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Use This Helpful Air Travel Checklist Before You Fly Anywhere

Grace Lower | Nov 9, 2023

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My go to pre flight checklist

Pre-Flight ChecklistI don't know what it is about airplanes, but they never fail to spark a sense of wonder. Even at the height of peak travel season, I'll try to break away from the crowded parts of the terminal and take a few quiet moments to watch the planes take off and appreciate how flight represents the best parts of human creativity and ambition.

Although I have an undeniable adoration for aviation, it’s easy to let flight stress get to me. But air travel doesn’t have to be miserable. Along with remembering a few tips for reducing flight delays and stress, I’ve found that a great way for coping with the hassles of flying is a pre-flight checklist.

No two trips are ever the same, but I always travel happier when I stick with the same set of pre-flight rituals. I’ve even created a printable version of my flight checklist to help you prepare, too.

Flight Checklist: One Week Before Flying

1. Make special arrangements.

If you’re traveling with a disability or have a food allergy that requires special accommodations, now is a good time to make arrangements with the airline for additional assistance if you haven’t already. You aren’t required to tell the airline if you have a disability, but making them aware of accommodations that will make your trip easier can alleviate some stress.

2. Create your packing list.

Start checking the weather and finalizing the activities you plan to do. Armed with that information, make a list of the clothes, toiletries, all-weather gear, and other items you need to pack in your luggage.

A simple pen and paper obviously does the job, but you can also use a packing travel app. Some will even let you enter your trip information, then make recommendations for what to pack.

3. Make a shopping list.

Once you have your packing list, you’ll have a better idea of whether you need to run to the store to pick up a few items. Sunblock, a refill of a prescription medication, maybe some new socks?

Flight Checklist: One Day Before Flying

1. Double-check your luggage.

Packed luggage.Whether you write it by hand or keep it as a note on your phone, a checklist is an essential tool. Revisit your travel packing list the night before you fly and cross-check it with what’s in your bags. You’ll be surprised by what you notice when you look at things with fresh eyes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten to pack something obvious, like pajama bottoms or my contact lenses.

If you’re using a bag that’s part of your everyday routine — a purse, backpack, or briefcase you use on a regular basis — check the pockets for items that aren’t allowed on flights. No one wants the disappointment of forfeiting their trusty miniature pocketknife that’s no big deal on an average Tuesday but that makes TSA nervous.

Then, turn your attention to the luggage itself. Remember to check the dimensions of your bag and weigh it if you have concerns you might have overpacked. Your airline will have their carry-on size and weight restrictions posted on their website, along with fees for those bags and any extra charges for going over in weight or size.

2. Put your important documents someplace smart.

I have a designated folder where I keep printouts of my hotel confirmations, tickets, and other important documents, along with copies of my passport, credit cards, and proof of travel insurance.

It’s also a good idea to save digital copies of these documents in the Cloud or other secure place you can access them electronically if the physical versions get lost or stolen.

3. Gather your travel snacks and a reusable water bottle.

Travel snacks are a simple yet effective way to cut costs. Just pack your favorite chips in a sandwich bag or toss a few granola bars into your backpack. When you're on the road and feeling on edge, a small snack can be an excellent mood-booster.

Bring a reusable water bottle, too. Fill it up after you've gone through security to save money on expensive airport refreshments.

4. Check in online.

While there are still travelers who prefer to check in at the airport, I'd much rather complete an online check-in the night before. With advanced check-in, not only can I get an extra half-hour of sleep, but I get to breeze right to security when I arrive at the airport.

5. Confirm transportation arrangements.

Man picking up luggage at a door.

Is one of your friends taking you to the airport? Confirm timing with them the night before.

Using Uber or Lyft? Check the app to get an idea of pricing. Make sure your payment information is up to date if you haven’t used it in a while or your credit card has changed recently.

Driving yourself? Give your car a once-over to make sure you won't have any setbacks. If you have less than half a tank of gas, fill up now.

