Some tips for those who are about to go on an airplane flight for the first time ever

Here’s an abbreviated list of tips for those who have apparently never seen the inside of airport before and would like a primer on how to behave, what to do, and most importantly, what not to do. (While these tips may be broad reaching, they are from a place where the passengers are flying Delta or American Airlines and not the super cheap airplanes that are trying to squeeze a buck).

**Packing. ** The trip starts before you even leave your home. Learning how to pack is fundamental to a worry-free trip. is a great place to start and you can learn how you can get by with less. Really, you can.

  1. Yes, you get one free carry-on per ticket. Yes, that could mean you bring a roll aboard. No, that does not mean you can stuff it within an inch of its zipper life and still expect it to fit in an overhead bin.

  2. Yes, you can have everyone in your family have a roll aboard including your 3 year old. Even if said child cannot transport said roll aboard him or herself. Please understand the huge gulf between can and should.

  3. Here’s the important part. Pack everything so it makes sense. You know you’ll need your ID and boarding pass and liquids whilst at the airport, so pack them in a convenient place. You know you’ll want your iPad and snacks and headphones and lipstick when you sit down in a plane, so pack them in another accessible place so you’re not blocking the aisle once you’ve boarded.

  4. Unless you’re TSA Pre, wear socks and also wear shoes that are easy to take on and off.

SecurityGuess what, this sucks. We all agree. Now, since we’re all waiting in line there are things we can do prior to our turn.

  1. You need a valid ID AND your boarding pass for everyone in your group. Bundle these together. If you’re using passports, put the boarding pass on the same page as the photo ID.

  2. Notice what you’re wearing. Is it a hat, a broach, a pterodactyl? Or even a belt. Get ready to take inventory of what needs to be removed so you only have to be scanned/x-rayed once.

  3. Shut off your goddamned cell phone in line. These are crowded spots of irritated people. The woman behind me was talking loudly about the most banal stuff as we waited in what turned out to be a 42 minute line to get through security. After her first call, I saw her dialing someone else up and shot her a look and she put away her phone.

  4. If there are multiple lines, never get behind a family with small children.

  5. No one else is responsible for getting your stuff through the x-ray machine. You will need to make sure it gets through the curtain before getting in line. I actually saw a person walk away from his stuff and another person just picked up their tray and put it in front of the negligent person’s items. It was brazen and rude but kind of awesome.

  6. Now that you’ve been scanned, proceed over and grab your items. Now, you see that they’re coming right out of the x-ray machine all fresh and your first idea is to just grab them there. Well, don’t. Take the tray and sliiiiiiiide it all the way down to the end so others can get their items and go.

Boarding This really shouldn’t be hard. Dammit.

  1. Know your zone. Here’s the list:
    A) Pre-boarding zone-those who are in a wheelchair, with a small infant*, or
    need help getting on the plane. *The asterisk is for family-friendly locations
    like Orlando where small infants don’t count for pre-boarding.

Stop pumping candy and pop into your kid before boarding, dammit! It’s not fair to the kid or the other passengers.

I love kids, and recognize that they can find air travel stressing, and they are going to be kids, I am an ocean of understanding, truly. Not so much when you pumped the kid full of pop and candy in the damn boarding lounge.

Stop and think, okay?

B) First/Business Class Passengers.
C) Sky Priority Passengers
D) Zone 1
E) Zone 2
F) And all other zones (I.e.Zone 3)

  1. Blocking other zones with your roll aboards from getting on the plane is really annoying. Pay attention that wheelchairs will be coming up from behind if you stand right next to the entrance to the plane.

  2. Don’t try and board out of your zone. Airlines sell zones now and they’re not going to give you a freebie like that.

  3. If you’re in E or F above and it’s a full flight, give up any hopes of taking your roll aboard on the plane. It will be gatechecked (probably for free). So start grabbing the stuff you need out of it.

  4. Remember the packing tip of having your inflight stuff accessible? Now is the time to pull it out.

  5. Have your boarding pass ready for everyone in your party. Usually you will not need your ID, but have it ready in case the TSA wants it again on their random checks.

  6. Now that you’ve gone through all of that, head on down to the plane. Find your seat, put only the roll aboards in the bins and then immediately get the fuck out of the aisle. Your inflight necessities will already be in hand so you can just sit down and put whatever else under the seat in front of you or in the pouch.

  7. If you’re trying to put a child’s small bag in the overhead, you’re wasting space since said child doesn’t need the footroom. Same as if you’re shorter than 5 feet tall.

  8. If you’re sitting in an aisle seat and the window (and middle seat) are not yet occupied, do not start pulling out all of your accoutrements onto the tray table until the door is shut. You might have to get up again.

  9. If you are in the row right by the door and have no carry-ons, consider boarding last so you’re not in the way.

In flight

  1. Babies. We all hate you. Even the cute ones. But if you insist, please no red eye flights.

  2. Children. Electronics are good way to keep them occupied. Please watch the feet as kicking a chair more than once should be completely avoided.

