Essential Air Travel Checklist for Seamless Flying Experiences

Long before we even knew the existence of the air travel checklist, we used to run back and forth and then forget some other equally important items until the boarding moments. A travel checklist goes a long way to help air travellers (even the seasoned ones) be prepared and ready for the smoothest flight.

From researching the destination and booking your flight to transport arrangements, let this checklist take care of your next trip. We also hope it will become your flight ritual for a trouble- and stress-free flight!

Air Travel Checklist - 28 Things To Do For A Smooth Flight 2024

A Month Before Your Flight

  1. Create Your Packing List
  2. Get Hotel Reservation
  3. Get International Driver’s Permit
  4. Alert Your Bank
  5. Check The Validity Of Your Visa & Passport
  6. Create Electronic Copies Of Your Documents, Too
  7. Use Travel Apps
  8. Know Your Airline's Baggage Allowance
  9. Get The Right Backpack For The Job

One Week Before Flying

  1. Begin Packing Your Stuffs
  2. Pack Essentials In Your Carry-on
  3. Sign Up For Expedited Programs
  4. Prepare Your Passports, IDs & Visas
  5. Buy Travel Insurance
  6. Double Check And Size Up Your Luggage
  7. Check-In Online (And Drop Your Bags, If Possible)
  8. Pack Your Snacks

One Day Before Your Flight

  1. Real-Time Flight Status
  2. Charge Your Gadgets
  3. Prepare Some Backup Entertainment
  4. Dress Right For The Flight
  5. Arrange Your Transport
  6. Secure Your Home Before Heading Out

At The Airport

  1. Arrive Early
  2. Pay For Lounge Access
  3. Try To Snag An Upgrade

On Board

  1. Adjust To The New Time Zone
  2. Get Up And Stretch Your Legs

A Month Before Your Flight

Starting from this time frame is a great way to get everything sorted. Packing one month in advance gives you room to think about removing the nice-to-have items but are space-eating and adding up to your air travel checklist. No rush to get it right, but don’t slack off, either.

1. Create Your Packing List

air travel checklist - CabinZero

For a long holiday, last-minute packing is not the fun part of the journey!

Photo By Xavier Lorenzo -

Around one month before your trip, you’re probably researching your destination and local customs in general. This gives you a better idea about what to bring along and what to leave behind.

Your packing list also depends on many factors, from personal needs, preferences, and duration of your trip to the types of activities on your itinerary.  If you don't know where to start, here are some ideas to create your first travel packing list:

Make Sure To Pack Enough Core Items

You can't live without travel documents, toiletries, and medication. Your packing list should revolve around these, plus any extras like sports gear or cameras to fuel your trip's fun.

Consider Your Activities And Weather Forecast

The choice of your clothes and gear depends on the climate of your travel dates. A packing list for a tropical beach will not be the same as the one for a skiing town. Take a look at what kind of activities you plan to do, like snorkelling or skiing, to customise your checklist. 

You might also rent sports equipment from local shops rather than bring your own. Just think about the airline’s strict limits (and hefty charges) regarding the size and weight of your hand luggage. 

Simplify Things With A Packing Template

Why make a checklist from scratch when you can use tried-and-true checklists? You can refer to our packing list for more inspiration:

2. Get Hotel Reservation

Booking your accommodation at least one month in advance will help you snag a better hotel price. There are more options for your room and facilities to choose from. Also, keep an eye on tempting deals from sites like around this time.

3. Get International Driver’s Permit

You'll need a valid international driver's permit to drive a vehicle in many foreign countries. This will give you the freedom to take your dream overseas road trip or minimise the inconvenience of communicating with your cab driver in their mother tongue. 

4. Alert Your Bank

Always tell your bank when you're travelling abroad. If not, your bank might interpret your expenses paid in another country as suspicious and block your cards for protection. Just like back home, tell your bank the exact travel and return dates to ensure you always have access to your money.

Likewise, research the currency used at your destination and consider exchanging money beforehand. Cash is still king in many countries, especially in budget destinations, so you should bring a decent amount for small purchases at the local markets or souvenirs.

5. Check The Validity Of Your Visa & Passport

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Overseas flights mean you will deal with different customs rules, so double-check the papers. Photo credit: Helen S

For entry into many countries, your passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months. Some others require one, two, or even three or four total blank spaces in your passport. Some destinations don’t need passports, but they are the exception rather than the norm.

