The top things to do before a flight range from enrolling in a frequent flier program to packing your essential passport and visa documents. There are lots of important things to do days, weeks, and even months before boarding a plane, so plan ahead and follow these tips!
Let’s face it, air travel can be crazy. From long lines at airport security to fierce competition for overhead space, air travel is not what you look forward to in a vacation. But it doesn’t have to be so bad. In fact, air travel can even be enjoyable when you take the time to prepare and organize yourself beforehand.
Are you getting ready to take to the skies for your next vacation or business trip? Before you pack your bags and head to the airport, there are a few key things you’ll want to keep in mind to help ensure a smooth and stress-free journey. Here are my top tips and things to do before a flight in 2023.
#1 tip to know before flying
Before diving into all the different ways to prepare for a flight, I want to share a quick tip to save big on airfare.
For the past 2 years, I’ve used Going to find flight deals. It’s totally free and easy to use. All you gotta do is enter your home airport and where you want to go, and they’ll send you mistake fares and other ridiculously cheap flight deals. Last year, I saved thousands of dollars thanks to their email alerts – including most recently, a $240 roundtrip fare from Boston to Barcelona. Typically, I save about $300 roundtrip on selected flight routes. So, I couldn’t recommend them more!
Things to do 1 month before a flight
Here’s how to prepare for a flight up to one month beforehand.
1. Get a travel rewards credit card
Ideally, you’ll want to get one of these before you book your flight (points, points, points!). Basic cards carry no annual fees, where you’ll get extra points on travel and dining-related expenses. Cards with high fees tend to give you much more in return, including airline lounge access and credits on incidentals (i.e. free checked bags).
I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, which has no foreign transaction fees, 5x points on flights, 3x points on travel and dining, and 50% additional value when redeeming travel expenses (airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises). If you sign up using this unique promo code, you’ll get 60,000 points ($900 in value!).
In addition, American Express also offers some great travel rewards credit cards, but they carry higher annual fees. I own the Amex Platinum Card, which has a crazy amount of benefits that I can’t possibly list everything here. There are many great travel credit cards out there, so be sure to do your research!
2. Confirm vacation days with your boss
As you’re planning the trip of a lifetime, remember to run the dates by your boss, coworkers, and clients, and plan for upcoming projects accordingly. You should also set boundaries and expectations around your vacation (i.e. do you intend to be offline the whole time, or are you planning to check emails at night?) The last thing you want after a trip is come back to the office and receive dirty looks from coworkers. So set the expectations up front!
3. Book your accommodation
If you haven’t done so already, now’s the time to book your stay. I’ve found that hotels and vacation rentals are cheapest at least a month in advance, so plan accordingly! Here are some of my go-to sites that you can use to save money on accommodation:
- Booking.com: Booking.com is a popular online travel agency that allows users to book rooms at hotels, resorts, and other types of accommodations.
- Hotels.com: A website that offers discounts on hotel rooms and allows users to earn rewards through their loyalty program.
- VRBO: This booking platform allows users to book unique vacation rentals, including homes, apartments, and even treehouses. In my opinion, it’s better than Airbnb.
4. Check your passport and visa documents
Heading on an international trip? I recommend double-checking your passport and visa documents at least one month prior to takeoff. First and foremost, make sure your passport is set to expire at least 6 months after the final date of travel. Many countries will not allow you to enter otherwise. If you’re taking an international flight to a place that requires a visa, ensure that the terms of your visa are correct. If there are any issues with your passport or visa documents, you’ll still have enough time to straighten it out. Sometimes it can take a few weeks to process these documents, so you may have to pay extra to expedite it.
5. Stay on top of vaccinations
Depending on where you’re traveling to, you may be required or encouraged to get a vaccination (i.e. COVID-19, Yellow Fever, etc.). As such, it’s always a good idea to check your government’s travel advisories (here’s the US State Department website) and consult your doctor well in advance. If any vaccinations are needed, don’t wait until the last minute to schedule them. Also, if you take any prescription drugs, now is a good time to get them refilled.
6. Get travel insurance – an essential thing to do before a flight
I’ve been guilty of not doing this, but I recently started using travel insurance and it’s a lifesaver. It gives you peace of mind in case plans change or you encounter any unforeseen obstacles.
Here’s a guide on travel insurance, including the different scenarios where it makes sense to purchase it.
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7. Book the main attractions
Now’s the time to start putting together your travel plans. If you’re trip coincides with high season, don’t wait until the day before to book the main attractions. Whether you’re looking to do a popular guided tour or go somewhere special for your anniversary dinner, you should begin booking these things well in advance of your trip.