6. Put your luggage by the front door.

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

7. Lay out clothes for the flight.

The morning of your flight should be effortless. Rather than frantically deciding what to wear when you should be heading out the door, curate a comfortable-but-stylish travel outfit the night before. Remember to choose a pair of shoes that are easy to slip off at security. Your future self will thank you.

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

Some items — contact lens case, toothbrush, cell phone charger — have to wait until the morning of your flight before they can be packed. Write those items down, and check them off your list when you're ready to finalize your packing.

Flight Checklist: Morning of the Flight

1. Exercise.

In all the excitement leading up to your trip, it's more important than ever to maintain your health and wellness. Take a walk around the block, go for a jog, or complete a 20-minute yoga practice. Travel is often accompanied by extended periods of standing and sitting, so limbering up will help you arrive at your destination feeling sharp and ready to explore.

This is a good time to practice a bit of deep breathing or mindfulness. Travel makes many people nervous, and a fear of flying can be very real. If you’re feeling anxiety about your trip, take a few minutes to adopt a healthy mindset and honor your mental health.

Healthy Breakfast2. Eat something hearty.

Take it from me: there is no fate worse than traveling on an empty stomach. Before you leave, make a simple, wholesome meal that will give you lasting energy. Something high in protein and fiber will keep you feeling fuller for longer while helping you avoid a sugar crash somewhere in the middle of the security checkpoint.

Even if egg salad and chili dogs are your go-to snacks, avoid anything that might upset your stomach. You'll want to be as comfortable as possible for the next few hours.

Make sure you hydrate well, too. Water will help you feel refreshed and counteract the effects of jet lag better than coffee or other caffeinated drinks.

3. Check weather and traffic reports.

Don't let inclement weather or construction projects put you behind schedule. Instead, double-check traffic or weather events prior to leaving for the airport. This will allow you to build in extra travel time as needed.

4. Pack last-minute items.

Reference that mini list I mentioned earlier and make sure you throw the last of your essentials in your bag. Take this time to also make sure you have your boarding pass, ID, and credit or debit cards. You won’t make it far without them, so double-checking always pays off.

Flight Checklist: One to Two Hours Before Flying

1. Check your flight details.

While airline apps are certainly useful, review the airport's monitors to confirm your gate and any changes to your flight's status.

2. Check out your terminal.

Once you pass through security, take some time to explore. You'll want to develop a mental map of the terminal so that you'll know how to navigate to your gate when it's time to board.

Make sure to scope out any food vendors or retailers you might want to stop by later. And if you’re flying while nursing, find the best airport lactation spaces.

3. Find a seat near an outlet.

When you're ready to settle in and wait for your boarding group to be called, try to score a seat near an outlet. The downtime before your flight is an ideal opportunity to give your devices one last charge. You'll appreciate having a healthy battery when your flight lands — and during it if you’re trying to survive the boredom of a long-haul flight.

Child running in airport.4. Move around.

You’ll likely be sitting for a while, so now’s a good time to stretch your legs while you have the chance.

If you’re flying with kids, this is a must. Let them burn off some energy before they’re cooped up in their seats, even if it’s only going to be a short flight. Some terminals have indoor playgrounds for this very reason.

Flight Checklist: 30 Minutes Before Flying

1. 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.

2. 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 notoriously dry, so a sip of water now and then will keep you feeling fresh.

3. Take one last bathroom break.

This one is self-explanatory. The bathrooms onboard your plane will be cramped at best and terrifying at worst.

4. 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!

Adding Travel Insurance to Your Checklist Before Flights

Even with the best laid plans and most thorough checklists, mishaps can happen. That’s why travel insurance is always a good idea. Seven Corners offers a variety of plans for domestic and international trips, protecting your money, belongings, and health. And you might be surprised by how much more travel insurance offers over refundable airline tickets.

Find the right protection for your next trip by answering a few simple questions in our interactive guide. Our live agents are also ready to answer any questions and help you choose the best plan for you.

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