DO NOT pack in checked bag: medication, valuables, electronics, liquids not wrapped in a ziplock – the change in air pressure may cause them to explode all over your clothes during flight. You want these items with you in case your luggage is lost.
Carry-Ons: You are each allowed 1 carry-on (small roller board or luggage that will go in the overhead bin) and 1 personal item (purse or backpack that can fit under the seat in front of you). Remember the Liquid Lowdown: Remember, any liquids you’re carrying through TSA checkpoints must be less than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) and placed in a see-through bag no larger than a quart. Recommend: packing 2 changes of clothing and underwear, medication, valuables, and phone charger. You want to have a few things in the event your luggage is lost, and you can’t get it for a day or two.
If the plane runs out of overhead bin space, they may require you to check your carry-on. This means your most important items, medication, valuables, wallet, passport, travel documents, and blue or black pen to complete customs forms need to be packed in your personal items.
Keep those shoes and belts on, leave the liquids and laptops in your bag, and forgo the full-body scans by getting TSA PreCheck. You could pay $85 for PreCheck itself, or spend $100 for Global Entry, which also confers PreCheck (usually) as well as expedited immigrations and customs access. Several credit cards, including the Capital One Venture and the Bank of America Premium Rewards card, will even refund you the application fee for either program.
Arrive at the airport at least 3 hours prior to departure. Checking in can take up to an hour depending on lines and the security line can take up to 1.5+ hours also, so you want to give yourself time not to feel rushed!
Faster Option: For a faster check-in process, print your boarding passes and print checked luggage tags at a kiosk. You will use Record Locator # found in your documents and on your Pocket Travel app and scan your passports at a kiosk. Before allowing you to finish checking in, an agent will come to you and check that you have all the necessary travel documents (passports, vaccine cards, QR Code). The kiosk will also allow you to pick how many bags you are checking and pay for the checked bags and print luggage tags directly there. Check one bag per person for best pricing.
Slower Option: Alternatively, you can wait in the Main Cabin line at the counter to speak to an agent. Have your documents ready: show your passports, QR code, and vaccination cards to check in and pay for checked luggage there.
Have your passports open to the page with your picture and outside of a decorative sleeve, if you have one, and boarding pass ready to show the TSA agent when you get to the front of the line.
TIP: have your pockets empty before you go through security and your large electronics and liquids ready at the top of your carry-on so that you can remove them and replace them quickly. Holding up other travelers makes me anxious, so I try to get through security as quickly as possible.
At the belt, remove jacket, shoes, belts, and place into bin. Remove large electronics (iPad, kindle, laptop, etc.) and place into a separate bin. Everything else can go in bins together. Don’t have any liquids larger than 3.4 oz in your carry on as it will be confiscated. Have your liquids in a clear bag (e.g. Ziplock) no larger than 1 quartz per person and remove them from carryon and place in a bin. (Remember is you are TSA approved, most of this you do not have to do)
TIP: pack large empty water bottles. You can fill them with water once you go through security and stay hydrated. You can pack snacks!
Stay with your things and push them along until the TSA agent ushers you to go through the security scan. Follow their directions until you can collect your belongings.
TIP: when your items are coming out of the scanner, be courteous and push them all the way to the end of the belt so that other passengers can grab their items too.
After security. Before stopping to shop or grab coffee or food, go to your gate, and check the screen to make sure there’s no changes to your flight (gate change, delay, etc.). You don’t want to miss your flight because you weren’t paying attention.
TIP: Bring or purchase snacks for your flights. With covid, most airlines are limiting their drink and food service. Wearing a mask during the duration of your time inside airports/flying can be annoying. If you have snacks or drinks to enjoy during your flight, you can get a break from the mask and enjoy the flight.
TIP: Go to the bathroom prior to boarding. After you board, you probably won’t be able to stand up for another 30 minutes for the boarding/takeoff process.
