The number of international flights has doubled since March, but many feel anxious about flying again.  How to prepare for an international flight

The number of international flights has doubled since March, but many feel anxious about flying again. How to prepare for an international flight

Your friends’ Instagram profiles are flooded with pictures of sunsets in Greece.

Facebook feeds are packed with high school acquaintances enjoying wine and gelato in Italy.

It’s not just you – it’s summer in Europe. Which means that almost everyone you know is on vacation.

But for many, traveling during the pandemic brings feelings of dread and anxiety.

If you’re feeling unprepared for the administration that comes with planning a trip abroad, here’s how to quell those travel nerves when you decide to take off.

Do I need travel or health insurance?

Travel insurance is as important as your passport, according to CHOICE’s head of money and travel, Jodi Both.

Flight delays, cancellations and lost luggage are only a fraction of the inconveniences travelers face.

Travel insurance can cover these and more.

“If not travel insurance, then medical insurance is an absolute must,” Both said.

Think about what could happen if you get covid-19 on holiday.

Depending on where you are, you may need to isolate yourself or go to hospital for treatment, which affects accommodation, transit and the people you travel with.

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It may be a good idea to consider travel insurance before you travel abroad.(ABC)

Despite working in the travel industry for more than 20 years, head of terminal operations at Brisbane Airport Corporation Stacey Pollard says she still gets comprehensive travel and health insurance.

Both Mr Both and Ms Pollard recommend by using the Australian Government’s Smartraveller website to research the requirements of the country you are visiting to better understand the type of travel insurance you need.

When should I arrive before my international flight?

When you’re meeting at the airport: everyone’s favorite game to play.

Your sister says three hours before the flight. Your friend says two. And your father? He says four.

“A lot of people I see coming into the international airport arrive five or six hours before their flight opens and there’s just no one there to help them,” Pollard said.

Mr Both said it’s all about keeping up to date with the latest information from the airline you’re flying with.

“They will often post flight updates on the website or social media pages,” he said.

As a general rule, you should leave at least four hours before your flight.

A long line of people queue with their luggage inside a terminal in London.
Arriving at the airport too early can sometimes be a negative.(Reuters: Henry Nicholls)

And yes, there is such a thing as getting to the airport “too early”.

Mr. Both said this not only means you have to sit and wait for hours, but it can also cause overcrowding problems, which you don’t want to expose yourself to.

What’s the deal with flight cancellations? Should I be worried?

Ms Pollard says international flights look fairly stable, but domestic flights “could be a different story”.

“What we find is that most of the cancellations are due to crew shortages,” she said.

“In pre-COVID times, you didn’t have this problem. If a flight was cancelled, it was usually due to an engineering concern.”

says Mrs. Pollard the airline is usually aware of any crew shortages in advance.

“Again, check in with your airline and check your flight details before you’ve even left the house to make sure you’re up to date with any changes.”

Be on the lookout for Uber cancellations and carpool delays

If you’re thinking about using a rideshare service to get you to the airport, make sure you have a plan B.

Rising fuel costs and increased demand as travelers return to pre-pandemic habits are leading to more Uber cancellations.

So before opening a ride-sharing service app, make sure you’ve looked at all your options, including:

  • Air train/shuttle bus: Most states have their own direct train and/or bus connections between domestic and international airports – for less than half the cost of an Uber.
  • Ask someone you know to drop you off: If you have a friend or family member who lives not too far away from you (and is kind enough to give you a ride), they can drop you off at the terminal.

Worried about losing your luggage? Consider a digital bag tag

Thanks to the digital age we live in, things like electronic bag tags exist.

There are various battery-free, permanent bag tags on the market. Qantas even has its own Q Bag Tags.

These codes work by getting you to check in online through your airline. It then syncs your details on your boarding pass with your luggage.

A group of luggage in different colors lined up on a wooden floor.
Passenger luggage piled up outside Terminal 2 at London’s Heathrow Airport last month.(Reuters: Henry Nicholls)

How can I be sure I get the cheapest flights?

Ms Pollard has a trip to the US planned for the end of October. She was getting ready to book flights one night when she decided to wait until the next day.

“I woke up the next morning and the same flights were $650 cheaper,” she said.

Ms Pollard recommends the following:

  • Set up flight alerts from online travel sites like Expedia and Skyscanner
  • Sign up for email or push notifications when travel websites have sales
  • Monitor these sites and their social media accounts daily
  • Explore alternative modes of travel: Pollard says that while direct flights are good, you should also consider connecting flights

“How far in advance you book your flight also has an impact on the price you pay,” Pollard said.

“For some, six months before the flight may be the cheapest option. For others, it may be three months.”

Airport security belt with bags to be x-rayed
Pollard regularly sees people arriving at security with their electronics still in their bags, which keeps up the line.(Reuters: Denis Balibouse)

Airport arrival tips from the pros

Be patient and understand that the process is slower than normal

Both said that during the first shutdowns in 2020, there were reports that the airline industry and international travel would return to the 2019 state in 2024.

“It actually looks pretty accurate,” he said.

“Within a year or two, we’ll start to get back to normal.”

Brush up on airport security rules

Ms Pollard recalls countless times seeing people arrive at the security screening area with no idea what they are supposed to do.

“The amount of people I see coming up to security with their electronics still in their bags, their jackets not taken off or their belts not removed,” she said.

“They end up delaying and holding up a queue of people who are also feeling rusty and restless.”

Ms Pollard says that when you arrive at the airport, ask yourself: How can I help this process to be as smooth as possible?

  • Remove all electronic equipment from your luggage and place it on a tray
  • Place liquids, aerosols and gels in a clear snap-lock bag for scanning and presentation of powders separately
  • Remove your shoes or belt if you think there may be a metal arc or steel cap that could set off the detector

Find your gate and familiarize yourself with your surroundings

When you’re out of security, don’t park yourself at the nearest coffee shop for the next few hours only to panic at the boarding gate.

Find your airport gate first so you can easily get back to it.

Boarding gates are usually open 20 to 40 minutes before the flight leaves.

So after grabbing a bite to eat or a book to read, get to your gate within this time frame.

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