The engines roar, the plane can shake and the quarters can be tight. Flying for the first time can be an unnerving experience without knowing what to expect, and even the smallest occurrences can be confusing or stressful. The key to a successful first flight is to relax and be prepared. Once you talk with others who have more flying experience, you'll likely come to dread flying not because of your fear, but simply because of the hassle.

Fear of Flying

If you’re terrified of flying or simply apprehensive, talk with your doctor about options. Both over-the-counter and prescription pills are available to help you relax, as are books and counseling to give you coping techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation. Some motion-sickness medication and other products that cause drowsiness might help, so discuss that with your doctor, as well. If you feel nauseated or dizzy, tell the cabin attendant. He or she has the benefit of years of experience with anxious flyers and may be able to help. In the worst case scenario, look for the bag inside the pocket of the seat in front of you to use if you have to vomit and can’t make it to the bathroom.

Turbulence is Usually Minor

Large passenger planes are typically very steady after takeoff. You’ll be able to get up and walk down the aisle without wobbling, but wait for the captain to turn off the seat belt light before you leave your seat. It shouldn’t feel as though the plane is moving, so in that sense it’s even more comfortable than riding a bus or the train. If the seat belt sign comes back on during a flight, it’s usually because the pilot anticipates turbulence. Although turbulence is scary, it’s rarely dangerous. Look out the window and toward the plane wings during turbulence, since the vibrations seem a lot stronger inside the cabin than they really are.

Preparing for a Flight

How comfortable your first flight experience depends partly on how well you prepare in advance. Two things you can expect to experience when you’re on a plane are dry skin and slightly swollen feet. Low cabin pressure can lead to water retention, which in turn can cause your feet to swell. To prevent this and fly more comfortably, buy in-flight socks if you have a flight longer than a few hours. They provide an even pressure distribution to prevent swelling around the ankle. Get up and walk whenever possible and wear loose, comfortable shoes.

The air in the cabin is quite dry, so you might experience excessive thirst and tight skin. Fill an empty bottle from the water fountain after you've cleared security and moisturize to help prevent dry skin.

Free pillows, blankets and neck pillows were common amenities a decade ago, but many airlines have done away with them unless you’re flying first class. Bring your own if you have a long flight ahead.

Meals on a Plane

When you book your flight, check to see if a meal is included. Food can usually be purchased on shorter flights, and meals are provided on international flights. Even though airline food has a reputation for being bland, plan on accepting a tray when the flight attendant offers it and nibble on the parts you like. Mealtime can be a welcome distraction on a flight. Bring a sandwich, protein bar or snacks with you for shorter flights and make sure that any liquids you pack meet TSA guidelines. If you have special dietary needs such as being a vegetarian or requiring Kosher food call the airline in advance so that it can accommodate you.