My Go-To Pre-Flight Checklist

  • Grace Lower
Nov 21, 2017

I’ll never outgrow my fascination with airplanes. Even if my airport is packed with holiday travelers, I always try to sneak in a few minutes to watch the planes as they take off or land. There’s something so miraculous about flight—both as a jaw-dropping feat of engineering and as a testament to human ambition. And despite my childlike wonder, I’m stuck asking myself the same question: why is air travel so miserable? I could write an entire blog post on exorbitant ticket prices and delayed flights, crummy meals and cramped quarters. Honestly, some of these downsides are unavoidable. Instead, I’ll try to focus on ways to mitigate the hassles of flying. As a lover of lists, I like to follow the same basic process on the day, the morning, and the hours before my flight. Here are my most important pre-flight to-dos:

One day before the flight

Check in online

While some folks prefer to check in at the airport, I’d rather skip the lines and check in the night before. I use this time to check my gate number and confirm when I should arrive at the airport.

Make a copy of your boarding pass

Online boarding passes are a wonderful thing, but in the off chance that your code won’t scan, it helps to have another copy of your ticket. I like to take a screenshot of my boarding pass, or if I’m feeling especially careful, print a copy of my ticket.

Double-check your luggage

Not only should you use this time to make sure that you’ve packed everything, but you should also check the dimensions of your carry-on. Your airline should have their carry-on size and weight restrictions posted on their website. Then, give the rest of your luggage a once-over. I always take a look inside to make sure I’m not missing anything obvious, like pajama bottoms or a hairbrush. Finally, weigh your bags to make sure they fall within your airline’s weight restrictions.

Gather your travel snacks and a reusable water bottle

Pack some of your favorite chips in a sandwich bag or throw a couple of granola bars into your backpack. When you’re on the road, it always helps to have food on hand. Bring a reusable water bottle, too—that way, you can fill up after you’ve gone through security.

Put your important documents someplace smart

I have a designated folder where I keep print-outs of my hotel confirmations and tickets to attractions, along with copies of my passport and credit cards.

Secure transportation arrangements

Have you talked one of your friends into chauffeuring you to the airport? Make sure to confirm timing with them the night before. Are you using a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft? Check the app to see how much you can expect to pay for your ride. Are you driving yourself? Give your car a quick once-over to make sure you won’t have any setbacks (they happen!). Also, use this time to check in on airport parking rates and shuttle services.

Put your luggage by the front door

If your personal items are scattered around your house, you run a greater risk of forgetting something. Put all your bags neatly by the door so you can grab them and go.

Lay out clothes for the flight

You want to make the morning of your flight as easy as possible. Rather than frantically deciding what to wear when you should be heading out the door, take time to pick out a comfortable travel outfit the night before. Also, make sure to choose shoes that are easy to slip on and off at security. Your future self will thank you!

Make a mini-list of all the last-minute items you’ll need to pack

Some things—like your contact lens case, your toothbrush, and your cell phone charger—have to wait until the morning of your flight before you can pack them. Rather than trying to keep a running list in your head, write those items down, and check them off your list when you’re ready to finalize your packing.

Morning of the flight


Take a walk around the block, go for a jog, or do 20 minutes of yoga. You’ll be doing a lot of standing still and sitting during your travels, so it helps to limber up beforehand.

Eat something hearty

Traveling on an empty stomach is miserable. Before you leave, eat something that will give you lasting energy. While you might love egg salad or chili dogs, avoid anything that might upset your stomach—you’ll want to be as comfortable as possible for the next few hours.

Check weather and traffic reports

Make sure you’re up to speed on any traffic or weather events prior to heading out to the airport. This will allow you to talk alternate routes or build in extra travel time as needed.

Make sure you have your boarding pass and your ID

One last double-check can’t hurt!

Two hours before the flight

Check in on your flight

While airline apps are great, do a quick check of the airport’s monitors to confirm your gate and make sure your flight is on time.

Get to your gate

Once you get through security, follow the signs to your gate. You’ll want to get a lay of the land before you wait to board. On the way, make sure to scope out any food vendors or retailers you might want to stop by later.

Find a seat near an outlet

When you’re ready to settle in and wait for boarding, try to score a seat near an outlet and give your devices one last charge. You’ll appreciate having a healthy battery life when your flight lands.

30 minutes before the flight

Eat something

Here’s where your preparation will pay off. Use this time to break into the snacks you packed beforehand and enjoy something a little more satisfying than complimentary pretzels and a half-can of soda.

Fill your water bottle

If you packed a reusable water bottle, now’s the time to fill it up at a water fountain. Planes are dry, so a sip of water now and then will keep you feeling fresh.

One last bathroom break

This one is self-explanatory. Airplane bathrooms are uncomfortable at best and terrifying at worst.

Get excited

With all the preparation out of the way, you should be able to sit back, relax, and focus on the adventures that lie ahead!


About the Author

Grace Lower

Grace Lower is a recent college graduate with a love for writing and an incurable case of wanderlust. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.

Read more of Grace’s blogs

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