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Expert Tips on How to Prepare for Your First International Flight?

Expert Tips on How to Prepare for Your First International Flight?

by Travelopod

July 09, 2024

First International Flight

Congratulations on booking your first international flight! This is an exhilarating experience, as the anticipation of exploring new cultures, tasting exotic cuisines, to learning a foreign language. Literally, the excitement of visiting places you’ve never seen before, going to sleep mid-flight, and waking up on the opposite side of the world. Whether you’re traveling for leisure, work, or study and have a touch of nervousness, here’s your ultimate guide on how to prepare for your first international flight. This guide ensures that your first international flight is a breeze! Being well-prepared can make your journey smooth and enjoyable.

Required Travel Documents

First things first, make sure your passport is valid and not expired. Check the issue date on the data page of your passport book or on the front of your passport card. According to the U.S. State Department, some countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months beyond your travel dates. Some airlines won't let you board if this requirement isn't met.

Additionally, depending on where you're going, ensure you have applied for and secured the appropriate travel visas. If you’re unsure about what you need for a specific destination, visit the State Department website. Under the International Travel tab, select “Learn About Your Destination.” There, you can type in the country you're traveling to and find out what travel visas and other documents are required.

Get Electronic Copies

Make electronic copies of your documents. Scan or photograph your passport, driver’s license, and any visas, then save the files to cloud storage, Google Drive, or your email. This way, you can access them on the go if needed.

Be Prepared for Medical and Emergency Situations Abroad

While traveling internationally, unexpected situations can arise. Here's how to be prepared for medical needs and emergencies:

  • Essential Documentation: Pack copies of your prescriptions, a list of known allergies, and emergency contact information. Include both physical copies and digital versions on your phone for easy access.
  • Accommodation and Embassy Details: Keep a record of your accommodation addresses and phone numbers for each location you'll be staying at. Also, research and jot down the contact details of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in every country you visit. The embassy can assist you in case of emergencies, such as a lost passport.

How Early Should You Arrive at the Airport?

How Early Should You Arrive at the Airport?

Travel experts recommend arriving at the airport well in advance for international departures. Here are some tips from travel advisors Sarah McDaniel and Anna Nastro to ensure a smooth check-in and security process:

General Arrival Time: As per Sarah McDaniel, aim to arrive at least three hours before your international flight's scheduled departure.  Double-check the airport's website for real-time security wait times, which can help you determine if you need even more buffer time.

Factors to Consider for Arrival Time:

  • Time of Day: Anna Nastro suggests factoring in the time of day. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon flights typically attract more travelers compared to very early or very late departures, impacting airport congestion.
  • Checked Bags: Checking baggage adds an extra step, so factor in additional time if you plan to check any bags.
  • Security Programs: Enrollment in TSA PreCheck or Clear can significantly expedite your security screening.

Peak Travel Periods: Busier travel seasons like winter holidays naturally see a surge in passenger traffic. Expect longer lines and a more crowded airport during these times.

Take Steps to Boost Your Immunity

Air travel can be stressful and expose you to lots of germs. Reduce the risk of getting sick by ensuring you have a healthy immune system before your trip. Get plenty of rest and stay hydrated in the days leading up to your departure.

Understanding Checked Baggage Requirements

When planning your arrival time at the airport, especially if you're checking luggage, allowing ample buffer time is crucial. Airlines have specific deadlines for checking bags, particularly for international flights. For example, some airlines, like American Airlines, may stop accepting checked baggage for international flights 60 minutes before departure. It's essential to review your specific airline's baggage check cutoff times to ensure a smooth check-in process.

In-Flight Experience


  • Seat Selection: Consider your needs when choosing a seat. Travel expert Sally French advises opting for an aisle seat for more legroom if you plan to stretch your legs frequently or anticipate needing the restroom. Window seats offer the benefit of a view and a wall to lean against, which Ms. French suggests may be preferable for those who value a place to rest their head.
  • Layering: Dress in layers to adjust to potential fluctuations in cabin temperature.

Entertainment and Productivity:

  • Personal Options: Pack books, movies, or work materials to keep yourself occupied. While in-flight entertainment systems are available on most long-haul flights, having your preferred options readily accessible serves as a reliable backup.


There you have it, follow these tips to have a smooth first international flight experience. One more insider tip, for example, when booking flights to Mumbai from USA, consider booking 3-4 weeks in advance. With Travelopod, you can get cheap flights from New York to Mumbai on call to get up to 33% off.

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