I need to make a confession. I am a terrible packer. My luggage is always overweight and I have always admired those who could travel with less baggage because for me packing has always been a huge challenge and I am just not able to travel with a carry-on only.
As much as I travel, I still struggle with packing and the fact I can’t bring the entire wardrobe is highly upsetting me. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I don’t like packing, it is just the opposite. The suitcase usually stands open on a couch weeks before the trip so I can pack easily and put the things in without any stress. Last minute packing is not my style and it’s definitely not for me. This way, I can enjoy the packing, don’t forget to bring some important things and exaggerate absolutely every time. 🙂
One month long trip around the US in 2012 was my first long trip. We were on a tight budget so we could not afford to ride around in the taxi, we were forced to use a public transportation during the entire trip instead. At that time, we lived in the US for four months already so you can imagine we had quite a lot of luggage.
Read more: First time flying tips: From airport to the airplane
Now I know I am not able to travel with so much luggage because lots of nice people needed to help me by carrying my suitcase up and down the stairs. If they hadn’t, I would stay forever in New York’s subway because I was not able to take the suitcase out and not every station has an elevator. I’m not joking when I say this, but we were choosing the apartments and hostels according to whether the nearest subway had an elevator.
Any lowering to the subway or going anywhere down the stairs was a risk that I will die under a suitcase attack 😀 if anyone in the crowd accidentally pushed me or any part of my baggage. Basically, my lovely travel companion was helping me most of the time and I cannot thank her enough for that.
Whenever we arrived in the new city, we needed to take the bus or tram to our accommodation. Usually, I somehow managed to put the suitcase on the bus, but going out was a first class challenge. I put the suitcase on the edge of the stairs in front of me and literally punched it out from the bus.
And that’s how I returned home with hands full of blisters. Everyone thought that I got them from the hard work and actually they were the consequence of towing the luggage around the US for a month.
Read more: How to pack for your first flight
Since then I’ve taken many trips, short or long and, honestly, I overpacked every single time, but I never brought so much luggage again. I realized each of my packing processes each time consists of five characteristic phases.
Phase #1. I will not carry lots of luggage!
Every, every single time I plan a trip I tell myself that I wouldn’t take so much luggage this time. The decision is firmly held up all the way to the moment when I actually start packing.
Phase #2. I need to take just this one more shirt!
While deciding what to take and putting the things in a bag maniacally, I always say “Just this, that’s what I really need”. And then, when I’m all packed, rummaging through the closet I usually discover something else I really need to take – like a shirt I had forgotten about.
Phase #3. I have too much stuff!
At the point when I’m almost completely packed, I put the luggage on a scale and horrifyingly scream “I have too much stuff!”. Too much is a relative term, but it may be more than 50 pounds I can enter the plane with, more than I planned to bring or just really too much for the four-day-long trip. Hmm okay, I will take the stilettos out and wear the other, lighter ones.
Read more: Six websites you should know about when flying
Phase #4. I need it all!
Sometimes I do luggage revisions all alone, but usually, I need the help from someone who is not blindsided by the items and who can make a smarter decision than me. This is where my mom enters the scene and opens my eyes by telling me what I really don’t need on a trip. I decide to ignore her advice completely and take everything with me.
Phase #5. I will never take so much baggage again!
Usually, I start complaining about the weight somewhere around that time when I need to pull the suitcase out of the car at the airport. In Zagreb. The decision about packing more rationally next time is made again.
Read more: Useful tips how to minimize jet lag symptoms
In the end, I always come to the airport with the exact weight allowed. These days it seems to be “in” to travel only with a carry-on, but I have always preferred my own commodity and changing the clothes quite often. Honestly, I have never even tried to leave for a month with 8 or 10 kilos of luggage. I use a carry-on for weekend trips only and, even then I have few more bags hidden around the car.
I don’t exaggerate to extend that I take twenty nail polishes or anything like that, but a lot of things I take “just in case” are never needed. And again, it is better to have a jacket in Portugal than get cold. Or I’m just comforting myself?
Which is your travel style? Can you travel with a carry-on or you prefer to check in another bag?
