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First Time Flying – How To Prepare For Your First Flight

 

first time flyingFirst Time Flying: 

Flying can be scary. Maybe you already know that your odds of being in a plane crash are astronomically low, but you still might get anxious during your first time flying if you don’t know what to expect. Knowing what to anticipate will make your travel experience more pleasant and comfortable. This guide will tell you what to expect from the moment you arrive at the airport until you land at your destination.

Checking In

Many domestic and international airlines allow you to check in for your flight online before you even arrive at the airport. Otherwise, you’ll need to check in at the airport. Some large airports have more than one terminal for departures, so make sure to go to the correct terminal for your airline.

When you check in, you’ll get your boarding pass. It has your name and flight information, and it’s literally your ticket onto the plane. You’ll also be able to check any bags that you don’t want to carry. These bags will be stored in the airplane’s cargo section, and they’ll be transferred to your final destination. Most domestic airlines charge a fee for each checked bag, but this fee may be waived on international flights. When you make your flight reservation, you can find out about your airline’s baggage policies. You won’t be able to access your checked bags until you reach your destination, so you should keep anything that you’ll need during your flight in your carry-on bag. Don’t store valuable items in your checked baggage.

When you check your bags, an airline representative will ask for a current form of photo identification. You will need this even if you’re traveling within the United States. Of course, you’ll need a passport and possibly a visa if you’re going to a foreign country. Before traveling internationally, find out what kind of travel documents are required by the country that you’ll be visiting.

Going Through Security

After finishing the check-in process, you will follow signs to the security checkpoint. Whether you’re going on a domestic or international flight, you’ll have to show your photo identification and boarding pass to the security official at the checkpoint. After your documents have been verified, you’ll take your carry-on luggage to the baggage screening area.

It’s important to note that airport security procedures vary from country to country, but in most places they include a walk through a metal detector and having your baggage screened by an X-ray machine. Some countries have complicated security procedures, and these can be baffling if it’s your first time flying. It’s a good idea to do some research ahead of time so you know what to expect. In the United States, the Transportation Security Administration is responsible for airport security. For the most current information about airport security rules and procedures, visit www.tsa.gov/traveler-information.

Finding Your Gate

Once you’ve cleared the security area, you are free to go to the gate from which your flight will leave. You might have received your gate information when you checked in, but if you didn’t, then you can find it on one of the airport’s many computer monitors that display departure and arrival information. Some airports in other countries don’t have computer monitors, so you might have to look for written signs or ask airline officials which gate you should go to. Also, it’s important to periodically check your gate information because it may change. Bring a book, magazine, or some other form of entertainment in case your flight is delayed.

In some large airports, your gate might be located a good distance from the security checkpoint. However, these airports have free shuttles or other forms of transportation between gates and terminals. In many foreign countries, airports have signs in English, so even if you don’t speak the language, you should have no trouble finding your gate.

If you’re taking an international flight from the United States, you’ll have to show your passport at the gate before boarding the plane. You won’t need to show any photo identification at the gate to board a domestic flight. Plan to be at your gate at least 45 minutes before your plane departs, and stay close by so you don’t miss the boarding call.

On the Airplane

Once you’re on the plane, you should go to your seat quickly so that other passengers can board. Put your carry-on baggage below the seat in front of you or in one of the overhead luggage compartments. Most airlines in the United States limit passengers to one piece of carry-on baggage and one small personal item, such as a purse. Check with your airline to learn about its policies for carry-on baggage.

A safety demonstration is a feature of all domestic and international flights, and the flight attendants will begin this demonstration after all the passengers are seated. The demonstration will show where the airplane’s exits are located, where to find life jackets, and how to put on an oxygen mask in case the airplane’s cabin experiences depressurization. Don’t panic! It’s extremely unlikely that your plane will crash into the water or that the cabin will depressurize. Airlines are required by law in the United States and other countries to include safety demonstrations on every flight.

After the safety demonstration, the flight attendants will take their seats. The airplane will take off shortly afterward. When the plane becomes airborne, you might hear some thuds. Don’t be alarmed. These thudding sounds are just the airplane’s wheels retracting.

Once the plane reaches its cruising altitude, the flight attendants will serve drinks and possibly a light snack, such as pretzels. Most airlines provide free non-alcoholic beverages to passengers, but some airlines also have alcoholic drinks and extra snacks for purchase. On long domestic or international flights, you will most likely get free meals, but be aware that airlines serve a very limited selection of food. If you have special dietary needs, you should bring your own snacks on the plane.

Some long flights offer movies and music, and a few airlines are beginning to provide wireless Internet access. If you want to use your laptop or any other electronic devices, wait until the captain has announced that it’s okay to do so. Generally, you won’t be able to use these devices during takeoff and landing.

It’s important to keep your seat belt on whenever you’re seated in case your flight experiences turbulence. This can be scary if it’s your first time flying, but turbulence is a regular part of many flights. Just as ships are built to handle the ocean’s waves, airplanes are built to handle turbulence.

When your plane is approaching its destination, you might hear more thudding or grinding sounds. Again, don’t be alarmed. These noises are made by the airplane’s wheels as they maneuver into their landing position. After the airplane has landed, stay in your seat until the plane reaches its gate. If it’s your first time flying, watch for the seat belt sign to be turned off before getting out of your seat.

On the Ground

When you disembark from a domestic flight, you can follow signs to the airport’s baggage claim area. Your checked baggage will appear on a conveyor belt that is called a baggage carousel. If there is more than one baggage carousel, find the one that corresponds to your flight. The airport’s exit will be located near the baggage claim area.

After arriving on an international flight, you will have to go through Immigration and get your passport stamped immediately after getting off the plane. Then, you will collect your checked baggage and go through Customs. Customs inspections vary widely. Customs officials may choose to thoroughly search your bags, or you might just be able to pick up your luggage and go. If you’re returning to the United States after a trip abroad, you might have to declare items that you acquired overseas. For more information, visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s travel website at www.cpb.gov/travel.

Your first time flying can be easy and enjoyable when you know what to expect. This guide will prepare you for many situations in the airport and on the plane, but it’s important to note that all information is subject to change. Staying informed about current air travel policies and procedures will help to make your trip a success.

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