8. Plan out your frequent flier status
Research all the frequent flier programs out there, and make sure your flight purchases are helping you achieve premium status. If you have a favorite airline, will you be able to reach gold or platinum status this year? Have you remembered to attach your frequent flier number on all your recent (and upcoming) flights? If you travel often, this is something you’ll want to look into and strategize on a regular basis.
Things to do 1 week before your flight
9. Make copies of important documents
It’s always a smart idea to make copies of your passport, visas, and driver’s license. Additionally, it’s advisable to make copies of your credit card information in the event they get lost or stolen. If applicable, you should also consider making copies of your immunization card. For each of these items, be sure to store one copy at home and bring the other with you as you’re traveling.
10. Research stuff to do (don’t wait until moments before you board a flight!)
If you’re someone who likes to have a plan before arriving at the destination, now’s the time to put in the research. I always jot down the main sights and attractions I want to see, and put them into Google My Maps so I can plan my itinerary accordingly. Last-second research is no fun, so be sure to begin your research well in advance.
11. Exchange currency if needed
If you’re traveling to a foreign country, you’ll want to make sure you have some local currency on hand to pay for things like transportation, food, and souvenirs. Before you leave, consider exchanging some of your money at a bank or currency exchange kiosk, or you can use a credit card or ATM while you’re there (just be aware of any fees that may apply).
Not sure how much money you’ll need? A good rule of thumb is to bring a mix of cash and card, and to do some research on the local cost of living and prices for common items. That way, you’ll be prepared for any expenses that may come up and can enjoy your trip without any financial stress. Happy travels!
12. Organize all your tickets and confirmations
Using an app like TripIt, you can consolidate all your trip information in one place. It can get overwhelming trying to remember your flight’s check-in times, gate numbers, and flight statuses on top of all the other logistical items of your trip, such as hotel reservations and tour bookings. Have an app do this for you!
13. Buy any gear or attire you need for your trip
14. Research data plans
If you’re traveling internationally and need a data plan for your trip, be sure to explore all your options. My U.S. phone plan has an expensive international data package, so I get SIM cards through local telecom companies instead. If you opt to get a SIM card locally, you should ask if there are any promos or plans designed for foreign visitors. Sometimes it’s cheaper to get a SIM card with a monthly data plan rather than doing an ad hoc/refillable one. If you do decide to go down the local SIM card route, make sure that your SIM card is unlocked by your telecom provider!
Things to do a few days before a flight
Here are some tips for how to prepare for a flight in the days leading up to your trip.
15. Check the weather forecast in your destination
Before you begin packing your bags, it’s a good idea to check the forecast for your destination. Are you planning a beach vacation and hoping for sunny skies? Or are you hitting the slopes and hoping for fresh powder? Knowing what to expect can help you pack the appropriate clothing and accessories for your trip.
16. Begin packing
Don’t wait until the last second to pack your luggage! Rather than frantically packing a few hours before takeoff, give yourself at least a few days. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to do laundry and get yourself organized. (Tip: If you can, try to avoid checked baggage, as it makes traveling a little more stressful and harder to get around. Of course, on long haul flights where you’re spending many days in your destination, bringing a checked bag may make sense).
If you don’t have a packing list, feel free to use mine below!
17. Buy a travel pillow and sleep mask for the flight
18. Confirm airport and flight times
It is important to confirm the airport and flight times a few days before your trip to ensure there haven’t been any changes. You’d be surprised by how often this happens. This can prevent any confusion or misunderstandings on the day of your flight. You should also confirm the terminal and gate number for your flight, as these can sometimes change. It’s also a good idea to check the status of your flight the day of to make sure it is still scheduled to depart as planned.
19. Empty out your fridge
If you have any perishable food, now’s the time to start finishing it. There’s nothing worse than coming home to rotten vegetables!
20. Leave pasta or frozen food behind
The only thing worse than coming home to rotten vegetables is coming home to nothing at all. It’s always a good idea to have a stash of pasta or frozen pizza ready for you when you get home.
21. Let someone know your travel plans
It’s always a good idea to let a trusted friend or family member know your travel plans, just in case of any unexpected emergencies or changes. That way, they’ll have a general idea of where you’ll be and when you’ll be there, which can be helpful in the unlikely event that something goes wrong.
In addition, you can also give them a copy of your itinerary, as well as any important contact information for your hotel or tour company. And if you’re feeling extra paranoid (which is totally understandable), you can even give them a “code word” that you can use to check in with them and let them know everything is okay. Just don’t forget to actually check in with them at some point during your trip!