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In March 2011, after I already made quite a few miles traveling, I finally went on a trip which included a plane ride. My first flight! I have always been attracted to the airplanes and I wasn’t worried about the flight itself, but the thrill has quickly turned from „yaaay“ to „naaah“ when I realized how much I did not know about flying!
When do I need to get to the airport… and what I should do then?! The more I read the forums and articles, the less I knew and I had more and more questions. The possibility that I will finish on another continent instead of in Rome was increasing. So here are some first time flying tips, I hope they are going to be helpful if you are about to start your flying career.
When should I be at the airport and what do I need to do next?!
COME ON TIME
The time required to complete all the formalities at the airport depends on the size of the airport and the country where it’s located. It is recommended to come at least two hours earlier, but in Zagreb, even an hour and a half would be enough (especially if you don’t have a morning flight).
In the other hand, if you depart from the airport in the United States or some other very big airport, you should definitely come three hours earlier due to more comprehensive security control and larger distances within the airport.
DO THE CHECK IN & PASS THE SECURITY
Before going to the plane, you need to check-in to the flight (or do it earlier online and just drop off your baggage), go through security check and wait for your boarding time to get into the plane. All this can be done in 15 minutes, but also can last longer than an hour.
Larger airports are more likely to be crowded, so adjust your arrival time according to that. For example, security check in London Heathrow can take more than 30 minutes (on a good day), while I usually need less than 5 minutes to pass the same control in Zagreb.
If you are running late or have a short connection, some airports do have fast track lines where you can skip the wait. If not, you can always kindly ask the fellow travelers to allow you to go in front.
Read more: 6 websites you should know about when flying
How my plane ticket looks like and what is a “check-in”?
Today’s plane tickets are generally electronic so you can come to the check-in counter with the printed purchase confirmation, or even without it. Upon the arrival to the airport, you need to go to the check-in counters and find the right one (look for it on the screens above the counters and search by the airline’s name or the destination). Check-in usually starts 120 minutes before the flight, for an international flight. The domestic flights often start a bit later.
In most of the cases, it is enough to hand over your documents to the counter person and place the luggage on a track. After the luggage is weighted, it receives the tags and it is taken away by the conveyor belt so the airport personnel can put it into the plane bunker. The counter person issues the boarding pass and checks you into the flight. The boarding pass contains your personal information and flight data and usually states the gate number, boarding time and seat number.
Read more: How to pack for your first flight
If you do the check in online, you will need to print out the boarding pass on your own. To do so, you just need to follow the instructions on a web check-in section of your airline. When you come to the airport, you can go directly to the baggage drop counter (which are usually less crowded) – if you have any luggage to drop, or go straight through the security to your gate.
What happens at the security check?
The security check consists of passenger and baggage control. Passing through the security check can be quick and painless if you follow the next tips.
- While waiting in a queue please remove your watches, belts and all the metal you are wearing. Do not do that when is your turn because you are creating a crowd unnecessarily.
- Jewelry usually doesn’t need to be removed, but if you are not 100% sure should you remove it, ask the staff.
- If you have any metal on (piercing) or inside you (metal plates, etc.) be prepared to show it to the officers or bring your medical records.
- Wear clean and untorn socks. Sometimes you will need to take off your shoes, especially if you are wearing the boots a lot of metal on them or if you fly from the U.S. People are ashamed very often.
- Before passing through a metal detector empty all your pockets.
- All the items you need to put in the plastic containers, but do not overcrowd them.
- The laptops need to be removed from the bags and put into a separate box, with no other items in it. Lately, they ask to take out other electronic devices too, like iPad, Kindle and cameras.
- If you are dressed in layers (for example a shirt, a sweater and a jacket), you need to take off the sweater and the jacket. You shall not wear thick layers of clothing when passing through the detector.
- You cannot have more than one liter of liquid when passing through the control. All the liquids must be in packages up to 100 ml and placed in one one-liter plastic bag with zipper. Do not forget to take out that bottle of water from the bag.
After you put all the things in the containers, your stuff passes through the scanner and you go through the detector. If everything is okay, you can take your items and get dressed. If the officers notice something suspicious or the detector sounds, they could ask for a more detailed luggage or personal examination and ask you to open the backpack. Show them without the complaint.
