First time flying: How to pack for your first flight

From year to year airport controls are becoming more rigorous; more and more items are on the “forbidden items” list, and the airlines are changing the way of business, so the flights are becoming more expensive, the services offered during the flight are being charged more often and there are more luggage restrictions.

No matter which airline you have chosen, your first flight can be quite stressful. Before you get on the plane, you need to be very well informed. There are lots of “little things” that are of great importance, and you need to know them all before heading to the airport. More about the procedure at the airport, you can read HERE, and below, you can find a few useful first time flying tips and learn how to pack for your first flight.

What MUST I take on a trip?

There are only two things you should never forget: the identity card or passport (depending on where you are traveling to) and money and bank cards. You can survive without all the other things. Those are the main two items you should be especially taking care of while traveling. The lost document brings problems both in the destination and your native country and money… well, you know. Among the other things you need to bring, there are the camera, cell phone, and earplugs. Earplugs can be handy if you are going to sleep in hostels, airplane,s or any noisier place.

Read more: Useful tips on how to minimize jet lag symptoms

How much luggage am I allowed to take on board?

Each plane ticket clearly states the quantity and weight of luggage you may bring with you on board. Economy class passengers are allowed to carry one piece of hand baggage (some companies allow you to also bring a laptop bag, ladies handbag or some other small bag, while some are strictly limited to that one piece) and one piece of checked baggage without a surcharge. Please note, if you are flying with a low-cost airline company, you will need to pay for anything bigger than hand luggage.

The weight allowance differs from company to company, but usually, weight limits are from 8 (up to 10) kg (from 17.5 to 22 lbs) for the carry-on baggage and up to 23 kg (51 lbs) for the checked baggage. Any excess weight is charged correctly, so it is cheaper to bring less baggage or, if you need it, check-in the additional bag. Prices for the extra bags differ from airline to airline, but usually, they vary from €50 to €100 (or $) per bag (for example, Delta charges $100, Croatia Airlines, and Lufthansa €75). Some airlines, like Emirates or Qatar, allow you to bring 30 kg free of charge. However, you cannot check-in additional luggage but only pay for extra kilograms – which can be extremely expensive.

Always check luggage restrictions of your company and do test packing to make sure you will not spend a few more hundreds just because you needed ten pairs of shoes. The key question is, how will you know how heavy your luggage is? Online you can find lots of different and cheap luggage scales that can be of enormous help while traveling. I got mine for around $5, and it was the best traveling investment so far.

Luggage is also limited by size. The total sum of hand luggage dimensions is limited to 115 cm (45’’) and checked baggage to 158 cm (62’’).

Read more: I am a terrible packer! My luggage is always overweight.

What can I put in the carry-on luggage? How to pack?

Hand baggage packing can be a real challenge, especially if that’s all the luggage you are traveling with. There are precise rules what you can pack into a carry-on and what is strictly forbidden.

Firstly, put all the electronic devices in the hand luggage. Airport workers will throw around your checked baggage, and nobody will care if your laptop arrives at the destination with a cracked screen. So – all the electronic go to the carry-on luggage. Cash and other valuable items also (money, keys, documents, glasses, etc.).

The number of liquids you can bring to the cabin is strictly limited to 1 liter (33 oz), and every individual liquid must be in the container not bigger than 100 ml (3.3 oz). So, in hand luggage, you can pack up to ten liquids, which must be placed in a clear plastic bag with a zipper (similar to those for freezing food, make sure that it has the zipper). The bags can be taken of bought at the airport. Term “liquids” includes things like lipsticks, mascara, toothpaste, and some other items that we might forget when packing so they can make problems during the security check. The “liquids rule” does not apply to the fluids bought at the airport after passing the security control so that you can buy water, wine, or some other liquid in the duty-free shop.

The hand baggage must not contain any sharp object (like knives, scissors, metal nail file, corkscrew…), weapons and weapon-looking toys, and other potentially dangerous items. Such things can be transported in checked baggage only.

Am I allowed to use electronics during the flight?

The electronics may be used during the flight, only not during the takeoff and landing, or when the cabin lit sign prohibits the use of electronic devices. So yes – you can listen to music, take pictures, use a laptop or even a mobile phone (last two only in the airplane mode).

Read more: First time flying tips – From airport to airplane guide 

Where do I collect my checked baggage?

Checked baggage needs to be collected at the destination airport. If you have the connecting flights (for example, Zagreb – Zurich – New York City), the luggage is almost always collected in the final destination, in this case, in New York City. Please take note, and if you are flying to the USA, you will need to collect your luggage in the first US destination, no matter it is final or not. Before landing, the cabin crew usually tell at which conveyor belt you would be able to find the luggage from your flight. Also, you can always check it on the screens located near the conveyor belts. The room where they are located can easily be found by following the direction of “baggage claim” signs after getting off the plane.

In order to easily find your luggage, buy some easily recognizable bag, or put some sign on it. Usually, all the bags are black, blue, or red. Yes, red. So buy yourself a different one, or put something bright on it (scarf, sticker…). It will make your life easier.

Before the flight, always check what rules apply to your airline because some things can differ from company to company.

Have a safe flight!