from the airport. To be safe, I like to receive it on my phone as well as print it from the airport, in case the one I get printed gets lost, torn, etc.
Depending on if your flight is domestic (within the country) or international (out of the country), you'll need to arrive at the airport at different times. If domestic, plan to arrive at least 2 hours in advance. If international, plan to arrive 3-4 hours in advance.
Step two: Bag Drop
When you arrive, look for the logo of whichever flight you're flying. If you're flying British Airways, look for their logo! Go to the appropriate desk (for example, if you're flying economy, don't go to first class check in. If you're flying business or first, take advantage of their faster check in), give them your passport, answer any of their questions, put your bags onto the converter belt and you're done! Next is airport security.
Step three: Security
After you finish checking in and bag drop, continue on to airport security. There will be signs pointing you where to go, but if at any point you are confused or feel lost, ask someone. People, especially airport staff, are more than happy to help you out! :) As you stand in line for airport security, take out your zip lock baggie with all your toiletries/liquids and make sure your laptop/tablet is easy to take out. When your turn arrives, put your laptop/tablet, baggie, jacket, and potentially shoes onto the tray and continue on through the scanner. If they take you away for extra screening, don't panic! This has happened to my brothers almost every time they fly, and to me once. There are many reasons that would potentially take you for extra screening - for example if you have a lot of metal in your bag (extra laptop battery, jewelry, etc) so don't freak out.
Step Four: Gate, Boarding and Flying
When you get out of security, you're officially at the best part! Waiting for your flight! You get to walk around the airport, shop, eat, watch planes take off and land, people watch, and meet strangers to name a few! Depending on how large the airport is, it might be a good idea to find your departure gate if it's listed. To find it, look on one of the big black boards that has all the cities. To go off my previous example, if you are flying British Airways, flight BA124 (I just made up the number) to Milan, then look for BA124 - MILAN on the board. Next to it, it should say the gate and status. For example, BA124 - MILAN - GATE OPENS AT 10:15. This means you should check the board again later. When the gate is open, it will say something like A14 - BOARDING (or final call, or go to gate). If you've arrived early enough, your flight might not even be listed yet, so don't panic if you don't see it.
Be sure to check the board often for your gate. Also, give ample time to walk over to your departure gate. When your gate opens, go to it.
Boarding. Finally, the time you've been waiting for! Each airline is different for this. All of them let passengers who need assistance to board first, then first/business class flyers and mile high club members, and then economy travelers. When it's time for economy boarding, some call out your seat number, others just let everyone board at once, etc. Just follow directions, and have your passport and boarding pass handy. Walk into the plane, find your seat, put your handbags in the overhead lockers, and relax!
The air hostesses will show you all the security procedures and are there to help you throughout the flight. Don't be scared to ask them anything! :) Soon, your plane will take off and you will be sitting in a big metal thing miles upon miles above the clouds. Pretty cool.
Some things to keep in mind throughout your flight... You don't want to be that nasty passenger on the plane with no manners. Keep your shoes on. Keep your feet to yourself. Don't take up both arm rests. Don't pick your nose. Don't cut your toenails. Don't openly fart. Don't sneeze into your hands and then rub them on your jeans. Don't take pictures of the air hostesses because you think they're sexy. (I've seen ALL of these done on various flights, and these are just some of the nasty things people do). Just, don't be nasty, please, or everyone will hate you. Be respectful and keep in mind you're sharing the plane with a lot of other people!
Upon arrival at the airport, you'll likely have to go through immigration. Just follow the signs (and the other people!) straight to immigration and baggage pickup. Answer the questions the immigration officer has. Then go to baggage pickup and get your luggage! Then, you go through the "nothing to declare" or "goods to declare" line to the arrivals gate, and you're done!
Congratulations! You've officially passed my Flying 101 class and are ready to take on your first adventure!