First Time on a Plane: What to Expect

By Alice Ross | TRAVEL TIPS

Jan 16
first time on a plane what to expect

You’ve booked your first ever flight tickets. You’re all pumped to spend several days on a holiday. The problem, however, is that you are flying for the first time and you have no idea what to expect when you get to the airport.

But because I want to make it easier for you, I’ve put together some useful tips for first-time flyers to make their experience less stressful. However, you have to keep in mind that because different cities may apply different processes, rules for airports might be different. But as much as possible, I try to be more generalized in all information stated here. 


Required Documents


First and probably the most important thing is to make sure you have your ticket and passport, as identifying yourself would be the first process you need to go through. In order to be on board, the boarding pass is also necessary. To make it easier, most airlines allow their passengers to print their tickets and boarding passes online to make it more convenient for them. But in case you forget to do so, just make sure to get to the airport early so that you can get it printed at the check-in counter.

Time to Arrive at the Airport


It’s a rule of thumb to be at the airport two hours before your flight if you are flying international and at least one hour if it is a domestic flight. Because it’s your first time, it will give you peace of mind to be at the airport as early as possible – you don’t want to miss your flight. You should expect for weekends to be busier!

Checking In

Make sure to weigh your baggage before going to the airport to make sure you will not go overboard on the designated weight you can bring on your flight. If you are bringing stuff heavier than 7 kilos, you might have to buy baggage allowance and check it in. Show your ID at the counter and get your boarding pass printed, together with a baggage tag.

check in flight

Make sure to check your airline’s website for prohibited items that you cannot bring with you on your flight and which one you can’t bring in your carry-on baggage

If your flight has a layover, ask for more information about how they are going to transfer your baggage and which airport to go – many cities have multiple airports.

Immigration Counter

For overseas flights, you will have to go through an immigration counter. At this counter, one of the immigration officers will ask for your different documents. These include passport, boarding pass, ticket, as well as the embarkation form.

There might also be other questions you might have to answer like when are you coming back and what the purpose of your trip is, so prepare yourself!

When you’re done with this process, the next thing to do is to go to custom counter – this only applies if you are going to bring some expensive items with you on your flight like designer merchandise and jewelry that you need to declare. 

Security Check

security check

You must also ready for getting your luggage through an X-ray. These include everything you are taking on your plane with you – means both hand-carry and check in luggage. For security purposes, you need to pass through a metal detector. After that, you can collect your stuff and go to your departure gate.

Ready to Board the Plane

Now you’re ready to board your flight. Go to your boarding gate. Your ticket will show your designated boarding gate, check the name code to know where your gate it.


Before getting on the plane, make sure to check to your seat number so that you can easily find it once you boarded. You could also ask the cabin crew if you need help in loading your baggage in the overhead compartment.

After seating your respected seat, fasten your seat belt. The flight attendant will demonstrate how to do it along with other the safety features you need to know about safety.

Arriving At Your Destination

Once you landed at your destination, wait for the pilot to open the door before you disembark. Follow the flow of people and look for signs directing you to the baggage claim area if you checked in your luggage. 

You see, flying shouldn’t be too difficult. By following the tips I listed above, it shouldn’t be too complicated even if it’s your first time. Now that you know what to expect if it’s your first time on a plane, let me give you some tips you can follow to make your trip smoother.

Bonus Tips for Smoother Flying Experience

Create a checklist


While this may sound extremely basic, many overlooked and underestimate the benefit of doing this. You can either use your phone, a piece of paper, or if you have a good memory, you can even just use your mind. List down everything that you need – from packing, to what you need to buy, documents you need to bring. Arrange them from their priority. 

Pack light

When traveling, less is more. By using your checklist, you can easily determine which ones you need and which one you don’t need or something you can buy from your destination. If your trip is just for the weekend or just for a couple of days, then you probably don’t need to bring 3 pairs of pants.
By packing lightly, not only you can have a more comfortable trip, but you can also save money from checking in your luggage.

luggage packing

Do a little research

A few days of your flight, it would be smart to check the official website of your airport and other websites with reliable information that will help you know to expect. Information like drive time, the entrance, and other facilities are good to be aware of.

By doing this, you can easily plan ahead your travel time from your house to the airport. Make sure you give enough time to travel and plan your mode of transport. Making a last-minute plan would make you feel anxious.

Be prepared

airport rest

When you get to the airport, you must be alert and ready all the time. Keep in mind that an airport is a busy place full of people from different walks of life. Unfortunately, it’s not perfect and things can go wrong – like delayed flights and missing luggage. That’s why you must always be mindful of what’s going on in your surroundings and also keep your eyes on your bag at all times.

Choose the best transportation

Choosing a safe and convenient form of transportation can truly be a game changer when it comes to traveling. As much as possible, always choose most appropriate and comfortable transport that will take you to where you are going to go.


Once you get to the airport, you’ll usually have different options like train, taxi, bus, car rentals, or even limousine. Of course, any of the car services is always the best choice – although not always the cheapest. They can take you directly to your hotel or wherever you need to go. For extra convenience, make research online before your trip if you can possibly book an airport pickup service, so you don’t have to worry about it once you landed at the airport. You can usually ask your hotel about this.

Flying on a plane, especially if it’s your first time, offers a lot of excitements and expectations. You would like for everything to go smoothly and fall according to plan. However, that’s not always the case for some. It's totally normal to feel nervous if it’s your first time on a plane. But as long as you know what to expect and you prepare yourself with useful information, you’ll be confident that your trip is going to be alright.

If you find this article helpful, feel free to share this with your friends who are flying on a plane for the first time. If you know other tips on what to expect in this situation, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comment below!

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Alice Ross, a long-term traveler who left the corporate world to travel the world. I chose to live life on my own phase and live day by day while immersing myself in new experiences, new knowledge, and new people in a different walk of life I met along the way.

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