  3. Adults. Ok, let’s just resolve flying would be much better without everyone else. No sense just picking on part of the crowd.

  4. Headphones. These are the international sign of “don’t talk to me”. If headphones are on, that person doesn’t want to talk. The absence of headphones doesn’t necessitate the opposite however.

  5. The armrest as battleground. Unless you’re traveling with your seatmate, the armrest goes down and belongs to NO ONE. The armrest does not stay up if you’re too big to sit without it. If that’s the case, you need to have bought two seats.

  6. Reclining your seat. Ugh, this is where it goes completely pear shaped. The general rule is that “yes, you can recline your seat, but I guess you could also burp the whole way too”. I am of the opinion that reclining is totally ok on flights longer than 4 hours, any red eye flights, or if the row behind you has extra legroom (ie economy comfort or business/first class). While you don’t have to ask first, it’s polite. Even a quick glance back to make sure you’re not going to crush a laptop screen first is better than nothing.

  7. Bathroom use. Yes, we all have to go. But a couple notes.
    A) When getting up, especially if you’re having to go past folks in your row, be polite and wait for them to organize their items first.
    B) Don’t grab onto the back of the seats in front of you for support.
    C) Know when to go. If you see the food or drink cart making its rounds, that is the time to hold it. Also, if it is in the row, don’t stand directly behind the flight attendant waiting to get back to your seat 10 rows later.
    D) You might take a long time in the restroom at home, this is not the place for light reading.
    E) If turbulence is encountered, sit down and wait for it to pass to try again. Saying sorry to the person (me) you fell on because you refused to listen to the instructions only makes me hate you more.
    Landing and De-planing

  8. Stay seated and buckled in until we hit the gate AND the pilot or flight attendant says it’s OK.

  9. Stay seated if you are one of those who needed pre-boarding.

  10. Now is the time to text those needed to let them know you’ve landed. A phone call? No. We all don’t want to hear it. We’re busy listening to the crying baby.

  11. If your stuff is in an overhead bin a couple aisles back? You will have to wait.

  12. Some people might have a very tight connection. If someone says that, get out of their way to help them make that flight.

  13. Now is not the time to ask the flight attendant questions.

  14. Stand on the right walk on the left.

  15. Everyone has a black roll aboard. Make a note of what yours looks like. Don’t grab everyone off of the carousel and put it back because you can’t suss out which one is yours.

This whole sugar and hyperactivity thing is a myth, you know.

Don’t get drunk before boarding. Seriously. Look, you’re not the pilot so it’s OK to have A drink but don’t try to down the whole bar. Getting bombed out of your mind is not going to endear you to security, your fellow passengers, or the flight crew. Keep in mind, both security and the flight crew can decide to either not let you on the airplane or have you removed. If you are sooooooo anxious you need medication to get yourself on board see a doctor, there are less debilitating things you can use.

If you do need medication please use it. Prone to air sickness? Take something for it. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for a barf bag, that’s what they’re for. If you aren’t sure ask for one anyway, it’s OK to have it and wind up not needing it after all. Anxious? See your doctor. Some other issue? Deal with it prior to boarding.

Do not fly with either an earache or a toothache. The inevitable pressure changes involved in flying will turn the trip into a slice of hell. If you MUST fly with head congestion see a doctor for some prescription strength decongestant. If you have a kid in tow with a problem like that it’s that times 1,000.

Be patient. Flying is all about hurry-up-and-wait. You will be standing in lots of lines. Accept this. You can choose to be angry or choose to be resigned, either way you will be standing in lots of lines. Bring a book if it helps you pass the time, or your MP3 player (but keep the volume down so you can hear announcements), or whatever.

Do what you’re told by authorities. Obey security, because if you don’t they will make you even more miserable than you already are. Obey the flight crew because they can throw your ass off the airplane and security will side with them, not you. The flight crew are not waiters/waitresses, they are there to keep order in the passenger cabin, issue instructions which you really should obey, and yes, if necessary, they really will haul your ass off a burning airplane. So show some respect. If they tell you to return your tray to the upright position do it. If they tell you to turn your electronic gizmos off do it. If they tell you not to leave your seat don’t leave your seat. Most of the time flying is downright boring and I hope your flight is one of those boring ones, but if it’s not, please listen to the flight crew.

Stay hydrated… but do it smart. The recycled and somewhat thinner air on board an airliner will dry you out which can result in discomfort, fatigue, and general ick. You might want to limit fluids before boarding so you don’t need to pee when you’re strapped in for takeoff, but do drink fluids after takeoff. For kids, you’ll need to make sure they pee before you start with getting into lines, then limit intake until after take off so if they have a need to pee it will most likely be in cruise when you can get up and use the toilet. Actually, that’s also the strategy I use for my adult self.