The airplane door closes 15 minutes prior to departure, sometimes earlier. Once the door is closed, they will not allow anyone else on the flight. Don’t miss your flight because you are not paying attention to the clock. The international boarding process starts around 1 hour prior to departure. Be near the gate now! Don’t crowd the gate or agent during the boarding process while they are calling group numbers. Wait until your group number is called to line up.
Since this is an international flight with travel restrictions, the gate agent may check all your travel documents again. Have them together and ready with your passport and boarding pass if you need to show them.
Assess Your Seating Situation: Whether you like a window or an aisle, it’s worth checking SeatGuru‘s detailed seat maps to confirm your chosen place on the plane won’t be too close to the galley or the lavatories, with their associated noises (and smells!).
Wear Comfortable Clothing: Airplane cabin climate settings seem to vacillate between icebox and toaster oven, with no habitable happy medium in between. And no one wants to touch those germy air nozzles, which only provide a hissing draft of dry air anyway. Dress for any contingency by wearing multiple light layers, and look stylish to boot.
For your entertainment and comfort, I recommend packing a large empty water bottle to fill with water after you pass through security, snacks, entertainment (books, magazines, iPad, etc.), and personal headphones to watch the free in-flight movies. Sometimes the airline doesn’t have headphones to offer or the ones they give you are uncomfortable and cheap.
TIP: when you land, the plane deplanes front to back. Allow the rows in front of you to disembark before crowding the aisle. This is common courtesy. Other travelers get annoyed when people cut and crowd the aisle not allowing them to disembark in an orderly fashion.
If you have a connecting flight, follow the same procedures listed above during your layover. If you checked bags, they will automatically be put on the next flight. Stay in the terminal so that you don’t have to go through security again. You may be asked to showyour travel documentation again, so have it easily accessible.
Moisturize Like a Maniac: Even on next-generation jets like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350, cabin humidity levels rarely top 20% (and are only around 8-10% on conventional aircraft). To avoid looking like a prune after your flight, pack a light moisturizer and apply it frequently.
Why wait at the gate when you can enjoy free Wi-Fi and snacks in the comfort of a lounge? LoungeBuddy posts reviews on airport lounges around the world, including their entry requirements and how you can score day passes. Several premium credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Platinum Card from American Express, confer access to hundreds of Priority Pass lounges worldwide. Frequent travelers can also consider airline-specific cards such as the Delta SkyMiles Reserve or United Club Card, which get you into a particular carrier’s clubs. The agents in them can also usually help you faster than those out in the terminal, and get you rebooked if something goes awry with your travel plans.
Arrive in your destination. Disembark the plane and then follow the signs towards “Customs and Immigration.” All international travelers must go through Customs & Immigration when they arrive in a new country. Customs is an agency tasked with controlling what enters the country, including food, plants animals, and any potentially hazardous items.
TIP: go to the bathroom 30 minutes prior to landing so you won’t need to go when you land. The line for customs can take 2-3+ hours if multiple international planes land at the same time and it is first-come, first-serve for all travelers. You want to get off the plane and hurry to get in line to go through Customs. Look for a sign for “Foreign Travelers.
Have your necessary travel documents in your hand and ready to give to the customs agent. Each travel party will approach the agent together. Hand the agent your information one person at a time. You will need your passport, vaccination card, QR Code, and possibly details of your accommodations. They may ask you why you're visiting, how long, where you'll be staying, when you return home, the flight number of the plane you arrived on, etc. All of this information can be found in your Pocket Travel app.
Once you’ve cleared immigration, you will go to baggage claim. There will be multiple baggage belts, so find a screen that tells you which belt number your bags are coming from. Once you’ve collected all your luggage, you will place your bags on one more belt that will check for packed organic materials (produce, wildlife, etc.). They do this to make sure no new organic material will enter the country and disrupt the natural order of things. This is only a check on your luggage and you won’t need to do a personal security scan again.
Leave the Security Area. Make sure you have all your belongings with you because you cannot go back once you leave the security area. You will depart through sliding doors to the exit hall. Look for someone holding a sign with your name on it.