How to Prepare for a Flight – My Pre-Flight Checklist

So you’re heading to the airport huh? Well even a seasoned flyer makes mistakes and forgets things.

For instance, just a couple of months ago I was on my way to the airport to catch my flight and I forgot my passport. Such a rookie error!

Regardless of whether you’re flying from Heathrow or a delightfully simpler airport like the one below with only two gates, you should have a pre-flight checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. So without further ado here is my pre-flight checklist!

Passport

Feel like this is an obvious one but don’t leave home without it and always know when it is when you’re on your travels.

Visas

Look up visa requirements well in advance of your trip, including countries that you may go to just so you’re prepared. Although a lot of countries are visa exempt or visa on arrival, don’t assume. Do your research.

Travel insurance

Don’t leave home without it. If you’re struggling to understand what it all means and the ins and outs check out our travel insurance guide.

Airport transfers

Don’t leave it until the last minute to think about how you’ll get to and from the airport. Booking a transfer in advance can work out cheaper and be less stressful than haggling with a taxi driver when you arrive. You could try something like Blacklane which operates airport transfer services in 236 cities and more are being added.

Frequent Flyer Miles

If you’ve already booked your flight but don’t have a frequent flyer programme all is not lost. You can still claim the miles after you’ve flown. Personally, I’m with the oneworld programme which includes airlines such as BA, Qantas, Iberia, Cathay Pacific and American Airlines. Through AMEX and this programme I collect Avios points. There’s a lot to say about this subject but if you’re interested in collecting feel free to e-mail me on the contact page and I can sort you out with free points to get you started.

Proof of onward travel

You won’t always be asked for this but they are well within their rights to demand to see proof of onward travel. For those who like to country hop without a fixed timeline this can cause a problem.

For example, on my down the world trip which had no fixed route, I was about to board a plane from Mexico to El Salvador and then bus on to Guatemala on no fixed date. Mexico denied me passage to El Salvador because I could not prove that I was going to leave. So if you’re travelling without any fixed plans, make sure you book some onward travel either by booking something that the dates can be changed easily or by just booking a cheap bus ticket which won’t hurt if you don’t use it.

Saving documents offline

Don’t bank on there being wifi at the airport that works. Take screenshots of any tickets or visas and save them on your phone. Travelling as a two? Keep a copy of each others.

Checked in online

Aside from selecting the seats you want and having a smoother check in at the airport, some very budget airlines actually require you to check in online otherwise you’ll be charged a fee to check in at the airport. I’ve made this error before and had to pay 45 euros for a boarding pass!

Meal requirements

Don’t leave it until the last minute to mention any dietary requirements for any in-flight meals. Often mentioning it at check-in desk is even too late. If you forgot to make a request when you booked there’s always time to ring the airline beforehand.

Baggage

Have you weighed your luggage? Are you comfortably under the maximum weight? You’ll also pick extra bits up on your trip, do you have space and spare weight for those items too. If you’re travelling via the United States, consider getting a TSA lock too.

Hand luggage

Never assume your hand luggage is the correct size for all airlines. Although most of the time you’ll be fine, some smaller budget airlines will have different rules. Also, don’t forget that liquids have to be in containers less than 100ml. Don’t get ripped off by buying small travel versions of toiletries. Buy reusable plastic containers and decant your usual purchases into these bottles. It’ll certainly save you money.

Airport security ease

I’ve seen it time and time again where people have tired to go through airport security and then been asked to remove an item, whether that be jewellery, shoes or a belt. Don’t wear anything that is going to be difficult to take off. Slip on shoes will have you through in a jiffy. Also, one poor man took his belt off and his trousers fell down. Pretty awkward for the fellow. Think about what you’re going to wear, not only for the flight but for passing security.

Comfort

Do yourself a favour and buy an eye mask, ear plugs and a neck pillow. Although some airlines might provide these, a lot of them don’t. Some airport chairs are terrible so the neck pillow can double up as a cushion to save your tush, quite literally.

Airport Lounges

Although the swanky airline lounges will require you to have a first class or business class ticket, there are some airport lounges that you can pay to enter. Depending on the airport and whether you book in advance you can buy entry into a lounge for around £20. Considering this will include food and drink and a comfortable place to relax for up to 3 hours before your flight, this could be a worthwhile investment. Just remember to read up reviews of each lounge as facilities vary greatly between airports even ran by the same company. This handy guide by Money Supermarket has some great tips.

Entertainment

In-flight entertainment is a great thing but have you ever been on a ten hour flight with a broken screen and no spare seats. It’s not fun, I can tell you! Make sure you have some books or save a few episodes to your phone which can be downloaded offline on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Never hurts to have a backup.

That’s it! Is there anything you would add to this list? What are your pre-flight rituals?

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