Those of us who travel a lot think that everyone knows what it’s like to get on a plane, go to an airport or make an international trip. And no. Not everyone knows.
So I’ve decided to write this to help those of you who are flying for the first time.
But I’m going a little further and I’ll also explain what you have to do if you’re going on an international trip for the first time or if you’re going to check a suitcase.
Travelling by plane for the first time can be an entertaining experience or it can be stressful. It all depends on the information you have to go as well prepared or prepared as possible.
Going to an airport can be quite a challenge for some people, as well as flying, so I hope this will be very helpful.
Buy the ticket for the flight
The first thing you have to do is buy a ticket for the flight and you will have to do it via the Internet. You can go to an office of the airline, but it is advisable to do it on a website.
There are several options, but the best thing about shopping online is that you can see different prices, combine airlines and do it from the tranquility of your home.
The other question is whether you have to buy it on a price comparison website or on the airline’s website. My advice is to use both and see if one offers you a better price.
It is important to note that airlines have baggage restrictions and there are always limits. Think carefully about how many suitcases or backpacks you will carry because depending on it you will have to pay more or less.
Although I will go into more detail in another article on the best ways to buy airline tickets online, I recommend the following:
Take a good look at which airport the plane goes to.
See if it has scales, how many it has and if you think you have the ability to move into an airport you’ve never seen before.
Whenever you’re going to come back and buy back and forth. Don’t leave the return to buy it another time.
Check many times that the date of going and return is right.
Check that your name is spelled correctly and without errors.
Errors in the purchase of tickets are not changed and you miss the flight.
Okay. [Chuckles] Now that I’ve paid, do I have my ticket?
How to obtain your ticket
Even if it sounds strange to you because it’s the first time you’ve traveled by plane, you don’t immediately get the ticket you buy and all you get is the proof of purchase, nothing more.
Before travelling, a few days before or 24 hours before (depending on the airline) you will have to check in.
Basically to check in is to say to the airline: “I am such a person, I bought this ticket, now I want you to assign me a seat on the flight and give me my ticket to be able to travel”.
Ways to check in
The simplest and most commonly used way to check in is to go to the airline’s website and search for “check in”. You will have to include your data there. Always have your reservation number handy. It will have been sent to you by e-mail.
Once you do this you will receive an email with an attachment that you will have to print. That’s your plane ticket.
If you’re better at going with your mobile phone everywhere and you’re a digital person, I recommend that you download the airline’s mobile app and go through the process there. This will allow you to go with the ticket online, meaning that you will carry with you a QR code with which you can board the plane.
The last and least recommended option is to check in at the airport, directly at the airline counter.
If you can avoid this way, do it because you can be charged prices that are sometimes more expensive than the flight, you have to queue up and you are the last in the distribution of the seat.
Most airlines allow only one carry-on bag that can go with you at all times. If you carry more or your luggage is larger than allowed you will have to check it, i.e. pay for it at the time of ticket purchase or check-in.
A very common mistake in some people who have even traveled more than once is to carry a larger suitcase or carry more than two pieces of luggage with them.
Even if you carry a very small bag next to the suitcase you will not be allowed to go up and you will have to put everything in one place or pay a fine that could be around 60 euros approximately.
When I talk about suitcases I am generalizing, but it could be a backpack, a purse, a garbage bag or some saddlebags made with the skin of the dragon your great-grandfather hunted. What really matters is the size.
The airlines will let you carry (usually) cabin luggage with you and you can check in a large suitcase.
But what is the size of suitcases that can be carried on an airplane?
The small suitcase can have a maximum size of 55cm high x 35cm wide and 20cm deep.
The large suitcase may not exceed 65cm high x 42cm wide and 25cm deep.
Keep in mind that the big suitcase can’t weigh more than 20 kilos, so if you have a chance to weigh it first, do it because otherwise you could get into trouble.
Keep in mind that these sizes can vary very slightly depending on the company so I recommend that you take a good look before starting your trip to the airport.
What you can’t wear
There are things you can’t carry in your suitcase, some are very obvious and others may surprise you. So that you don’t do like some people who carry very crazy things and can be stopped, I recommend that you follow these instructions.
Liquids: You can only carry bottles that do not exceed 100ml and that all the ones you carry fit in a ziplock bag. Keep in mind that things like toothpaste, creams or semi-liquid products are considered liquids.
Weapons: It’s clear, neither fire nor sharp.
Cutting elements: Many of them are used for camping or sports. They’re not allowed.
Checking the suitcase at the airport
Once you have bought your plane ticket and arrived at the airport from where you are going to depart, you will find screens that will indicate which is the counter where your airline attends.
You should know that this counter is not the boarding gates, but the place where you will leave your suitcase that can not go in the cabin.
You just have to go to the counter in case you’re going to check out your big suitcase.