22. Notify your credit card companies when you’ll be traveling
Banks will sometimes put a hold on your account when you attempt to make purchases abroad. To prevent your card from getting blocked, you should alert your bank of the precise dates of your vacation and where you’ll be traveling to. If you’re at a beach bar in the Caribbean, the last thing you want to see is your credit card getting declined when you’re buying a piña colada.
23. Plan out your public transportation options
This is one of the most important yet overlooked things to do before a flight. How will you get to and from the airport in your destination? What are the best options in terms of price and convenience? As a cost-conscious traveler, I usually take buses or metros from the airport. However, sometimes late at night or early in the morning, there is no public transportation option.
In addition to the above, you should also plan how you will get to and from the airport at home. Will someone drive you in or will you do an Uber or taxi? Plan accordingly!
24. Research TSA carry-on requirements ahead of time
The screening process at TSA is one of the most stressful parts of air travel. Do yourself a favor and get comfortable with the security screening process, and find out what’s allowed (and what’s not). That way, you won’t have to deal with items being confiscated from your carry-on luggage.
Just as a refresher: liquids in your carry-on luggage must be less than 3.4 ounces (100 mL), and stored in a transparent bag. Here’s the official TSA website, which lists the security screening requirements in more detail.
25. Cancel any unnecessary appointments or subscriptions
Before you jet off on your trip, consider canceling any appointments or subscriptions that you won’t be able to use while you’re away. This will help you save money and avoid any unnecessary charges.
For example, if you have a gym membership but won’t be able to make it to the gym while you’re on vacation, consider freezing your account or canceling it temporarily. You can also consider canceling any streaming services or magazine subscriptions that you won’t have time to enjoy during your trip. And if you have any recurring payments set up, be sure to cancel those as well or set them to pause until you return. This way, you can focus on relaxing and enjoying your trip without worrying about any unexpected bills.
26. Make a Spotify playlist for your trip
I love making playlists, especially before a big trip. If you’re like me and can’t survive a long haul flight without music, then make a playlist a few days out. Remember to save the playlist offline as well, so you can use it in airplane mode!
Things to do the day before a flight
This is the final stage of your flight preparation. Here’s how you should prepare for a flight the day before.
27. Drink lots of water
Air travel takes its toll on the body, especially when you’re on a long flight. Not only is the cabin air stuffy, it also dehydrates us. To stay hydrated and reduce jet lag, I always begin drinking lots of water the day before my flight. It’s also a good idea to drink lots of fluids on the flight, so be sure to bring a reusable water bottle that you can fill once you pass security.
28. Prepare for a flight by charging all your electronic devices
Don’t let a dead battery ruin your trip! Before you leave, charge all of your electronic devices, including your phone (which you’ll need to take a million pictures), laptop (for all of those in-flight movies), and camera (to document every single meal). That way, you’ll have plenty of power to capture all of your vacation memories, stay in touch with loved ones (so they don’t forget about you), and navigate your way around a new city (because getting lost is so much fun).
Plus, with all of your devices charged and ready to go, you can sit back and relax during your flight without having to worry about finding an outlet (because who even knows where those are on a plane?). So before you head out the door, be sure to plug in and power up!
29. Set your out of office email
Best feeling in the world, right? Before hightailing it out of the office, double-check the dates on that email. I’ve seen a lot of “out of office” replies with dates recycled from prior trips. Even though you’re already in vacation mode, be sure you get this right!
30. Download your airline’s app and check in
Many airlines have apps that allows you the check-in beforehand and manage your online boarding passes. If this is the case for your airline, be sure to download the app the night before your flight. If you’re traveling domestically without a checked bag, a mobile boarding pass will allow you to skip the check-in line and go directly to security. Some airlines even offer in-flight entertainment to passengers using their mobile apps (i.e. Alaska Air). Don’t miss out!
31. Download a flight tracking app
Check your flight status and look out for potential flight delays using an app like FlightAware. This is helpful if you want quick info about your scheduled departure or are stressed about making it on time to your connecting flight.
32. Enroll in the airline’s frequent flier program
Hopefully when you purchased your airline ticket, you attached a frequent-flier number to it. If you haven’t, be sure to research the airline’s partner or alliance program and sign up. These frequent flier miles can add up!
33. Finish packing
You should also take a look at everything you’re bringing, and perhaps cut out some things that aren’t necessary. Over-packing means you can’t bring anything home with you! Also, be sure to carry your essentials in your hand luggage, just in case the airline mishandles your checked luggage (it does happen).
