Are you thinking about traveling soon? Are you anxious and unsure of what to expect? Whether you are traveling for leisure or necessity, here are some ways that you can prepare for a flight. This guide will specifically help you navigate during the COVID-19 pandemic, but can be used at any time! These are based on my experience traveling on four different airlines through five different airports over a two week period in August 2020. These tips and ideas can be for both international and domestic flights – it all still applies!
As always, check for any travel restrictions for your destination and for where you currently live. There’s a number of things to consider before traveling. Do you need a COVID-19 test? Are there any restrictions for entering the country? Will there be any quarantine upon arrival or return?
prepare for a flight
1. bring sanitizing wipes
The airline may give you an individual sanitizing wipe to clean the area by your seat. However, don’t rely on this! To best prepare for a flight, make sure to bring your own sanitizing wipe for your armrests, seat buckle, and tray table. Sure, there are conflicting reports right now on if COVID-19 lives on a surface or for how long, but you can’t be too prepared! By bringing your own sanitizer wipes, you will have that extra peace of mind. Isn’t that what we all need anyways?
2. Pack Multiple masks
Your airline may not allow your cute, custom cloth mask. Some airlines require surgical masks for their flights, and they may not provide them for free. Expect the airline to communicate with you their requirements for masks before you fly. My recommendation to you is to bring surgical masks for your flights. If you want to best prepare yourself for the flight, bring enough surgical masks for each leg of your flight and pack them in a ziplock bag so that they stay clean and protected. Some airports may have kiosks available to purchase surgical masks on site, but you’ll be paying airport prices! When finished with your surgical masks, dispose of it properly in a trash can.
3. get in the right HEADSPACE to fly
An article you read recently said airlines will keep the middle seats empty. Ha, ha. Many airlines are not keeping the middle seats empty and it is likely that you will be sitting directly next to someone on the plane. Your flight may even be full with all seats occupied. Prepare for this!
Think about how this makes you feel. Does this make you uncomfortable? Anxious? Feel fine?
To prepare for your flight, set expectations before you head to the airport. If you can set the right expectations for yourself before your flight, you’ll have a better experience on your trip. The flight may be crowded and the airport may be bustling with a lot of people. You may not be able to socially distance and your personal space bubble that has grown to a six feet diameter may become incredibly small. Don’t expect anything to be different on your flight capacity wise from when you traveled pre-pandemic.
4. know not everyone will play by the rules
Shocking, right? There may be that person who is constantly taking a sip of their drink to avoid wearing a mask. Eating slowly to avoid wearing a mask. Or you may see a person wearing their mask under their nose, under their chin, or not at all. While masks are required on flights, people can take them off to eat and drink. Even if your airline doesn’t provide food or drink service people may have their own that they consume. That’s ok. Set the right expectations before the flight and know that people may briefly take off their masks. The airlines should enforce this on the plane if they see someone not actively eating or drinking.
However, once you are off the plane and in the airport, the rules may be different. I flew through two airports where masks were not worn preflight or postflight. This caught me off guard! Only the airlines required masks on the planes, not the airport. I had set the wrong expectations for myself that masks would be worn at all times – both in the airport and on the flights. If you prepare for this on your flight as a possibility, you won’t be caught off guard like me!
5. Plan extra time
The typical rule of thumb for traveling is that you arrive two hours ahead of your flight for domestic travel and four hours ahead of your flight for international travel. These guidelines may seem a little excessive and you may not follow them, but think of how long in advance you typically arrive for a flight and then tack on some additional time. Some airlines are now handling check-in autonomously – meaning you do all the work to check your bag! Your experience could be different depending on what airline you are flying and where you are flying out of.
If you are checking in a bag, you may have to go to a kiosk to print your own luggage tag. You then may have to put the luggage tag on your bag and scan it onto the conveyor belt without ever seeing or talking to someone. Be cautious of the weight restrictions for your bag. Your bag will be weighed on the conveyor belt and has to be under the weight limit allowed. Plan to use a luggage scale before you leave your home so guarantee your luggage meets the weight restrictions.
6. fill up your water bottle
Whenever you’re traveling, always bring an empty water bottle with you to the airport. You can then fill it up at one of the water fountains after security in the airport. This cuts down on plastic, lets you reuse your water bottle multiple times, and saves you money from avoiding having to pay a high cost for water at the airport. During the pandemic, it’s especially important to have as your airline may have cut out food and drink service on the flight. One flight I was on did not even provide water to drink, and the water bottle I brought with me was empty (rookie mistake). The flight was three hours, and I was so thirsty by the end of it! By having something to drink available, you’ll be better prepared in the event that they don’t provide anything for you on your trip.
7. Pack a snack
You just read about the fact that your airline may have limited food and beverage service, but get prepared for the airport to also have limited food options available. All of the airports I flew through did not have their restaurants open to 100% capacity. Many of the restaurants were closed, but others were operating with limited hours or with limited food options available. To prepare for your flight, pack a snack from home! Make it something that’s easily transportable. We’re not talking pasta here! I typically like to pack granola bars for my flights as a healthier snack option.
Before my flight out of one airport, I could choose between a sandwich, a sandwich, or a sandwich from the three open restaurants. I chose the sandwich, obviously. The convenience stores at the airports should be open for you to purchase snacks. If you are flying during a peak meal time, make sure to pack something a little more substantial to hold you over in the event the restaurants are closed at the airport you are flying out of, or eat a meal before you leave your house!
8. board last
If you can, try to board last. This will limit your help limit your contact with others. If you are traveling with family members and you all need overhead luggage space, I wouldn’t recommend this. However, if you are traveling solo and only have a small piece of luggage, try this option. By boarding last, you will wait in the airport longer but if you get there early, you’ll at least have a seat to wait in!
9. give people their space
You’re going to pass through the security line. Remember, you gave yourself extra time! You’re going to make it through passport check. You’re going to board the plane. Just like everyone else. You’re all going to the same place and you’ll all get there at the same time. Relax and take a step back. You may not have your personal space on the flight, so try to give each other personal space while in the airport.
Many airports will have lines on the ground for where to stand. Stand there and give each other space. It’s easy to creep closer to someone when you are in line and also in a rush, but the lines are there for a reason! Certain seats may be blocked off in the waiting area to encourage social distancing. This is another perk of arriving early – you can make sure you have a seat to relax in before your flight.
You may experience boarding differently for your flight. On a few flights I was on, the airline was boarding from both the front and the back of the plane. On another flight, they were boarding the plane from back to front. Listen to the airline attendant for instructions before you stand and get in line to board the plane. When you stand in line and prepare to board, try to continue to keep your distance from others as you wait to go to your seat assignment. Remember, everyone is going to board the plane and arrive to the destination at the same time!
prep list – check this to prepare for your flight!
Hopefully this list helps you feel like you have the tools to prepare for a flight. Please let me know in the comments if this list helped you, and share any other tips or ideas you have with me below!
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