For first timers and those who fly infrequently, it’s probably quite nerve-wrecking to think about all you need to do to fly around from country to country and back. I’m one of those with flight anxiety, but here is a straight forward guide to traveling by air. It’s actually a lot easier than you think about it in your head.
1) What can you bring?
For most national and international flights, you are allowed two carry-on bags in the form of a hand-held sports bag or similar and a medium-sized backpack. Basically, one bag has to be able to fit in the overhead compartment and the other has to be able to fit under your chair. Then you are allowed one suitcase that will be placed in the belly of the plane. You must not have batteries in it, as they will sound the bag checking machine alarms. You’ll need to place them in your carry-ons. For most flights, you can only bring lotions and liquids in very small containers added up together to fit inside one regular sized sandwich bag and yes, you’ll need a regular sized transparent sandwich bag to contain them and show them to the bag checkers.
You can also bring a suitcase of cash, but you must go through customs else they will detain you if they find out you’re carrying all that cash. Worst yet, they will detain you and take that money away.
2) Flight Itinerary
This totally depends on your travel package and length of the flight. My flights to Hong Kong takes about 11.5 to 13.5 hours and during that time, they offer two meals and a snack between. They also give you thin blankets and in some flights, a little pillow. Many flights offer snacks, sandwiches, non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks with a standard price available to checkout with a credit card, debit or cash.
Larger newer planes offer individual television screens for each passenger along with headphones where you can watch scheduled movies and television drama or a few channels of music. Smaller and older planes often have three to five medium-sized monitors located at the ceiling of the craft where everyone can watch.
3) Using Laptops
Only 1st Class and Business Class offers a power socket for your laptops. You’ll have to rely on your battery when traveling in Economy Class. Small provincial planes do not have this feature at all.
4) Flight Times & Layovers
This is the biggest worry and confusion infrequent flyers have with scheduled flight times. All flight times are local time of the airport in which your plane lands at. Do not try to calculate time zone differences or you will get your times wrong. When you land, just make a note of the local time and make sure to go to the waiting area of the departure gate at least 30 minutes before the plane leaves. So for example, say you need to fly from Vancouver to London and do a layover flight from London to Frankfurt. On your ticket, it may say 13:10pm from Vancouver. So that’s 1:10pm local time in Vancouver. Then it may say departure is 10:40am from London. So that’s 10:40am local time in London and NOT 10:40am local time in Vancouver.
Also, make sure to check the electronic flight boards in case flight times and departure gates change. If you have to go to a different terminal with only an hour between flights, make sure you do everything you need to do in the plane before landing – eg: washroom, eating, etc. If you are unfamiliar with the airports, make sure to look them up online, as well as at the airport. Alternatively, ask any of the airport attendants for directions including the airline’s staff at the exiting gate.
5) Going through customs & Layovers
When you fly internationally, you will rarely have to go through customs when you land at the layover airport. However, it does happen sometimes especially in the USA.
Normally, you would land at the layover airport, stay within the international zone and then board your next flight toward your destination. However, sometimes you may need to go out of the international zone, through customs and back into the international zone, just to board your next flight. it doesn’t happen often and so far, it hasn’t happened for me, but this is something to make note of.
I went to the Caribbean for a week long cruise. I took a flight from Vancouver in BC to Fort Worth in Texas for a layover flight to Orlando in Florida and did not have to go through customs in Texas. However my friend who traveled from Vancouver to Seattle, then to Los Angeles had to go through customs in Seattle first.
6) Something to bring to help calm yourself
Anti-nausea medication helps, bring a book to read if you can or bring a hand-held gaming system to keep your mind off of things. If you are like me with overactive bladder, try to book a seat closer to the front and rear and on the edge seats for easier access. Also concentrate on the place you’re going to, the things you will see and experience and/or the person you’re looking forward to meeting and less on the flight itself really helps too.