I imagine if it’s a big trip you’re going to take two bags so you have to go to the counter.
There a person will very kindly ask you to show him your passport and your flight ticket. He will then look for you in his database and when he checks that everything is in order he will tell you to put your suitcase on a conveyor belt next to him.
This belt is also a scale on which the luggage is weighed to confirm that it does not exceed the permitted weight.
Once you confirm that everything is in order this person will put a label on your suitcase, give you a voucher and you can leave there.
Once you’ve delivered your bag, you’ll have to go to the security checkpoint.
Make sure before leaving the counter that you have your passport, your ticket and proof of your suitcase.
Now you’re looking for security control.
You will be able to identify this site because it is usually very well indicated and it is usually where there is more movement of people.
The entrance to the site is usually made with a QR code reader that is on your airline ticket. It’s a lot like the subway entrances but instead of putting in a card you have the code reader identify your passage and open the way for you.
If the airport you’re at doesn’t have this reader a person will ask you for the ticket (either the paper or the app) to check that you can pass.
The scanner and the metal arc
Once you pass you have to go to the line. There is usually more than one so choose the one you want but make sure it is not the one that is exclusive for family or “fast track”.
You are about to go through an arc that is a metal detector and other prohibited elements.
Keep in mind that you will have to go through this detector with only clothes and footwear without carrying any metal, liquids or anything else in your pockets. Before crossing confirm that you are not wearing a belt, that you did not leave anything in your pockets and that you are free of metals.
If you wear boots or high shoes you will have to remove them and put it in a separate tray to go through another scanner.
Before going through the detector you will have to leave your luggage on a ribbon and grab a plastic tray where you can put the bag with liquids, things you carry in your pockets, belt and electronic equipment such as an electronic tablet, a laptop or a mobile phone.
Keep in mind that if you have liquids in your small suitcase you have to take it out and put it in the tray.
Common security control problems
One of the most common problems I have seen in my travels are the following (and I hope you don’t have them):
People who forget liquids in their suitcase and delay them for this reason.
Persons carrying prohibited items such as lighters, cutting elements, aerosols, etc.
Passengers wearing high boots.
The belts with metal buckles that you forgot to remove.
Sometimes you may find yourself being delayed to check your luggage. It’s all right, you just have to go where they call you, open the suitcase and confirm that everything is fine.
Other times you might be asked to take things out of your pocket if you forgot something, you might be palpated to see you’re not carrying anything, or you might be passed through a special scanner.
Looking for the boarding gate
You finally passed all the controls. Now we can say that you are ready or prepared to travel.
The first thing I recommend you look for are the monitors that indicate the departure of the flights.
Usually these monitors are located next to the security control and will inform you of:
Destination you’re going to
If there is a delay or if you are on time
I personally recommend that you go to the boarding gate to identify very well where it is.
Follow the signs so you don’t get lost.
Keep in mind that between the security check and the boarding gates you will find many Duty Free shops and shops (the duty free area where you can buy things cheaper) so I recommend that you not be distracted as your first flight.
Once you have found the door and if you have time you can relax and wait until they start knocking.
I like to go and get a coffee to drink while I wait and try to be always in front of or very close to a screen to know if everything is going well. If you get bored you can do one of these 7 things to have a better time.
Never stop looking at the monitors because they will inform you if the door has been changed (something possible) or if there is a delay in the flight (something much more possible).
I recommend that you read our article on How to make waiting at the airport more enjoyable so you don’t get too long.
Calling and to the airplane
A person will stand next to the counter at the boarding gate and with a microphone in hand will begin to announce that the aircraft will begin boarding.
The first thing you will do is call passengers who have Business Class or some kind of preferred traveler ticket. If you didn’t pay more than usual, it’s not you.
After that you can call in two ways:
Call everyone to embark and start queuing with everyone else and you’re coming in when it’s your turn.
Let him call for seating sections, so you’ll have to wait your turn.
When your turn comes you will have to show the person in charge your passport and your plane ticket to confirm that everything is in order.
Greetings and go for the finger which is a tunnel that will lead you to the plane. In some airports this does not exist so you will have to follow the instructions of the staff who will guide you, but there is no loss until the plane.
On the plane
You’re finally getting to your plane. When a flight attendant enters, he or she will greet you and may ask you to see your ticket again to show you where your seat is.
Look for your seat, put your luggage in the top of the seat (where you will find a trunk) as tight as possible so that there are places for other people and sit.
When it comes time to sit down, I recommend that you don’t stay so long in the corridor and if you have to take off coats or put other things in the trunk, do it calmly but without taking so much time.
Take it easy and try not to get stressed on the flight.
Tips for getting on the plane
Double check the seat number on your ticket before you sit down to see that you are not in the wrong seat. Seats are indicated by numbers and letters (the number is the row number and the letter the seat.