If you’re traveling with kids be responsible for them. Yeah, crying babies, they’re infamous. Try to comfort the little darling. The rest of us are more inclined to be tolerant if it looks like you’re trying to remedy the situation. Don’t load your kids up on sugar if it makes them hyper. Don’t pour gallons of pop into your kids resulting in hyperkinetic tots needing to pee at the most inconvenient times. Try to keep them entertained/distracted. If they fall off to quiet slumber we’ll all consider it a bonus. Kids often have problems with ear pain due to pressure changes. Nursing can help infants relieve this. Older kids might find gum or some sort of candy they can suck on to be helpful (so can adults). Please do not drug your children without medical advice! I know there are parents that dose the kids with Benadryl prior to a flight but that’s not always a good move - up to 20% of the kids will have a paradoxical reaction so instead of being sedated it has the opposite effect. If you have concerns ask your pediatricians for options or at least try it out beforehand so you can determine if your darling is one of the magic 20%.

Yeah, but kids getting wound up over candy isn’t, and a lot of pop contains caffeine which certainly can make kids hyper.

But Nyquil’s jusssst fine…

Along with this, when you’re waiting for your bags at the carousel, stand back a yard or so rather than pushing forward to the very edge.

If we all stand back a little bit, then everyone can see their bag coming, and can step forward to collect it when it arrives. If you crowd the carousel, then other people have to push past you to get their bags, and i will shoulder you out of the way if you refuse to move.

Unless the kid is one of the 25 to 33% who gets hyperstimulated by the ingredients in Nyquil.

Here’s a few:

Even though the TSA has a bad reputation, the vast majority of agents just want to get you through to your gate. Listen, pay attention, and be polite. It makes life easier for everyone.

Parents, I don’t mind your screaming baby as long as your attempting some measures to make it stop. I realize I just boarded what amounts to a public bus with wings and the kid can’t help it, but at least try something. Older kids? That’s all on you. Make them sit down and behave. I’ll never win any parenting awards, so if I could do it, so can you.

Adults, are you an interesting person? Do you think random strangers will be interested in hearing you talk non-stop? Chances are, the answer is no, so shut the fuck up. If you insist on a 3 hour monologue, at least get your hearing checked so you can do it in a normal human volume.

Opinionated people - Hate Obama? Think that Jesus is coming soon? Just…just don’t.

This bears repeating a few hundred times.

Does head congestion include a runny/stuffy nose? Because I have one of those right now, and I’m flying 10 hours to Philly on Wednesday. This thread may prove very helpful. :smiley:

Yes, yes it does. Take some decongestant before the flight. If you can’t get in to see a doctor before you leave at least take over the counter ones. It will either prevent ear pain or lessen it. Conditions in flight can very well make such a thing worse so do something about it beforehand. And bring tissues/handkerchief/whatever.

I would like to fly stpauler airlines thank you.

Yeah, if you are going to give your kid something, please try it out, several times, at home and make sure it has the effect you were hoping for. Aircraft are not the place to test the side effects of medication on children.
(humbly holds up hand to making this mistake and hang my head in shame)

I agree with almost everything in this list except…

The most successful trips I ever took when my kids were babies were on the red eye from Calgary to Toronto. The kids slept the entire way and the biggest issue I ever had was not being able to wake them up enough to walk at the other end. The lovely and helpful flight attendant had them bring me a wheelchair so I could drape a child over each shoulder and get off the damn plane.
On the stay hydrated note - you don’t only do this by drinking water. Wear more moisturizer than normal, if you can bear to be seen without makeup, today is the day, the ability to add extra moisturizer through the flight will make your skin happy. Carry a small emergency kit - your preferred pain reliever, lip balm, cough drops, kleenex, antacid, decongestant etc. Don’t bring the world but a few little things in a small ziploc can make the difference between a happy flight and a miserable one.

Dress in comfortable layers. Temperature on the plane is usually on the cold side but that can be seat dependent. Be prepared.

I agree with this part. We’ve done this to ourselves, at least the TSA stuff, and continue to endure it because… Well, I don’t know.

I wish. Most of my bad flights have been Hellish hot.

If you are travelling with infants or toddlers, check to see if the TSA line has family lane. At some airports you’ll be directed to a “go slow” lane where you’re not being rushed by business travelers and other impatient types. The entire group should be in that lane (so little Johnny doesn’t cry when Grandma gets separated). Take your time! Don’t act panicked - that’ll just scare your little 'un. Ask for a TSA sticker badge when you’re done!

If you are standing in line at the gate to board the plane, it is pointless to complain, push, and/or shove to get on. Your ticket has an assigned seat. You will get it. The plane will not leave with people at the gate. And no, they did not announce a prize for the first 15 people on board so quit whining! If your feet hurt that bad go sit back down to wait, and get back in line when more people have boarded!

Not that I encountered this recently or anything.