Depending on the destination you're heading to, you might also need to apply for a visa beforehand. While many consider it a weird flying rule, some countries like Peru, Brazil, or Costa Rica also ask tourists to provide proof of onward/return travel (if you're flying with a one-way ticket). 

If this is your first time flying to a country, it's best to do your homework and get the paperwork rolling soon. The one-month timeframe will give you time to settle the required documents. Or at least, if the process takes longer or any troubles arise, you can more easily adjust other plans, such as accommodations and flights. 

6. Create Electronic Copies Of Your Documents, Too

Extra steps like creating electronic copies of ID documents will go a long way when you lose your luggage. So, scan and upload copies of your passports, visas, driver's licence, and the like to cloud storage or physical drives. This gives you easy access to important papers from every corner of the globe when needed.

7. Use Travel Apps

Trying to remember or take note of all the travel details can be overwhelming. With travel apps, you can take this hassle out of your air travel checklist, as it can keep your flight statuses, gate numbers, check-in times, and hotel reservations in one place.

8. Know Your Airline's Baggage Allowance

Generally, you are allowed a carry-on and/or personal item (they are different things) on coach seats. Checked luggage, on the other hand, might or might not be included in your ticket. 

Be sure to pack within the weight and size limits for both checked and carry-on luggage to avoid excess baggage fees. Check the airline's website for specific details by looking for sections titled "Baggage," "Baggage Allowance," or "Baggage Policy” on their official website. Or you can check conveniently here.

9. Get The Right Backpack For The Job

air travel checklist - CabinZero

Orange is the new black.

There’s nothing wrong with suitcases, but they can be a pain to lug around the crowded airport, climbing those stairs or building without life (a common occurrence in Europe), waiting to fetch them at the carousel, etc.

To avoid hefty luggage fees along with those problems, travelling light with a backpack is the definitive way to experience travel and your destinations in a new light. You will enjoy hands-free manoeuvrability and can easily move from the train platform to the city street and the hiking trails

Travellers will also get easy access to their water bottles, keys, boarding passes, passports, etc., thanks to outer pockets and good organisation. Plus, without the wheels and rolls, a backpack allows you to bring more within your 7kg carry-on restrictions.

Choose one of the traveller-tried-and-tested CabinZero backpacks now to see the magic. And if you want to make your travel even more hassle-free and enjoyable, pick a shoulder bag and/or travel accessories.

One Week Before Flying

It’s high time you take a look at everything with fresh eyes. Besides the steps below, you may want to repeat the above steps to ensure nothing obvious gets unchecked (double-check is the keyword here, and we will say it many times throughout the article).

10. Begin Packing Your Stuff

air travel checklist - CabinZero

Have a packing checklist and start packing early for your trip.

It’s time to put your pre-air travel checklist to good use. Again, check your airline’s luggage restrictions so you don’t have to deal with surprised fees at the airports (which is something we want to help you avoid at all costs).

Another good practice is to layer everything in front of the suitcase since this helps you keep track of your travel essentials. As a rule of thumb, you should try to pack only half of your packing list. Plus, leave room for last-minute items like chargers, toiletries, and some souvenirs to bring home.

11. Pack Essentials In Your Carry-on

Packing essentials in your carry-on can make your flight much more comfortable and ensure you have everything you need at a moment’s notice. While you are at it, keep in mind the TSA lowdown. You know the drill: no more than 3.4 ounces of liquid in a separate, clear quart-sized bag to go through the security.

  • Your passport, ID, travel insurance, flight tickets, and any necessary travel documents should be in an easily accessible pocket.
  • Also, bring any prescription medications in their original containers, along with a copy of the prescription.
  • Your smartphone, charger, headphones, and other gadgets you might need also go here.
  • Pack your small toiletry bag with travel-sized essentials.

One of our most trustworthy packing hacks is to carry one set of fresh clothes (along with undies, of course), so you’ll at least have something to resort to when your luggage is delayed or lost. 

12. Sign Up For Expedited Programs

Forget about the dreaded security check and annoying queue jumpers by using TSA Precheck or Global Entry as a shortcut. Being a member of either of these programs means you will go through a shorter security line with less waiting time. There's no need to remove your laptop or liquids from your bags and jacket and shoes for scanning, either. 