Read more: Useful tips how to minimize jet lag symptoms
What can I do at the airport after security control?
Everything! You can have a coffee, pour water into an empty bottle that you had in your backpack (the best advice ever, trust me), read the newspaper, eat, surf, shop at the duty free store (you can buy even liquids, everything you buy there will be packed in welded bag which you are not allowed open until you land!).
Depending on the size and equipment of the airport, the time before the flight can be shortened by the various activities. With its numerous restaurants, shops, and awesome waiting rooms airports can be an oasis of entertainment. Some of them even have a casino and mailboxes.
When the boarding starts and how does it look like?
Boarding usually begins 30 – 45 minutes prior to the flight (for long haul flights even 60 minutes before). The time is usually stated on boarding pass and departure screens at the airport. Sometimes the gate and boarding time have not been assigned yet at the moment of issuing the boarding pass, in that case, you can find all the information on screens.
The boarding is announced by ground staff at the gate assigned to this flight. At the gate, the staff will check your documents and boarding pass so don’t put them in the deepest part of your backpack right after the security control. Sometimes they will check the dimensions and (or) hand luggage weight. This usually happens when traveling with low-cost airlines, but even the “regular” companies sometimes check that you are not traveling with more pieces of luggage than allowed.
Read more: I am a terrible packer! My luggage is always overweight.
Depending on the airport, you go to the plane on foot or by bus. At Zagreb’s airport, there is an airport bus in front of the gate which takes passengers to the plane. Then you climb the stairs to enter the plane. My favorites are those cases where you can get to the plane by the big tunnel which connects gate with the plane.
Upon entering the plane cabin staff will greet you and, if necessary, help you to find your seat. If you have the assigned seat, you must sit right there and place the hand luggage in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. During the takeoff and landing, you are not allowed to have anything in your lap (like purse or laptop).
There is a reason why you shouldn’t spend too much time taking pictures in front of the plane, even though it’s the first time you will enter it. If the plane is small and the flight is full, there probably won’t be enough space for all hand luggage. So if you have a larger piece of luggage and if you don’t want to spend few hours with a suitcase below your legs, hurry up to the plane and take place for luggage. Otherwise, it could happen that you are sitting in the fourth row and your luggage is placed in the compartment above the 30th row. Long story short, you would need to wait for all people exit the plane before you could reach it. In the event of a lackage of space for carry-on luggage, larger pieces are sent free of charge to aircraft bunker.
Once you’ve placed the luggage, tie yourself and listen carefully what the cabin crew will have to say. The pilot’s greeting contains some basic information such as the duration of the flight and weather conditions in a destination and the flight attendants are going to give you safety instructions. Listen to them carefully so you know what to do in case of an accident and where are the emergency exits.
If I forgot something, you can ask in the comments…
Did you ever have any problems at the airport?
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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 is lots of “little things” that are of a great importance and you need to know them all before heading to the airport. More about the procedure on the airport you can read HERE, and below you can find 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 are you traveling to) and money and/or 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 very useful if you are going to sleep in hostels, airplane or any noisier place.
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 a 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.
Read more: 21 packing mistakes to avoid before you head to the airport
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 properly charged, so it is cheaper to bring less baggage or, if you really 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 few more hundreds just because you needed ten pairs of shoes. The key question is how you will know how heavy is your luggage? 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.
Read more: Useful tips how to minimize jet lag symptoms
Luggage is also limited by the size. The total sum of hand luggage dimensions is limited to 115 cm (45’’) and checked baggage to 158 cm (62’’).
Suitcase sizes – photo credit: Amazon
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 luggage and nobody will care if your laptop arrives at the destination with a cracked screen. So – all the electronic goes 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 zipper (similar to those for freezing food, just 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 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.
Read more: No, I do not travel with a carry-on. And I’m proud of it!
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, if you are flying to the USA, you will need to collect your luggage in first US destination, no matter is it 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!
Ps. If you are an experienced traveler, all of this may seem like a piece of cake. But remember how confused you were before your first flight! Do you have some other tips & trick how to pack for the first flight?
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