34. Clear storage space on your smartphone
If you’re like me, your camera roll is packed with pics and videos from prior trips. Have you ever run out of storage space? It’s not fun, trust me! To avoid running out of memory while you’re snapping pictures, be sure to back everything up prior to leaving on your trip.
35. Put all your important documents in your carry-on
This will ensure you don’t accidentally leave your passport at home. You should also consider putting your driver’s license, plane ticket and any other important documents in the carry-on the day before your flight.
36. Make a meal and bring snacks for the plane
If you want to cut down your travel costs, food at airports is a good place to start. It’s overpriced, and the portions can be quite small. Moreover, a lot of airlines these days aren’t including meals and snacks in the base economy fare. If this is the case, you have an extra incentive to bring food from home! Even just some trail mix can go a long way!
Things to do hours before a flight
Whether this is your first flight or you’re already a jetsetter, here’s what to do before a flight:
37. Eat a big meal
Ideally, this will give you the opportunity to clean out the rest of your perishable food. Eating something substantial before heading to the airport is always a great idea.
38. Take a shower – the key to feeling good before a flight
This always helps me feel my best before heading to the airport. Sure, the airport cabins are smelly and all. But at the very least, it’ll help you freshen up beforehand.
39. Wear comfortable clothes
This is one of the most essential things to do before a long-haul flight. The airplane cabins tend to be stuffy and the temperature control can be all over the place. As such, I recommend wearing multiple layers that you can easily put on and take off. Make sure they’re comfy!
40. Stretch out and walk around
This is particularly important if you’re taking a long-haul flight. Aircraft cabins can be very cramped, so take some time to stretch those legs before getting on your flight.
41. Secure your home before leaving
Before you head out the door, it’s important to make sure your home is secure and safe while you’re away. This can help you relax and enjoy your trip without any worry. Here are a few things you can do to secure your home:
- Lock all doors and windows: This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s an important step to take before you leave. Make sure to double check that all doors and windows are locked, including any sliding doors or windows that may be easy to overlook.
- Unplug appliances: To avoid any potential fires or power surges, consider unplugging any unnecessary appliances, such as your toaster, coffee maker, and computer. This will also help you save energy and money on your energy bill.
- Set your thermostat: If you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, consider setting your thermostat to a more energy-efficient temperature. This can help you save on your energy bill and make sure your home is comfortable when you return.
- Let a trusted neighbor or friend know you’ll be away: Consider letting a trusted neighbor or friend know that you’ll be away and ask them to keep an eye on your home. You can even give them a spare key in case of any emergencies.
By taking these simple steps, you can help ensure that your home is safe and secure while you’re away and enjoy your trip with peace of mind. This is a must when preparing for a flight.
42. Get to the airport early
Give yourself enough time to make it to the airport and security checkpoint on time. (TSA PreCheck allows you expedite the security process). To be safe, it’s recommended to arrive at the airport at least 1.5 hours before domestic flights and 2 hours prior to international ones. And once you make it through security screening, be sure to head to the boarding gate at least 30-45 minutes prior to boarding.
43. Measure and weigh your carry-on
It used to be just budget airlines that were strict with size and weight requirements of carry-ons. Now, sadly, many premium airlines are trying to make an extra buck while making your life difficult. To avoid the possibility of paying out of pocket for a slightly overweight carry-on, double-check your airline’s requirements before heading to the airport. If the carry-on is too big or heavy, re-pack accordingly and consider leaving some non-essential items at home. That way, you won’t encounter any surprises by those eagle-eyed airline employees.
44. Some airlines still require you to wear a mask
In 2023, most airlines around the world have eliminated their mask requirements for flights. However, depending on the country and the flight route, some airlines are still requiring that you wear a mask while on board. As such, be sure to research this with airlines and destinations in advance.
45. Check out your destination on Instagram
Ready to get excited for your trip? Look at pictures and videos of your destination on Instagram and get inspired!
Now sit back, buckle your seat belt, and enjoy the flight!
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) on how to prepare for a flight
Here are some common questions and responses about ways to prepare for a flight.
Q: What should I do if I can’t find my passport?
A: Oh no! Losing your passport before a flight can be a major stressor. First, try retracing your steps and checking all the places where you usually keep your important documents. If you still can’t find it, consider contacting the nearest embassy or consulate to see if they can help you get a replacement. In the meantime, try to stay calm and remember that these things happen. You can always try to make the best of a bad situation by turning it into an opportunity to get a cool new passport photo. Just don’t forget to smile!
