Nothing can truly prepare someone for jumping out of a plane! The experience is so far removed from everyday reality that it is, in actuality, beyond mental preparation. You just have to be safe in the knowledge that you are in good hands, with an instructor who has probably completed thousands of jumps. Apart from that all that is left is to enjoy the thrill of free-falling for thousands of feet through the air, with the spectacular views of an eagle, and the rush of endorphins and adrenaline that is sure to get you pumping.
How To Organize It
The first step to sorting out your skydiving experience is to find a suitable dropzone. These can be searched on the internet. If you are in the US for example, the US Parachutes Association website will help you to locate the nearest dropzones, and give information on options for locations. For other countries a simple search will help find the equivalent organization. You may want to go for the nearest dropzone, or you might have a specific preference of a place in mind, perhaps a certain scenery that you want a birds-eye view of.
The cost will vary across countries, companies, and type of jump. A tandem jump is the most popular for a first timer, and you can expect to pay around $250-300 for one. Other jumps may be considerably more expensive depending on the level of training required, among other factors.
You could also consider doing a skydive for charity. Remember, a skydive is an extreme feat, and not one that everyone has the courage to do. People respect that, and many will happily sponsor your jump. It may be a brilliant opportunity to raise some money for charity whilst pumping some adrenaline; a win-win for everyone!
There are many skydives available and it all depends on how much commitment you want to put into training, and how much money you want to spend. As with most activities beginners are advised to enjoy the experience first, and get a feel for whether skydiving is to become a long term hobby. For many people skydiving is more likely a bucket-list type experience, and is likely to be considered a bit of a one off; for now at least!
The skydive most recommended for first timers is the tandem. In a tandem you will be strapped to a qualified instructor who will take care of all of the technical aspects of the dive, leaving you free to enjoy the ride! It only requires 30 minutes to an hour of training, and a short briefing before the skydive, making it perfect for those who just want to go for a quick free-fall.
Another alternative is the Accelerated Free fall Level One, which requires training of 5 or 6 hours. In this skydive you jump out with your own parachute, not attached to an instructor, but with two instructors jumping with you to help with body positioning and opening the chute, and another one on the ground assisting with the landing. Also an exciting jump, and suitable for beginners, the Accelerated Freefall is a little more costly, and time consuming.
Where to Skydive?
You might want to skydive in the nearest dropzone location. The experience is similarly exhilarating wherever you decide to jump. However, some people may have a preference, somewhere they would like to see from above, and somewhere they would like to travel to anyway. Skydiving can be done in most places in the world, but will be scarce in some of the most remote, or economically deprived countries. You won’t find much in Africa, nor in the Antarctic, but most places on Earth will have some available options. New Zealand and Australia are rife with extreme sports and skydiving.
On the Day
All that is needed on the day is for you to arrive in good time to the meeting place for the skydive. Arrive a little early for courtesy, and to help the day run smoothly, but be patient; instructors have a lot to deal with and sometimes you may be required to wait for the weather to clear. You will need to dress suitably for the weather on the ground; the adrenaline will keep you warm in the air anyway!
Worst case scenario with the conditions, and the jump might be cancelled. Do not be too disappointed. Remember, skydiving, whilst statistically pretty safe, is an extreme and crazy idea. Respect the knowledge of the experts if they say the conditions are not right. They will book you for another day anyway.
If all is well you will be flown up to a height of several thousand feet, attached to the instructor (in a tandem at least), and will then be told to exit the plane. The last foot that you push off from the plane with will be your last touch with reality for several minutes as you freefall through the air with grace and adrenaline, feeling the air as it rushes over you, and watching the earth below gradually come closer into view.
None! There is nothing to truly prepare you for such an extreme experience. If you have got this far, and have signed up to jump, then hopefully you are mentally prepared, or mentally deranged enough to make the jump out of the plane. That is pretty much all you need to do, and the rest is so surreal that no amount of mental preparation will account for it. Just enjoy, what can only be the most far-out human experience that can be done; the skydive!