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Must-read tips for a first-time traveller

Are you a first-time traveller? It’s important to prepare yourself and know what to expect when travelling to another country.  As a first-timer you may experience many unnerving occurrences, which can even include what and how to pack, as well as ensuring you have a pleasant first flying experience.

Charlotte Quenet-Meintjes is head of Workaway International South Africa, a recruitment company that that has helped more than 15 000 South Africans find work at a number of five-star country clubs in the US over the past 15 years. She has seen many first-time flyers pass through the programme, and says, “For many recruits, their trip to the US was the first time they had stepped onto a plane.”

Below, Quenet-Meintjes shares a few tips on how to make your first travelling experience easy and stress-free:

1 Plan

First and foremost, planning is the most important aspect of travelling. Ensure that your passport and visa are valid, research your destination’s culture, weather and top things to do, and make sure you have all necessary items for your time away from home, including medication and other essentials.

2 Helpful items for hand luggage

A couple of familiar items included in your hand luggage – like fresh clothing, essential toiletries and a soft travel pillow – are essential to making you feel fresh on a long-haul flight.  “These items can make your journey much more comfortable and enjoyable, and many recruits even take their laptop, iPod and a book to help pass the time.”

3 Checking in and choosing a seat

As a first-time traveller you may want to check your airline’s seating plan ahead of time as this will allow you to become acquainted with how many seats are in a row and where the restrooms are, so that you know what to expect.  While most airlines advise that travellers arrive at the airport two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights, it is best to check-in online to avoid any delays on the day.  “Don’t forget to take into account the time it takes to check-in your luggage, navigate security, get through crowds during peak travel periods, and find the correct terminal.”

4 Time to fly

The increase in altitude can subject travellers to many physiological changes and low moisture levels, including dehydration which often exaggerates jetlag.  “Stay hydrated at all times and try to remain active by walking up and down the aisles or flexing and stretching your legs to encourage blood flow.  If you begin to feel anxious, speak to a flight attendant. They are used to calming nervous fliers and are there to help put you at ease,” advises Quenet-Meintjes.                       

Before you embark on your journey away from home, Quenet-Meintjes reminds us that it is important to know about the various restrictions that may apply to your luggage – from the weight limit to what you can and can’t pack. The airline, flight class and destination are all determining factors for these restrictions.  Here are a handful of dos and don’ts when it comes to packing your suitcase for international travel:

Roll your clothes instead of folding them. 

This consumes less space and prevents your clothes from creasing.

Pack clothes that can be worn more than once. 

This helps you to avoid over-packing and having to deal with too much laundry.

Keep important travel documents handy. 

A mini travel bag should hold your important documentation – passport, aeroplane ticket, travel insurance details and medical information – so that it is accessible at all times.

Don’t pack unnecessary items. 

Only pack what you really need and don’t include the “just in case” items – chances are good you will not make use of them and they will consume your luggage space.

Don’t pack prohibited items. 

If these items are found in your possession, you could find yourself in trouble. Visit the Airports Company South Africa website ( for guidelines.

Don’t pack valuable items into your checked luggage.

 Items like expensive jewellery, electronic appliances, money, credit cards, and even sentimental items like photographs should be packed with your hand luggage to avoid theft.

Before you jetset check out these 3 tips for purse-friendly travels, and make sure you download these 5 travel apps!

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