Q: What should you not do before flying?
A: Oh boy, there are so many things you should NOT do before flying! Here are a few examples:
- Don’t forget to pack your passport: Trust us, you do NOT want to be stuck at the airport without your passport. That would be a major bummer and could ruin your entire trip. So make sure you double check that you have all necessary documents before you leave the house.
- Don’t pack any liquids over 3.4 ounces: The TSA has strict rules about what you can and can’t bring on a plane, and liquids over 3.4 ounces are a big no-no. So be sure to check the size of your shampoo, conditioner, and other toiletries before you pack them.
- Don’t wear clothes that are too tight: Sure, those skinny jeans may be your go-to, but they might not be the most comfortable thing to wear on a long flight. Instead, opt for loose, comfortable clothing that will allow you to relax and stretch out during the flight.
- Don’t pack all your valuables in your checked luggage: It’s always a good idea to keep your valuables, such as passports, money, and jewelry, in your carry-on luggage where you can keep an eye on them. That way, if your checked luggage gets lost or delayed, you won’t lose all of your important stuff.
By following these tips, you can help ensure a smooth and stress-free flight.
Q: How can I save money on airfare?
A: Ah, the age-old question. There are a few tried and true ways to save money on airfare:
- Book your flights early: Try to book your flights at least a few weeks in advance to get the best deals.
- Be flexible with your travel dates: If you have some flexibility in your travel dates, try to book your flights during off-peak times, such as midweek or during the shoulder season.
- Sign up for alerts from your favorite airlines: Many airlines will send out special sales and discounts to subscribers, so be sure to sign up for alerts to get notified of these deals. I also recommend signing up for Going. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made!
- Consider using a travel credit card: Some credit cards offer rewards or discounts on flights and other travel expenses. Just be sure to pay off your balance in full to avoid accruing any interest.
By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to snagging some sweet deals on airfare.
Q: What helps anxiety before flying?
A: Flying can be a stressful experience for some people, especially if you’re prone to anxiety. Here are a few things that might help:
- Plan ahead: One of the biggest causes of anxiety is feeling out of control. By planning ahead and taking care of things like booking your flights and packing your bags well in advance, you can help reduce some of that anxiety.
- Get some exercise: Exercise can be a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, so consider going for a walk or hitting the gym before your flight.
- Practice relaxation techniques: There are a few relaxation techniques that can be helpful before a flight, such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation. You can also try listening to calming music or using a calming app or tool, such as a guided meditation or white noise machine.
- Talk to someone: Sometimes, just talking about your anxiety with a friend or loved one can help alleviate some of the stress. You can also consider talking to a therapist or counselor if your anxiety is more severe.
- Bring some distractions: Having something to do or focus on during the flight can also help take your mind off of any anxiety. Consider bringing a book, a magazine, a puzzle, or some headphones with calming music or a podcast to help keep you occupied.
Remember, it’s okay to feel anxious before a flight – it’s a normal and natural reaction. But by taking some proactive steps to manage your anxiety, you can help make the experience a little more manageable.
Q: What should I do if my flight gets canceled?
A: Don’t panic! Flight cancellations are unfortunately a part of travel, but there are a few steps you can take to minimize the inconvenience:
- Contact the airline: The first thing you should do is contact the airline to see if they can rebook you on another flight. If they can’t, they may be able to offer you a refund or a voucher for a future flight.
- Consider alternate forms of transportation: If the airline can’t rebook you on a flight, you may want to consider other options, such as renting a car or taking a train or bus.
- Stay calm and be flexible: Try to stay calm and be flexible in the face of a flight cancellation. It may mean some extra time and effort on your part, but with a little patience and perseverance, you’ll get to your destination eventually.
Q: What should I do if I forget something at the airport?
A: Oops! We’ve all forgotten something at the airport at some point. If you realize you’ve left something behind after you’ve already boarded your flight, try contacting the airport lost and found to see if they’ve recovered your item. If that doesn’t work, you may want to consider contacting the airline to see if they can help locate your lost item. In the meantime, try not to beat yourself up too much about it. We all make mistakes, and sometimes, a little forgetfulness can lead to some unexpected adventures. This is one of the best tips for first time flyers, especially.
Key things to do before you travel by air
I hope you enjoyed reading my pre-travel checklist of things to do before a flight. Whether you’re taking a domestic flight or international one, these tips and tricks will come in handy when you’re traveling. Which flight tips do you find most essential? Share your thoughts in the comments below! Hope your next flight flies by!
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