Planning a trip is exciting, but there’s also a lot of steps to prepare for the journey. After you’ve booked your flight and accommodations, you’ll need to check a few things off your list before takeoff.
Whether you’re a frequent flyer or a first-timer, follow these steps to make your experience less stressful.
Steps to Prepare for a Flight
#1: Download Your Airline’s App and These Helpful Travel Apps
Using Your Airline’s Mobile App
By downloading and using your chosen airline’s mobile app, you can easily access all the information you need about your flight.
Check your flight’s status, review boarding instructions, read the airline’s luggage policies and access your boarding pass (no printer, no problem!). You can also check in for your flight through the app, and some airlines even offer free in-flight entertainment.
Apps for Travel (Including Airports)
Other helpful travel apps include:
- FlightStats, which gives you info like flight status, weather conditions, airport delays
- App in the Air, which helps you find places to eat at the airport, and consolidates your travel plans including flight, hotel and car rental information
- MiFlight, which gives you the wait times for airport security checkpoints.
- The Grab app lets you skip the long lines at airport restaurants and kiosks by ordering your items ahead of time.
#2: Research Your Destination
You’ve already booked your flight and have done some preliminary research, but now is the time to dig deep and learn more about your destination.
Are you looking for a fast-paced adventure filled with thrilling activities? Maybe a relaxing trip that includes a luxurious spa day and fine dining is more your pace. Google your destination and see what the top recommendations are for restaurants, activities, local attractions and more. Then make a list and prioritize how you’d like to spend your time.
Check out Major Online Travel Publications
Check popular travel websites like Lonely Planet, Travel & Leisure and The Blonde Abroad for must-see attractions and tips for traveling to your destination. You’ll find info like what to wear, where to eat and places to avoid.
Focus on your Travel Schedule
You’ll also want to build an itinerary, even if you’re looking for a more relaxed vacation so you get the most out of your time away.
It can be as flexible or as detailed as you like!
Bonus tip: It’s a good idea to book reservations at your must-do activities, like restaurants or spas, in advance so you can ensure that you’ll be accommodated during your visit.
#3: Fill Your Prescriptions
If you take any prescription medications, you’ll want to be sure to get enough refills to last you through your trip.
You’ll also want to bring over-the-counter medications, like pain relievers and stomach relief, plus any basic first aid supplies if you plan on participating in any outdoor adventures.
#4: Have Your ID and/or Passport Ready
All travelers must have a valid form of government-issued identification to board a flight. Be sure that your passport and/or ID isn’t expired.
Get an Eligible Passport
If you don’t have a passport, you’ll need to apply for one before traveling internationally. Some countries won’t accept passports that expire within six months of travel.
Look into International Visa Requirements
Check to see if your destination requires a visa. Checking that your form of identification is valid for your upcoming trip well in advance—passport renewals and applications can take up to 12 weeks—will help ease your mind as you prepare for your flight.
Make multiple copies of each document and credit card in case they get lost or stolen.
#5: Prepare Your Home
Depending on the duration of your trip, there are a few things to take into consideration when leaving your home unoccupied.
- Place a hold on your mail and deliveries by calling your local post office so your home doesn’t become an easy target.
- If you have indoor or outdoor plants, ask a neighbor or trusted friend to water them for you while you’re away.
- Do you have pets? Look into boarding services or pet-sitting services to look after your furry friends.
You can also hire a house sitter who can look after your home, get the mail and care for your pets and plants. It may be worth your peace of mind knowing that someone you trust is at your home while you’re on vacation.
Here are some additional tips for securing your home while you’re on vacation.
#6: Handle Your Finances
Let Your Banks Know your Schedule
Before you leave town, contact your bank and credit card companies and inform them of your upcoming trip. This will ensure that your accounts won’t be placed on a temporary hold due to suspicious activity.
Arm Yourself with Multiple Currency Types
Don’t leave home without several forms of currency, such as multiple credit cards, an ATM card and cash. Hit the bank or the ATM before leaving so you have some cash on you.
If you’re traveling internationally, you can exchange currency beforehand or acquire traveler’s checks. Look up the exchange rate for the country you are visiting.
#7: Get Immunizations
Depending on your destination, you may need to be vaccinated before you are allowed entry. Check the CDC’s website for more information.
#8: Research Travel Insurance
Most short domestic travel doesn’t require travel insurance, but if you’re traveling abroad for an extended period of time, it is wise to research your options.
Travel insurance can cover emergency medical expenses, cancellations, lost luggage, theft and other catastrophes that may happen during your trip.
#9: Pack Your Bags
Packing for a trip can be stressful, but if you give yourself plenty of time to prepare, you’ll feel more relaxed that you have everything you need for your trip.
List, Organize and Prepare Your Belongings
Make a list of items you need to bring with you so you don’t forget anything. Break the list up into categories (toiletries, clothing, documents, electronics, etc.) and double-check your list the night before your departure.
Charge all of your electronics, including your cell phone, laptop, smartwatches, tablets and cameras. Be sure to bring all of these chargers with you.
Check your airline’s luggage policy and make sure you adhere to weight restrictions, bag sizes and bag limits. Some airlines allow you to check one bag for free, while others charge a fee. The TSA website has lots of useful information about prohibited items, carry-on luggage policies, how to pack liquids and more.
Ensure that your bag is approved by investing in a luggage scale and weighing your bags before you get to the airport. Then you can avoid oversized luggage fees or the dreaded awkward shuffle of personal belongings between bags.