If you fly often, they will be your game-changer. Some credit cards like the Bank of America Premium Rewards or Capital One Venture also offer reimbursement for your application fee. 

13. Prepare Your Passports, IDs & Visas 

It’s time to get your essential travel documents ready in one secure place. They are visas, passports, itineraries, insurance, confirmation numbers and tickets. Put all of them in your wallet if there’s enough space. Otherwise, try to have designated bags or folders for them and their printouts (if any).

14. Buy Travel Insurance

air travel checklist - CabinZero

Unforeseen events can ruin your trip, but travel insurance makes it more bearable. IG: @fernandas

Is travel insurance worth it? The answer is 100% yes, especially if you’ve already paid a large sum for a nonrefundable trip. From flight delays, and stolen/lost luggage to unexpected health issues, travel insurance can compensate you with some of the expenses you’ve paid. Or at least, you have extra peace of mind when enjoying your long-awaited getaway.

Most major credit cards offer insurance for delays, cancellations, and lost baggage. If you want an extra sense of security, you can also purchase extra insurance, such as emergency medical evacuation.

15. Double Check And Size Up Your Luggage

Even when you're confident with your memory, it's still worth double or even triple-checking your luggage. This will save you from hunting for your favourite colour care shampoos that are hard to find far away from home.

If you're a frequent flyer, you are no longer a stranger to the airline's size and weight allowance for carry-ons. But it's worth double-checking the rules once more before your departure in case your airline updates its baggage restrictions unexpectedly. After that, check your bag’s dimensions and weight to make sure they're perfectly aligned with the policies.

16. Check-In Online (And Drop Your Bags, If Possible)

Why join the queue at the airport's kiosk or check-in desk when you can freely do it online in the comfort of your home? Simply download your airline's app, enter your reservation info and proceed to the check-in step. You can do this task up to 24 hours before departure with many airlines.

It’s also possible to pre-pay for your checked bags online before your flight. And you can even check your bags early with the drop bag services. Well, one (or two) fewer things to worry about on the day of flying, you're welcome!

During this step, you are likely to see a prompt suggesting you pay for seat selection. You may skip this, as airlines typically put everyone who checks in together/in a group near each other, although this is not always the case.

17. Pack Your Snacks

air travel checklist - CabinZero

Snacks are a must-to-bring for budget-savvy or health-conscious travellers

Unless you’re flying with a first-class or business ticket, there is probably not any meal served during your flight. That's why it's always a great idea to pack your own snacks and meals

Eating your own food also helps you freely customise it to dietary preferences, which is more important than ever when you are trying to adjust yourself between two time zones. 

Our to-go snacks are fried fruits and nuts, protein bars, beef jerky and crackers. When packing your food, remember the TSA rules to avoid bringing what is considered liquids or non-permissible.

One Day Before Your Flight

With just 24 hours until your flight, the anticipation of your adventure is likely reaching a fever pitch. But before you get swept away in daydreams of exotic locations, a little pre-flight prep goes a long way. 

18. Real-Time Flight Status

Download your airline app (you might already have it for check-in online) and sign up for any updating alerts about your flights. This means you will be the first to know if the flight is delayed, the gate is changed, or the security lines seem to process longer than usual. FlightStats also helps you with constantly updated flight status, so you won't like missing out on any airport event. 

19. Charge Your Gadgets

Dead gadgets can ruin the entire trip, or at least those long-haul flights where you have nothing to do for entertainment. You can charge your laptop or cameras one day or hours before departure so they are fully charged when you jet off. We always recommend carrying a power bank to get your devices juiced up at all times.

20. Prepare Some Backup Entertainment


air travel checklist - CabinZero

Your time on the plane is always better with a good book or two. IG: 

While most aeroplanes today offer onboard entertainment on the TV seats, we still recommend bringing your backup. It might be your favourite book or a TV show you put off bing-watching for a long quite.

Airliner’s headphones are still things that need a lot of improvements, so make sure you pack your Bluetooth headphones to connect with your in-flight entertainment. Still want to enjoy streaming content instead? There are many carriers offering wifi on board.

21. Dress Right For The Flight

Unless you're jumping onto the plane during the last minutes in a tight suit that you don't have time to change, always wear loose-fitting clothes for a comfortable flight. Also, choose a breathable fabric, as this helps you sleep and rest easily onboard.

