8 tips for first-time flyers


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Flying for the first time can be a daunting task, especially if you are flying with multiple stops or flying internationally. However, there are some things that you can do to make the process go smoothly and comfortably.

It’s time to get your luggage ready and have your rewards credit card on hand, and you will be set for a smooth journey from start to finish.

Check out these 8 tips to have you traveling like a pro

1. Upgrade your luggage

As a first time flyer, you may not be thinking about the quality of the bags you’re putting your things in, but before you even hit the airport take some time to invest in some good luggage. No one wants to have to deal with busted wheels or broken zippers in an airport. Invest in your future travel with well-made luggage with sturdy handles and roller wheels. Just make sure that your carry-on luggage meets the size requirements for a carry-on bag.

Buying luggage that will last is an investment and can get expensive, but putting that charge onto a rewards card could earn you valuable miles towards your next trip or cash back. The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express offers 2% back at select U.S. department stores. If you get your luggage from one of these stores that could be a nice cash back return on your luggage expense.

Bonus tip: Before you check that bag, add a luggage tag or a scarf that will help you identify your bag as it comes down the conveyor belt.

2. Try to upgrade your seat

If you’re on a short flight this tip doesn’t really apply, but if you’re flying cross country, look into upgrading to business or premium economy class. These upgraded classes will offer you priority boarding, extra legroom on the flight, and sometimes luggage and airline lounge perks.

Paying for this extra expense with a travel rewards card will allow you to earn points or miles on your spending, and means you can start accruing rewards for your next trip.

A card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is perfect for new travelers as it offers useful perks like primary car rental insurance and charges no foreign transaction fees. For travel spending, such as an upgrade, you could earn 2x points per dollar. Better still, when you redeem these points through the Chase portal, you boost the redemption value 25%.

3. Travel hands-free

Traveling with only carry-on luggage may save you a bit of cash in the short-term, but it is a hassle in the long-term, especially if you have multiple stops on your itinerary. Not to mention, if you are on a smaller plane for any leg of your flight, you may have to gate-check your carry-on anyway. Save yourself the trouble and pay to check the majority of your bags. Not only can you take all your full-size creams and liquids for your trip, but you will have some much needed extra leg room under your seat when you board. Better yet, you won’t have to figure out how to get all of your carry-on luggage into that teeny airport bathroom stall for that much-needed bathroom stop before you board.

If you’re planning on flying regularly there are a couple of co-branded airline credit cards that offer a free checked bag as one of their perks. The United Explorer Card, and the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card all offer at least one free check bag. If you feel like an airline credit card is right for you, make sure to choose one that operates at your local airport and offers the routes you need.

Bonus tip: Make sure to weigh your luggage before your flight to make sure it isn’t overweight. You can buy digital luggage scales that are small enough to slip in your bag so that you can weigh your luggage on the way back in the event that you purchase souvenirs that may add to your weight.

4. Bundle up to stay warm

Airports and planes are notoriously chilly, so pack something cozy to put on as you travel.

A light compact jacket is a great choice as you can easily take it on and off and store it as you move through different temperature zones. Treat yourself to a new jacket or shawl before your trip and put it on your or your Discover it® Cash Back card. You can earn up to 5% cash back each quarter on rotating categories (on up to $1,500 in purchases after activation, then 1%), and this year one of the rotating categories includes purchases on Amazon.com.

5. Apply for TSA Pre-Check

Going through security in an airport is not fun, no matter how many or few people there are in line. To avoid having to deal with the hassle of all that, apply for TSA PreCheck. TSA PreCheck won’t guarantee that you’ll never have to be screened but will give you access to the PreCheck line that will expedite your time in the security area as you can use the dedicated TSA PreCheck lane. You also don’t have to remove your shoes or liquids and gels from your bag.

If you have a lot of trips planned that involve flying, and therefore dealing with dreaded airport security, there are credit cards that offer reimbursement for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry (which will expedite your re-entry process at immigration if you have traveled outside the U.S.)

6. Treat yourself to a drink

You’ve made it through security with time to spare and now it’s time to celebrate your first trip in the friendly skies. Why not pull up a seat at the airport and have a relaxing cocktail or coffee before you board.

Use your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and you’ll be lining your pockets with more rewards as you enjoy your drink. In fact, you can earn 50,000 miles (worth $500 in travel credit) when you spend $3000 in the first three months with this card. So, drink up!

7. Secure snacks and Wi-Fi

You’ve made all the right moves to get priority boarding and have as much legroom as possible. You’re ready to fly. Keep those good vibes going by having your card on deck to make any in-air purchases. Planes are sometimes cash-free, so if you decide you want to buy a snack or meal, or in-flight Wi-Fi, you’ll need to have your card on deck.

8. Reserve transport

Don’t get stranded at the airport! After traveling across states, oceans, or continents, you probably won’t be up for hailing a cab and trying to explain where you are going. Arrange to have a car take you to your final destination. You’ll arrive relaxed and ready to enjoy your stay.

Relax and enjoy your flight

First time flying can be a breeze if you follow these tips. Using one of the many great travel cards on the market to pay for tickets, luggage, and that relaxing pre-flight drink means you’ll be able to pay for things more easily and you’ll be earning rewards to help make your next trip even better.

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