Congratulations! You’ve booked your first international flight and are ready for life-changing adventure. As you embark on this exciting journey, it’s important to be well-prepared to make the most of your experience. To help your trip be stress-free and successful, we’ve put together a list of 10 helpful tips for your first international flight. So, grab your passport and let’s dig in!
1. Research and plan ahead
Before you land in a foreign land, spend some time researching your destination. Familiarize yourself with a place – its traditions and any local customs that you should be aware of.
With an international flight, you want to start to plan your itinerary well in advance of your proposed departure date. Make yourself aware of the best times to buy an airline ticket – you can use our helpful annual international study as a starting point.
You should also take into account important elements like transportation, accommodations, and must-see attractions. This groundwork will set you up for a more relaxing vacation. The last thing you want to do is get hit with unexpected costs or challenges on the road.
2. Check Visa, Passport & Vaccination Requirements
One of the most critical aspects of international travel is making certain you have a passport, and that it’s valid for at least six months beyond your intended departure date.
It can also be a good idea to find out if you need a visa to enter your destination country. If you do need one, you should make sure to apply well in advance if required.
Some countries also require vaccinations for specific illnesses. Look into which vaccinations are required – and make sure you budget for these costs as well. Ignoring these details could result in disappointment and denied entry.
3. Pack with intention
When it comes to packing for an international trip, less is often more. Make a checklist of essential items and pack accordingly. It can be helpful to keep in mind the weather conditions and cultural norms of your destination. Don’t forget to include any necessary travel documents, medications, adapters, and comfortable walking shoes. And remember, leaving some room in your suitcase for souvenirs is always a good idea!
4. Arrive early at the airport for your first international flight
To avoid unnecessary stress, arrive at the airport well ahead of your scheduled departure time. This extra time will give you a buffer to navigate check-in and bag drops, clearing security,, and potential unexpected delays. It’s always better to have a little extra time than not enough. For international flights, the airlines often expect passengers to arrive at the gate earlier than domestic departure.
Make sure you know exactly when boarding will end – and double-check your terminal and gate assignments from home and after you arrive. Better yet, sign up for the airline app so any gate changes or flight delays go right to your phone.
5. Stay hydrated and move around to mitigate jet lag
Long-haul flights can be physically demanding, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated throughout your journey. Drink plenty of water and limit your alcohol and caffeine intake, as they can both dehydrate you. It can be tempted to get a little tipsy on a flight, but you might regret it later.
Additionally, get up and stretch your legs regularly to prevent muscle stiffness and improve blood circulation. Your body will thank you when you arrive at your destination feeling more refreshed.
6. Embrace in-flight entertainment
Modern airlines often provide a wide range of in-flight entertainment options, including movies, TV shows, music, and games. Take advantage of these amenities to pass the time and make your journey more enjoyable. We also recommend mixing up your in-flight entertainment options – especially on a long flight. Bringing a good book or a few of your favorite podcast downloads can help stave off boredom.
7. Be mindful of jet lag
Jet lag can be a real challenge when traveling across time zones. To minimize its impact, try to adjust your sleep schedule a few days before your trip. As we mentioned earlier, during the flight you should stay hydrated, avoid excessive caffeine, and consider taking short naps to help your body adapt to the new time zone. Once you arrive, get some sunlight and engage in light physical activity to reset your internal clock. Try to get yourself on your destination’s time zone as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you could spend the first few days of your vacation exhausted and out of sorts.
8. Stay connected
International travel can sometimes make you feel disconnected from loved ones. The easiest way to stay connected is by phone these days. Many phone plans include international coverage for a fee (or for free). You might also consider purchasing a local SIM card upon arrival if your phone carrier does not offer international add-ons. This way, you can stay connected with family and friends and have access to maps, rideshare services (Uber is everywhere), and translation apps. This will help keep your trip logistics convenient and enjoyable.
9. Respect local customs and etiquette
Every country has its own customs and social norms, and it’s important to respect them during your visit. Familiarize yourself with basic greetings, table manners, and appropriate dress codes. This cultural sensitivity will not only make a positive impression but also enrich your travel experience. For women, the dress code component can also keep you safe in more conservative countries.
10. Keep an open mind and have fun!
The final component to a successful first trip to a foreign country is to keep a curious attitude and open mind. Being willing to step out of your comfort zone and experience a new place is one of the best ways to experience the world.