15 Things You Must Do Every Time You Board a Plane

Make your next flight more comfortable by being prepared.
Updated May 8, 2024
Fact checked
Woman at an airport

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Flying is rarely a stress-free process. From waiting in the security line to anxiously hoping the flight isn’t delayed, it might seem like traveling by plane can just never be easy.

However, whether you’re a first-time flyer or hop on a plane every few weeks for work, everyone can take the same steps to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Here are 15 steps frequent flyers take when boarding a plane that make the entire experience easier and more efficient. Step up your travel game by putting these tips into practice.

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Make sure your passport is valid

Jeff McCollough/Adobe american passport in an airplane

Traveling abroad? Pull out your passport right now to make sure it’s still valid.

You don’t want to be stuck in the stressful position of having to make an emergency call to your state representative’s office to try to get a passport ASAP.

Check your TSA PreCheck status

Dmitry/Adobe Posted sign in an airport read General boarding here

If you don’t already have TSA PreCheck, sign up before your next flight. It makes the security process smoother and more efficient.

It also saves you from the stress of arriving at the airport only to realize that the standard security line is wrapped around the building. Having PreCheck allows you to avoid that hassle, as you get to use a shorter line that is almost always faster.

The process of getting TSA PreCheck can take time, so stop by the official website to learn more about how to enroll. If you already have TSA PreCheck, make sure it’s still valid. It must be renewed every five years.

Notify your credit card provider of your travel plans

Goffkein/Adobe man using card for booking flight

If you’re traveling somewhere that is out of the ordinary for you, notify your credit card provider before you take off.

If you arrive in Europe but typically don’t travel there, your lender could flag the card and put it on hold temporarily out of an abundance of caution. 

Letting the lender know your plans in advance can help you avoid this inconvenience.

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Confirm your sitter’s plans

AnnaStills/Adobe woman giving pet food to dog

Before you leave home, make sure your pet sitter or house sitter has everything they need to do their job while you’re gone.

Remind them which days they need to be on duty. Also, do a last check to make sure they have a key to get into your house.

Pack your carry-on for easy access

Daisy Daisy/Adobe woman measuring suitcase before holiday

Packing your carry-on efficiently is one key to a comfortable travel experience.

Consider using smaller storage bags to help organize your belongings before you put them in the carry-on. Keep items that you will need during security and boarding toward the top of your bag.

Double-check your toiletry bag

Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe putting toothbrush into the toiletry bag

No one likes leaving a favorite toiletry behind because they forgot that liquids must be in containers that are 3.4 ounces or less. Double-check your toiletry bag to make sure you are in compliance.

Make sure the airline app still works

Nina L/peopleimages.com/Adobe travel and flight ticket app for vacation

Make sure you have the airline’s app on your phone and that it is still working before you get to the airport. It can make everything easier, from checking a bag to monitoring delays and exploring the latest in-flight entertainment.

Download media

wichayada/Adobe woman listening to music

If you plan on tuning into a podcast or catching up on a favorite show, download those to your phone before leaving home.

With media already on the phone, you won’t have to worry about a strong Wi-Fi connection to listen or watch, and you won’t have to pay for internet access.

Figure out where to park

Angelov/Adobe girl with bag in the parking

You don’t want to arrive at the airport only to find all the lots are full. So, look at your options ahead of time and see if you can reserve a spot, either at an airline lot or a less expensive lot nearby.

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Check out the Wi-Fi situation

NicoElNino/Adobe passenger holding tablet with wifi access sign while sitting on plane

Some airlines will provide free texting, while others offer free internet. Some don’t offer connectivity at all.

So, find out your airline’s Wi-Fi situation. If service is available but isn’t free, decide whether you want to pay the additional fee.

Make sure you have the seat you want

vvoe/Adobe textile seats in economy class

If you didn’t pick your seat when you first booked the flight, you might have been assigned something you don’t like.

If so, open the airline app and see if you can change the seat. There may be an upgrade fee associated with the change, but it could be worth it if you feel strongly about switching.

Fill up your water bottle

myboys.me/Adobe traveler pressed the button of drinking water filling station at the airport

No one wants to pay several dollars for a bottle of water at the airport, so don’t forget to bring your own reusable water bottle.

You will have to empty it before you go through security, but most airports have filling stations where you can fill the bottle with free filtered water.

Moisturize your skin

Daryna/Adobe hand with a smear of pink face cream

Dry air is inescapable in an airplane. So, apply moisturizer to your skin before your board. This is especially important if you are going to be in the air for a long time.

Have your boarding pass ready

Joshua/Adobe man holding luggage with boarding pass

Whether you print a boarding pass or keep it on your phone, have it out and ready to go once it’s time to board.

Doing so will help the entire process go smoothly and reduce the frustration of fellow travelers who are anxious to board.

Wipe down the tray table

Martin/Adobe A row of airplane trays

Airline tray tables are notoriously dirty. To make sure you have a sanitary experience, take antibacterial wipes with you and give the entire tray table and the armrests a wipedown as soon as you board.

Bottom line

Surachetsh/Adobe passenger walk into aircraft plane

Traveling can be a complicated process, but using a few expert tips makes it easier.

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Author Details

Heather Bien Heather Bien is a writer covering personal finance and budgeting and how those relate to life, travel, entertaining, and more. With bylines that include The Spruce, Apartment Therapy, and mindbodygreen, she's covered everything from tax tips for freelancers to budgeting hacks to how to get the highest ROI out of your home renovations.

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