Last updated on: Apr 16, 2021
Travel is the fun part! Travel preparation—not so much. From packing to payments, there’s just so much to do! And then, there’s flying. I really wish they’d invent teleportation, because flying leaves a lot to be desired, especially in the new era of crazy fees and even crazier fees. However, with these 6 guidelines for first-time air travel, you can make the most of it by at least ensuring you’ve done all the necessary things for a smooth flight.
Within 24 hours of booking a flight, always recheck your reservation to ensure that the name and date of birth on your reservation matches that on your passport. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires that airlines allow passengers to cancel at no charge within 24 hours of booking. Also, if flying overseas, make sure that your passport does not expire within six months of your trip, because most countries will not allow you to enter if your passport expires within six months. Finally, enroll in TSA Precheck and Global Entry or similar programs and add your “known traveler number” to your reservation to avoid extra scrutiny and skip long lines at security and customs checkpoints. While this tip is geared more for American travelers, other countries have similar programs, so check in your home country.
Use a no-fee debit card at ATMs for the best exchange rates. Of course, your first option should be using a travel credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Download a currency exchange app that works offline like the XE Currency App. In addition, inform your credit card companies of your travel plans so, if traveling overseas, your expenditures are not flagged as suspicious.
To make the process smoother, ensure that you have quick access to telephone PIN numbers for debit and credit cards as well as the toll-free numbers for the credit card companies. I once had one of my credit cards frozen when visiting Anguilla, and I spent HOURS over two days to remove the hold. Nowadays, many companies like Chase allow you to create travel notifications online for your trips. Crisis avoided!
Take pictures of valuable items, such as tablets, jewelry, credit cards, and passports, that you will be bringing on the trip, including serial and model numbers. Use your cell phone and a cloud-based service to store the pictures so they can be accessed anywhere. You might also want to consider personal property travel insurance to reimburse you for lost, damaged, or stolen items.
Make sure to check the weather at your destination each day leading up to your flight. It might mean you need to adjust what you’ve packed. And for a radical idea on packing, check out how to fit it all in one bag!
If you park at the airport, use your smartphone to take a picture of the parking row marker sign and/or nearest airport parking lot bus stop so you can remember where you parked upon return. You can also download car locator apps like Car Locator and Find My Car Smarter. There a few things worse than carrying luggage around an airport parking lot or garage after a long flight because you forgot where you parked.
Check-in online and download your boarding passes. This helps save time if you’re not checking any baggage, and it can also save money if you’re flying on discount airlines that charge fees for everything! In addition, if you have a rather complex or lengthy itinerary, you should still print confirmation emails for all reservations, because God forbid you lose your phone!!!
Make sure to charge all of your electronic devices before you travel, and don’t forget to bring a portable charger and place all chargers in your carry-on bag. Also, you should download content to consume during your flight, and bring other items to make your flight more comfortable like pillows, tablets, headphones/earbuds, infinity scarves, and jackets. Be sure to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate; and avoid jetlag by mimicking the time zone you are flying to. This means if it’s nighttime where you’re going, take a nap (or a series of naps) during the flight. Of course, there’s also an app for even that!
Have you tried any of these guidelines for first-time air travel? What additional tips do you have to share?