Tips for surviving your first international flight

Unless you’re a pilot, a world leader or a globetrotting superstar like Beyonce, international travel can be quite the stress-inducing task. Moving from one country to another means culture shock and, of course, dealing with airports and airplanes. The flight alone can even cause some people to suffer from anxiety weeks before they’re actually scheduled to travel. That being said, there’s no rational reason to be so concerned about international travel. With a little research and preparation, you’ll realize that the “fears” surrounding your first international flight and international travel, in general, are usually just needless anxieties. In fact, with all the in-flight entertainment available on major airlines, there’s really not much more to do while you’re in the air except sit back, relax and pick a favorite TV show to binge on.


first international flight


5 reassuring things to consider before your first international flight:


1. There are people who fly planes internationally on a daily basis

Even though an international flight may be a rare and special event for you, pilots and flight attendants spend several hundreds of hours in the air every year. For them, boarding the plane is just another dull day at the office.

2. Turbulence is actually no big deal

Pilots will tell you that turbulence is a nuisance rather than a danger, as out of the millions of flights every year, there are around 60 injuries related to turbulence each year*. Most turbulence experienced by travelers is categorized as “light”, which could spill a drink, perhaps, but it isn’t any different than driving on a bumpy road.

3. So much regulation

Air travel is the most regulated means of transportation, making it both stressful and very safe. The security ordeal, for example, puts visions of terrorism in our heads. The reality is the entire process exists in order to make flying even safer than it already is.

4. The stats speak for themselves

The fear of flying is highly irrational (like most fears). For example, you are less likely to die in an airplane accident than you are in a car crash (the odds are 1 in 11 million on an airplane compared to 1 in 5000 in a car).

5. Treat this “fear” as what it actually is – anxiety

Fear exists to protect us from danger. The reality is that there is an extraordinarily long list of things more likely to endanger your life than air travel. That’s what makes this “fear” an “anxiety”. It’s not based on reality or a real threat. Try to approach your worries with relaxation techniques, taking deep breaths, distracting yourself with games, conversation, TV or music.


first international flight


Flight reminders

  • If you ever need help, airports always have friendly people working there that speak English. First check with the airline that you’re flying with.
  • When flying internationally arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight.
  • What you can bring on the plane with you is limited, so make sure to pack restricted carry-on materials (liquids over 100ml, sharp items etc.) in one of the bags that you check in.
  • Check your airline’s weight and bag restrictions and pack accordingly. You don’t want to get stuck with an expensive fee for your bag weighing just a few pounds over the limit.
  • It’s a good idea to check your flight before heading to the airport to make sure it’s not delayed and there haven’t been any changes to the schedule.
  • Airport food is expensive so take advantage of your meals provided on the flight and bring something (not liquid) to snack on from home.

    *in the US



    Photo 1. based on Airport, by Hernán Piñera, CC-by-SA 2.0

    Photo 2. based on Airplane in the sky, by Kitty Terwolbeck, CC-by-2.0

    Photo 3. based on Thinking of Trade | Airport Moment, by John Ragai, CC-by-2.0


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    Elizabeth Trovall

    After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.
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