Carry a backpack or a small bag to leave under the front seat with the things you need to use on the trip: books, food, mobile phone, etc. I recommend that you take your documentation and a pen with you (you’ll need one).
Don’t fasten your seat belt until you see that people have stopped coming in. If you have to leave in a hurry for some reason, it’s easier.
On the other hand it is very (very) important that you turn off the mobile phone or put it in airplane mode from before taking off until after landing.
Once you are seated on the plane a cabin attendant will pass by looking at the following:
Have your seat belt fastened.
You don’t have to come down next table to eat.
Don’t have your seat reclined.
Don’t let the windows down.
The plane will move backwards from the place where it is parked and then start walking. You may see that he walks a lot and very slowly. This is normal because from the place where it was to the runway there can be a long run.
Once the plane is positioned to take off, the first thing you’ll feel is that it stops. A few seconds later the engines begin to make a louder noise (quiet, it has to accelerate) the movement becomes faster, things inside vibrate, as if you were in a car on a street in poor condition.
As you accelerate you will feel your body lightly press the seat backwards and suddenly you will see through the window and you will realize that you are in the air.
You may hear some strange noises, but don’t worry, it’s all part of the aircraft’s mechanical process.
Don’t take your belt off until the light in front of you tells you to. And if you can, I’d recommend that you never take it off.
How’s the flight on the plane?
Once you are in the air and you are allowed to take off your belt you can make a more normal life. You can go to some of the toilets at the end of the corridors, you can turn on your mobile or tablet (always in airplane mode) or you can read.
If it is a long trip, it is possible for the flight attendants to pass by with lunch, dinner or breakfast.
If the flight does not include this service they will pass by with a cart selling food or drinks. You’ll be able to see the offers in a magazine they usually put next to your seat. Keep in mind that this can cost a lot of money in some cases so look for a way not to fall into that expense if you consider it too high.
One of the most common things that happen on flights is turbulence.
What you will feel is that in the middle of the flight begins to shake and vibrate. Maybe it’s not a nice feeling, but it’s okay. Turbulence is annoying but not dangerous.
Explained in a simple way we can say that turbulence is air crashing into the plane that instead of following the normal line has a circular or abnormal behavior. Come on, it’s just air moving the plane a little bit and that’s it.
If there is a lot of turbulence, the driver may have to go back to the seat and put on the belt. You have to listen to this.
Fill out the immigration card
Depending on where you fly, you may be asked to fill out a piece of paper.
When you are on the plane the flight attendants will pass by asking for (or directly handing over) an immigration card. If you don’t, please ask for one because this is important.
At this point you will have to take out the pen you have in that bag or backpack under the front seat and your passport.
Fill in the form with all the information requested and keep it with you. You can put it inside your passport so it doesn’t get lost. You’ll need it when they ask you in customs.
Because you will go from being 12,000 or 4,000 feet high to wanting to be on the runway the plane will feel this descent and you will notice these things:
Your ears will be clogged by the change in atmospheric pressure.
The turbulence will return because the air will be blowing from the front and from below.
You’ll feel everything vibrating more than usual. It’s all right, it’s a regular thing.
The landing process can take about half an hour.
When you touch the ground, you’ll feel a blow. It’s the plane landing. Don’t be scared, everything’s fine.
Don’t get up or take off your seat belt until you’re allowed to. Because this is your first plane trip you will see that there are people who have more experience and start getting up. It doesn’t do you much good to do it because you’ll have to wait anyway.
Just like you did to take off, the plane will take a few minutes to get to the parking lot.
Once parked it may take a few minutes to get out because opening the door and getting everything in order takes time.
The departure of the plane is usually very organized so don’t rush and get out when your turn comes.
Don’t forget your luggage or anything you have on the seat or near where you were sitting.
Once you get out of the plane, you’re going into a hallway. Usually if you follow other people you won’t get lost, but I recommend you to see the signs that say “Arrivals” or “Passport Control”.
When you get to where you will be asked for your passport you will see that there are several booths with police inside. You’ll have to line up to go to one of them. Take a good look at the line you’re in. For example if you come to the European Union you will see a poster that is only for people from the European Union and another one that says “Other passports”.
When it’s your turn, you’ll hand your passport to the police along with the immigration paper you filled out on the plane.
You may be asked what is the reason for the trip, where you will stay and how long you will stay, and so on. Respond without problems.
You may also want to see the return ticket so show proof of payment or check-in if you have already done so.
After this, the cop will stamp your passport and let you through.
Pick up luggage
Once you have passed the passport checkpoint you will continue walking and you will find yourself in the luggage collection area. Yeah, that big suitcase you gave the airline employee.
You’ll see conveyor belts going by all the time. Find a monitor that tells you what tape yours is on and wait for it.
When you see her, grab her and you’re done, you’re out.
It seems like a long process, but don’t worry, it flies by!