About Luggage Weight and Dimensions
Each airline has its own dimension limits for carry-on bags. Check with your airline to see that your bag complies with their policy. If your bag is too large, you may be asked to check it for an additional fee. Some airlines offer this service free of charge.
Typically the weight limit for checked baggage is 50 pounds, but each airline’s policy varies. Some airlines allow up to two checked bags that weigh 50 pounds or less. Excess or overweight baggage may be subject to additional fees. Items that weigh more than 100 pounds typically must be shipped as air cargo.
Bonus Tip: Pack your essentials in your carry-on luggage in case of the worst-case scenario of the airlines losing your luggage. Include items like an extra change of clothes, prescription medication, contact solution and/or glasses, your ID or passport and other travel documents.
What Do I Need to Bring to the Airport?
Form of ID
The most popular forms include:
- Driver’s license
- U.S. passport
- Permanent resident card
- Carryon bag that doesn’t violate your airline’s size and weight restrictions
- Checked luggage that doesn’t violate your airline’s size and weight restrictions
- One personal item – a purse, laptop bag, briefcase or backpack
Other Useful Items to Bring
- Reusable water bottle – Since you aren’t allowed to bring any opened or unopened beverages through airport security, it’s wise to bring an empty reusable water bottle with you. Many models are even collapsible, saving you tons of space while navigating through the airport.
- Snacks – If you don’t want to pay the high prices for food at the airport, bring your own food. Things like nuts, granola bars, crackers and fruit are good options. Just be considerate of your fellow passengers and avoid anything pungent or messy.
- Neck pillow – Getting comfortable on a cramped flight can be difficult, and if you want to get some quality rest before you arrive at your destination, a neck pillow will certainly help.
- Reading materials/quiet activities – If you don’t plan on sleeping, you’ll want something to keep yourself occupied during the flight. Bring headphones, a tablet with reading material or a book or a magazine. Download TV shows or movies to your device while connected to WiFi at home or at the airport. Adult coloring books are also a great option to help you relax.
- Hand sanitizer – Due to heavy traffic and high-touch surfaces, germs are everywhere at the airport. Be sure to have a travel-size hand sanitizer in your carry-on or purse so you can use it after touching the bins in the security line and before digging into your snacks. Consider a hand sanitizer keychain to attach to your carry-on or purse for easy access.
- Disinfecting wipes – For wiping down your seat, tray table, seatbelt and any other dirty surface you may encounter.
- Face coverings – During COVID-19, passengers are required to wear face coverings at airports and on the aircraft. Be sure to bring plenty of extra masks for your trip.
Tip: Before you leave home, be sure to have all of your travel documents in a secure yet easily accessible place, such as your purse, an outer pocket of your carry-on bag, or in a money belt.
If you’re traveling with a carry-on bag, be sure that all liquids comply with the TSA 3-1-1 rule. You can pack full-size liquids in your checked luggage.
Double-check that you didn’t pack any prohibited items, and remove them from your luggage before you get to the airport so you don’t have to throw them away.
What to Do When You Arrive at the Airport
Plan to arrive at least 2 hours before your departure time so you aren’t rushed. Give yourself even more time if you plan on parking at the airport and taking a shuttle.
Your Step-by-Step Checklist
- Check in for your flight (if you haven’t done so) via machine or in-person
- Check your luggage – Go to your airline’s check-in counter to weigh and check your luggage. Have your ID ready for the luggage attendant, who will weigh your bag and give you your baggage claim ticket. It is wise to take a picture of it in case you misplace it and store it in your wallet.
- Go through airport security – Remove your belt, shoes and heavy jackets; take your 3-1-1 compliant liquids, any electronic devices larger than a cell phone and food out of your carryon bag; and listen to instructions from TSA officers.
- Find your departing gate – This information will be on your boarding pass. When your boarding group is called, line up in front of the gate. The attendant will scan your boarding pass, and you will be allowed to board the plane.
Pro Tip: Programs like TSA PreCheck allow you to skip the long security lines. You can apply online for this program to avoid removing your shoes, belt, large electronics, 3-1-1 liquids, food or light jackets. The average wait time for TSA PreCheck passengers is less than 5 minutes.
Things to Remember When Flying
- Dress in comfortable layers – Airport and aircraft temperatures can be unpredictable, so be sure to wear plenty of comfortable layers. Items like a long scarf, a jacket and a small blanket are ideal for keeping you comfortable during air travel.
- Wear comfortable shoes since you’ll be doing a lot of walking around the airport and handling heavy luggage.
- Keep yourself occupied during your flight by listening to relaxing music—with headphones, of course—reading a magazine or a book, or coloring. This will help pass the time and keep you relaxed.
Tips for Anxious Flyers
If you’re an anxious flyer, there are several things you can do to ease your mind:
- Try to get a good night’s sleep the night before your flight. Take a sleep supplement like melatonin to help you drift off.
- Download guided meditations and relaxing music on your phone to listen to on your flight.
- Choose an aisle seat, if possible, to reduce the feeling of being trapped.
- Have a cocktail if you find that alcohol relaxes you, but do not imbibe if you’ve also taken any anti-anxiety medication.
Let the Experts at Beach Happy Plan Your Dream Vacation
If the thought of booking flights, hotel rooms, rental cars and activities sounds too overwhelming, Beach Happy is here to help. The agency’s travel experts are passionate about giving you the best possible experience, whether you choose to rent a private villa in the Bahamas, stay at a luxurious resort in Mexico or take an exciting ocean or river cruise—all over the world.
To learn more about Beach Happy and the services offered, visit FlyOverTravel.com.