Tips for Air Travel

The start of summer should also mean some fun trips to kick it off! However, some of us may be planning our first trip via airplane and might have a few questions about the ins and outs of this seemingly complicated mode of transportation.

First things first: understanding what type of documentation and identification you’ll need (but packing a suitcase full of Doritos isn’t a bad idea either!). Depending on where you’re departing, the rules may be different. If you’re traveling from the U.S., here is a list of states that require an alternative form of identification to fly—alternative, in this case, meaning something other than a state ID or a driver’s license. If you live in one of the mentioned states, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and apply for your passport. Here is a helpful article for those who are applying for the first time.

Once you have all of your documents situated, you’ll need to know some basic rules of thumb regarding air travel:

  • Arrive at the airport 2-4 hours before your departure time.
  • Decide if you want to check a bag. This means you will need to wait for it after your flight and it may delay you.
  • Don’t forget extra chargers! As you wait for your flight, there should be plenty of outlets you can utilize to charge up before you board.
  • Bring Airborne or a surgical face mask if you’re sensitive to illness.
  • Bring plenty of reading and magazines, or some crosswords and word searches, but nothing too heavy! Opt for a device or Kindle to read from so it doesn’t weigh you down!
  • Stay hydrated! Planes are awfully dry, so chug water during the entire trip. And as tempting as it is, you may want to cut back on the alcohol. 
  • Be sure that all of the items in your carry-on meet TSA guidelines. If you’re unsure, put the item in your checked bag if you have one.


Photo by Arthur Edelman on Unsplash


Now that we’ve gone through some helpful tips at the airport, let’s go over some important packing tips so you’re all set before you get to the airport.

Checked Bags vs. Carry-Ons

If this is your first time traveling by plane, you may be wondering about the difference between a checked bag and a carry-on, and if you’ll need both. As someone who has a terribly bad habit of overpacking—the fewer bags the better! If you are traveling solo or going on a short trip, consider choosing a carry-on if you are able to fit all of your necessities into one bag. If you are going on an extended trip, and know that you’ll need a second bag, that’s when you should opt for a checked bag in addition to a carry-on.

Here’s a small list of the primary differences between checked bags and carry-ons to help you decide what you’ll need to take.

Checked Bag

  • This is handed over when you check in for your flight and placed beneath the plane with other luggage. It is picked up at the luggage carousel after you land.
    • Tip! Try to use brightly colored or patterned luggage so you can find yours faster!
  • Depending on your airline, you may get your first bag free, especially if you are flying internationally, but it’s becoming more common for airlines to charge a fee for any checked bag. Baggage policies for your airline can be found on their website. 
    • There is also an overweight fee, so pack mindfully!
  • You can put larger items in this bag that may not be allowed in a carry-on such as large shampoo bottles, toothpaste tubes, and other liquids.
  • There is a risk of loss or damage.


  • You literally carry this bag on the plane with you, and it is stored in the overhead compartment above your seat.
  • There are specific TSA guidelines to follow as to what you can pack. Check here for all the details.
  • Each airline has a specific size and weight limit for a carry-on, so be sure to check on their website before you decide on luggage.
  • Your things are with you at all times so there’s no waiting for another bag or worrying about a lost bag. 
  • There is a chance that the overhead bin space fills up before you are able to store your carry-on. If this happens, the airline will make you gate-check your bag at no cost. This means your bag will be stored beneath the plane with the other luggage, and you will need to pick it up at the baggage claim upon arrival. At least you’ll know your bag made it to the plane!


I’ve stated that TSA has specific guidelines to follow as to what you can and cannot bring, but be sure to check back often, as some guidelines and rules can change a bit. It’s good to be ahead of the game before your big trip!

Here’s a quick checklist to be sure that you’re packing properly for air travel:

Carry-On Cheat Sheet


  • Medications
  • Electronics such as chargers, laptops, tablets, Kindles, and other devices
  • An extra set of clothes, just in case!
  • Hygiene products such as deodorant, gum, travel toothbrush, biodegradable wipes for the face and body, hand sanitizer, eye drops, chapstick, eye mask, and noise-canceling headphones or earbuds
  • A refillable water bottle


  • Powders (check out this new TSA rule)
  • Oversized electronics
  • Wrapped gifts
  • Knives
  • Flammables such as lighters or matches
  • Hockey sticks
  • Razor blades
  • Firearms
  • Swiss army knives or utility knives

Tip: if you are packing liquids, gels, or aerosols in your carry-on, remember the 3-1-1 rule!



If you plan on taking your own snacks, check out this article for TSA approved (and healthy!) travel snacks. Depending on your airport, you may have to remove all foods and snacks for a special screening. To make this quick and painless, be sure to pack all carry-on snack bags on top just in case!

Well, that about covers it! Be sure to do plenty of research on the destinations you are visiting so you understand the policies and procedures of the airlines. Also, if you’re interested in green travel, and reducing your carbon footprint as a result, check out this great list for sustainable swap-outs that you can include on your next packing list!


Do you have any tips or tricks to share with us? Please let us know in the comments; we love hearing from you! And, don’t forget to pin!


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