What to Expect Your First Time Flying

If you’re looking at booking your first flight, make sure to read this step-by-step guide first to ensure you’re prepared — and help calm those nerves.

Flying can be exciting and also a bit stressful if it’s your first time. But don’t worry, we’re going to walk you through what to expect your first time flying so you’ll be prepared, relaxed and excited for your first flight.

There are 5 main steps when flying somewhere:

  1. Purchasing your flight tickets.
  2. Before you fly: packing your luggage and getting organised.
  3. Arriving at the airport.
  4. The flight.
  5. Arriving at your destination.

By understanding these steps, you can ensure you’re better prepared so you can be ready and enjoy your flight and travel experience. Getting ready last minute can be stressful and even cause you to miss your flight. Keep reading for our guide on what to expect your first time flying and a free travel essentials checklist. 

Photo by ismail mohamed – SoviLe on Unsplash.

5 Things to Expect Your First Time Flying

1. Purchasing your flight tickets.

When looking for flight tickets, make sure you check multiple websites to find the best deal. Different airlines may have different promotions and offers, so it’s worth checking you’re getting the lowest prices. There are also websites that compare prices for you, like Skyscanner, which try to find you the best price and help make this search easier. 

Once you’ve found the best price, you then need to decide how much luggage you’d like to add, if you’d like meals on the flight and where you’d like to sit. There are multiple add-ons for you to choose from. But remember, it’s cheaper to buy them with your ticket rather than at the airport. 

Tip: Use incognito to look at flight prices. If you don’t, then flight prices may rise, based on your browser cookies and repeated searches, to scare you into booking the flights ASAP.


2. Before you fly.


Size and weight.
Make sure you weigh your luggage before your flight to ensure it is under the maximum weight. This information will be available with your flight confirmation or your check-in luggage will be weighed when you arrive at the airport at the airline’s check-in desk.

If your bag is overweight, you will have to pay more money for the extra weight. However, if it’s only slightly overweight you can take out some items to add to your carry-on (if your carry-on is underweight) or pull out a big coat and wear it on the plane. But remember, you won’t have to stress and re-pack at the airline counter if you weigh your bags beforehand and check they’re the appropriate size and weight.


Tip for weighing suitcases: Hold the suitcase and stand on a scale, then reweigh yourself sans-bag. Minus the amounts and that’s how much the bag weighs.

What you can bring.
Also, make sure to check what you can and cannot pack in your luggage. Liquids have to be in zip lock bags, and you can only bring 100mL or smaller liquids on your carry-on in Australia.

 There are also prohibited items like flammable liquids, explosives, lithium batteries, etc. For a full list of prohibited items, check your airlines facts page or they are also listed on Homeaffairs.gov.au.

We’ve also made a free travel essentials checklist here for you to check you’ve got everything you need:

Check-in online.

Most airlines now allow you to check-in online. This means you can check-in on the airline’s website or mobile app, and print out your ticket or have it downloaded on your mobile phone. If your airline doesn’t have online check-in, don’t stress! You can do this at the airport.


Lastly, make sure you have all the required documents with you. Depending on where you’re flying, you will likely need:

  • Passport
  • Drivers license or other ID
  • Visa (if applicable)
  • Address of where you’re staying (have address/ booking confirmation ready)
  • Emergency contact details

Tip: For international flights and longer trips where you’re going multiple places, it’s handy to have a folder in your carry-on to keep track of all your documents and make sure they don’t get wrinkled or lost.

*COVID-19 Tip: Wear a mask and follow instructions on how often to change it if applicable. Bring and use hand sanitiser and try to minimise touch points (touch buttons with elbow, don’t touch handrails or your face).

3. Arriving at the airport.


Timing is important to ensure you have plenty of time to check in and make it to your gate before the boarding time. How early you should arrive depends if your flight is international or domestic and which airport you’re going to. 

Qantas recommends arriving at least one hour in advance for domestic flights and at least two hours for international flights. However, if you’re going to a busy airport (e.g. a major city airport like Sydney or LAX) we’d recommend adding an hour — so 2 hours for domestic, 3 hours for international flights — as it can take longer checking in and going through security.


If you’re flying out of your hometown and leaving your car at the airport, leave an extra 20 minutes early to allow for parking. Most airports will have car parks where you can pre-purchase long-term parking (generally for parking over 4 days) and will have signage leading you to the designated parking area when you arrive. If not, then check online to see what parking is available at the airport you’re flying out of beforehand.


Checking in.