The same goes for shoes. Find a pair that you can easily slip into and off so you can go through the TSA check with more ease. On long-haul flights, you will also want to remove your shoes for your feet to breathe. To top it all off, consider compression socks - one of the must-have flight travel accessories - for an even better time.

22. Arrange Your Transport 

air travel checklist - CabinZero

By pre-arranging your Uber, you'll only need to grab & go when it's time. Photo Credit: Joey Lee 

Before your exciting trip, monotonous chores such as planning transport to and from the airport might take the back seat. But don't ignore them.  To save cost, you might ask a friend or family member to drive you to the airport. Yet, when there are no helping hands available on that date, an Uber or cab is the way to go. 

When booking, you can schedule a pickup beforehand so that when it's time, you'll only need to grab and go. Don't forget to arrange transport to your hotel when you arrive at your destination as well.

23. Secure Your Home Before Heading Out

Take a glance at your fridge and pantry. There are definitely some perishables, leftovers, and rotting potatoes waiting for you to take them out for quite a while. 

This might sound like a no-brainer, but you should check whether your devices and appliances are plugged in. To avoid the dreadful electricity bills, shut off and unplug all the devices you won't use while away. 

Depending on the season, set your thermostat to the ideal temperature to save energy. For example, in winter, you can lower your bills by keeping the thermostat hovering around 15 to 18 degrees.

Last but not least, tell your trusted neighbour or buddy you're out of town so they can keep an eye on your house. Have a thoughtful plan for your in-house plants and pets, too. 

At The Airport

The exciting holiday is getting closer and closer. But don’t forget to employ the following strategies for a 100% fun and smooth air travel experience.

24. Arrive With Time To Spare

Don't try to cut it close, as arriving too late means you might not check in your luggage. Many airlines have their cut-off time for checking in bags, typically around 45 to 60 minutes before departure. If you arrive even later, you might miss your flight.

Most airlines recommend that passengers arrive 2 hours before departure for domestic flights and 3 hours for international ones (or you can arrive even earlier, but it’s not always recommended).

25. Lounge Around

air travel checklist - CabinZero

Booking an airport lounge for better comfort and amenities during your waiting time. Photo By Viacheslav Yakobchuk -

Book an airport lounge to kill time during long flight delays or layovers. With free food and drinks and comfortable chairs, airport lounges help you retreat from the crowded gates of the airport.

You can gain lounge access with Priority Pass or some premium credit cards like the Platinum Card from American Express. Many airlines also offer a day pass for non-frequent flyers. 

26. Try To Snag An Upgrade

When flights are under-booked, and there are still some business or first class left, the airline will normally offer them at a discount. During the last minutes, you can check how full the flight is for a better chance to get an upgrade for your seat. But that’s not all; there are various ways to get your sweet spot in the first-class cabin.

On Board

Now, the real thing is (almost) here, and it’s just a flight away. Here are some more tips and tricks to keep yourself in tip-top shape once you land.

27. Try To Adjust To The New Time Zone

Be extra prepared if this is your first time flying across multiple time zones. You can download apps like Timeshifter or Entrain to have a plan for getting yourself familiar with your destination time zone. You can do this a few days before jetting off. 

To avoid surprise, after boarding, set your smartphone or watch to the local hours. On a red-eye flight, bring your own sleeping kit so it's easier for you to fall asleep on the plane. Try to sleep as long as possible or you'll deal with extreme fatigue landing the next morning. 

28. Get Up And Stretch Your Legs

air travel checklist - CabinZero

Doing some simple stretches helps you feel better during the flight and while landing. Photo By undrey -

This is especially helpful for long-haul flights, where sitting a long time in a cramped space can lead to blood clogs. So, it's important to do your in-flight fitness. Simple stretches like spreading out your toes or flexing your feet and calf muscles will get your blood moving. You can also stand up and walk around once an hour.

Get Going!

The excitement before a big trip is palpable, but it can also be overwhelming trying to remember everything you need to do. Humans like us are forgetful creatures sometimes, and that's why having an air travel checklist before jetting off can remove the stress out of your way. 

We hope this air travel checklist can help you simplify your next trip. If you still have any questions about anything related to this topic, from document protocol to the packing process, feel free to drop your comments right below. See you in our next post!


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