When flying

Guarantee a stress free flight with these reminders 🌬🛫.

13 reminders, updated over 1 year ago

A few months before

For US Citizens, there are two main expedited airport programs:

  1. Flying mainly domestic? Apply for TSA Pre. With a 5 year $85 membership, you can speed through security and don’t need to remove your shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets.
  2. Flying internationally? Apply for Global Entry, which includes TSA Pre. With a 5 year $100 membership, you get TSA Pre but also expedited entry when arriving in the US from a foreign country. No more long immigration lines.

It generally makes sense to just apply for Global Entry since it's only $15 more. To be approved, you need to go in for an interview that's typically booked out far in advance online. It's possible to walk in, but make sure to go in the early mornings so you don't wait long. Most people don't have a problem doing it this way, but it's not 100% guaranteed. Find an enrollment center.

Certain credit cards, like the Sapphire Reserve, will reimburse you for the fees.

CLEAR is another alternative for only the US. While it can be faster than TSA Pre during crowded times, it's really only worthwhile if you fly domestic a lot. Many other countries also have their own expedited program (see this list).

Week before flight

Missing a flight due to a mistaken day is fairly common when the flight is between 11pm and 6am. Double check yours especially if you booked it a long time ago. Work backwards from the flight time to figure out when you need to be at the airport.

Going to the wrong airport is another common mistake. Many big cities, such as Bangkok and Osaka, have two or three airports and if you're not paying attention you might not realize you're flying from or to the wrong one. Double check using the airport codes: SFO, JFK, LAX, LHR, etc.

Carry on weight and size requirements vary across airlines, especially budget airlines who are also the most strict about checking. This service makes it easy to check, but you might want to check your airline's website directly too. Having to check it or pay extra fees would be a bummer 😞.

Typical checked baggage weight limits are around 50 pounds (or 20 kg), but it does vary. Many budget airlines don't have free checked luggage at all. Check your bag with a luggage scale and if you need additional weight allowance always buy it ahead of time online. It's almost always more expensive to buy it at the airport.

If you're a vegetarian or have other special dietary requirements and are going on a long haul flight, make sure to let the airline know so they give you the right meals.

Unless a friend is picking you up, at least research the transportation options from the airport. There are often city specific subway or ride hailing apps (see our list) that would be smart to download ahead of time.

Day before flight

You can usually check in 24 hours before using your 6 character reservation code (example: RMT33W) or e-ticket number. Make sure they have these important pieces of info.

  • Passport number: if it's an international flight
  • Frequent flyer ID: so you build up those miles (check their airline alliance, it might make sense to use one from a different one)
  • Known traveler number: if you have TSA Pre (otherwise they won't let you in the TSA Pre line, it's not automatic)

Many airlines let you easily print boarding passes at the airport for free, but some budget airlines now charge for the privilege. To be safe, print it yourself at home or if you don't have a printer (not that uncommon anymore), mobile boarding passes on your smartphone are accepted at most major airports now. RIP Apple Wallet shredding animation.

Remember to download shows, movies, music, ebooks, or anything else you enjoy for entertaining yourself on flights when there's no internet. Did you know Netflix now lets you download their shows for watching offline?

Or, you can enjoy one of the last places on Earth where you can completely disconnect (we all know Gogo in flight wifi basically isn't real wifi).

Day of flight

  • Boarding pass
  • Passport
  • Global entry card
  • Visa papers

Make sure there aren't any last minute flight changes with services like FlightAware.

On the plane

Bring along disinfecting wipes to sanitize the tray tables, seat belts, elbow rest, and other surfaces as they're rife with bacteria. Considering how many people ride the airplanes and how little time is provided between flights for cleaning, it's not exactly a surprise. Better to be safe than to get sick 🤒.

Think this checklist is missing a key reminder? Let us know »

Wanderprep curates the best travel gear, apps, and tips. Our goal is concise recommendations that respect your time and help you travel better and more responsibly. To fund these guides and our giving back goals aka make money, we sometimes use affiliate links. Learn our story and approach. We believe a good checklist helps us get the most out of our adventures. See what we evaluate besides importance, timing, and time saved.