  1. When you first arrive at the airport, head to the domestic or international departures area. 
  2. Next, locate your airline’s check-in desk. There may be self-serve check-in kiosks where you can print out your boarding pass/es (if you haven’t checked-in online already) and your luggage tags.  
  3. Whether or not you’ve checked in online or with a self-serve kiosk, you still need to head to the check-in desk to hand over your luggage (unless you only have carry-on and already have your boarding pass). At the desk, you will need to show your passport and declare that you do not have any prohibited items in your checked baggage. Then they will weigh your baggage, send it on its way and give you directions to security.


Security is where you and your carry-on bag/s will be assessed to ensure you and your fellow passengers are safe to get on the plane. Although security can be stressful, just remember they’re doing it for your safety and the safety of others. If you don’t have anything prohibited you’ll be fine. If they find something prohibited like a pocket knife, full plastic water bottle or nail clippers you forgot you had in your bag, they’ll either throw it away or confiscate it, so no need to stress.

Here is a general way security flows:

  1. You’ll line up for security and may be directed to a certain line if it’s busy. 
  2. Once you’re in a line, you will grab a tray (or more) and place all your items in the tray. They may ask you to take your laptop, tablet, liquids, etc. out of your carry-on item, but still leave them in the tray. You will also need to empty your pockets, remove your coat/s, belt and sometimes shoes and place in a tray as well. Once all your items are in a tray or two, they will push them through the scanner. 
  3. Next, you’ll be directed to line up to go through a security scanner. If it detects something, they may ask you to walk through again, pat you down or do another test to ensure you’re good to go. 
  4. After the scanner, you can collect your bags and head to your gate.

4. The flight.

Once you’ve found your gate, you can check the boarding time and either wait there, head to a lounge or food court or do some shopping, depending on how much time you have. It’s a good idea to be at the gate 30 minutes before boarding so you can relax.

Note: If you get seasick, it might be worth taking tablets beforehand to make sure you have a pleasant flight. 

When it’s time to board, they will call people to come up by aisle numbers, class, or specific needs (e.g. special needs, families with small children). When it’s your turn to line up, they will scan your ticket and then you will walk to your plane.

They will check your ticket when you enter the plane too, so don’t put your ticket away yet. Once you find your seat, you can put your carry-on item/s below the seat in front of you and/or above you. There is usually a pocket in the back of the seat in front of you as well, where you can place smaller items like your phone, headphones, a water bottle or whatever else you need for the flight.

Before taking off and once everyone has boarded, an air hostess will demonstrate the safety and emergency procedures and the pilot will give the passengers general flight information. You will also be asked to put your mobile device on airplane mode (some flights have wifi available).


When the plane takes off, you’ll feel the initial speed and some bumps, but don’t worry, this is completely normal. After the plane takes off, the seatbelt sign will eventually flash off, meaning passengers are safe to get out of their seats and walk around and use the restrooms. 

Tip for long flights: For longer flights, it’s important to get a good sleep and try to avoid jet lag. A great way to do this is to be prepared and enjoy the flight. I try to get a good rest on the plane by bringing a sleep mask, earplugs, toothbrush and toothpaste, comfy clothes or sleepwear, socks and slides, facial cleanser (like micellar water) and cotton pads onto the flight. By following my usual nightly routine I can get a good sleep and avoid the light and noise. *Generally flights that are over 9–10 hours will give you a pack with most of these items which is great.


5. Arriving at your destination.

After you land, it’s time to find your way out of the airport. Once the seatbelt sign is off, you can grab your bags stowed above you and head off the plane. If it is an international flight, you will be directed to customs where you’ll provide your details to ensure you have the correct documentation to enter that country. Next, you will be directed to baggage claim where you will wait for your bag to come out. After collecting your checked baggage, you can exit the airport, or go through security again for international arrivals.


Connecting flights.

For those taking connecting flights, after landing there will be signs to head to your connecting flight, where you may have to go through security again.

You’ve made it! Now it’s time to enjoy your trip.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is true at the time of publication. Localsearch nor the author are liable for the misuse of information. Please consult the individual venues and government websites for the most up-to-date information.

It’s always best to look up specifications for each airline before a trip. Find your airline and more on localsearch.com.au!

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      Chloe Thistle

      Junior Marketing Administrator

      Chloe Thistle is a Junior Marketing Administrator at Localsearch, bringing her talents and background in digital and social media marketing to her role. She has sharpened her marketing skills across many different industries, including entertainment, fashion and in the B2B field. In her spare time, Chloe can be found either lounging at the beach or five coffees deep at one of her favourite local cafés. No stranger to adventures, she’s trekked to Mt. Everest Base Camp — fueled by coffee of course — has completed the Kokoda Challenge and is always looking for the next mountain to climb! Chloe loves looking for ways to combine her passions for adventure, sustainability and marketing, always chasing the latest trends in both marketing and fashion. Now, she’s utilising her vast life and digital marketing experience to blog and assist in the content with the Localsearch Marketing Team.