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Do you need advice on flying alone?
Then you’ve arrived at the right post. As a fearful flyer, I’m also a big planner when it’s time to pack my bags and go to the airport. Travel days are intimidating for me – without a doubt. Sometimes I’ll feel anticipatory anxiety as much as a week before my departure date.
Now you would think with many solo flights, both domestic and international, under my belt that I’d be used to flying alone and “get over” any apprehension. NOPE. You’d be dead wrong, my friend. I’m glad I still travel despite my flight anxiety, but it’s not easy and I completely get that you’d rather teleport or take a luxury cruise rather than fly alone. Too bad neither of them are feasible options. Although I wish the human race would invent teleportation … and soon.
Not to mention, flying anxiety is even more intense when you’re fighting security lines, wandering unfamiliar airports, lugging a backpack the size of a toddler on your spine, and boarding scary huge metal tubes with no one except your panicky self for company. I’ve been there. Multiple times.
But I’m not helping, am I? Sorry about that. Time for some positivity.
So are you flying alone soon and feel rather nervous about your upcoming trip? Maybe you’re even flying for the first time! Hopefully my sixteen tips will help reassure you that flying alone isn’t the end of the world. Be prepared and you’ll avoid any unnecessary disasters.
Tips on Flying Alone: Before You Leave
1. Know Your Flight Number
It’s common sense to already know your arrival and departure cities (otherwise you’d be a mess), but you should also know your flight’s specific number for an extra super awesome dose of reassurance. Furthermore, some cities, like New York and London, have more than one airport available. For example, New York has JFK, Newark Liberty, and LaGuardia. Knowing your flight number will ensure you end up at the proper gate. Time is of the essence in airports, after all.
2. Be TSA and Security Ready
Don’t joke around when it comes to security measures especially in airports. You don’t want to be hauled off for questioning cause you were cracking “off color” jokes in the security lines. Furthermore, make sure you follow the safety rules regarding electronics and liquids even if you disagree with them. For example, I always bring TSA approved bags for my shampoo and cosmetics. Would I like to bring a whole tub of conditioner for my hair? Sure, but I can’t. So small bottles inside a transparent bag it is. Be prepared for security ahead of time to avoid problems and delays that’ll stress you out even more.
3. Bring a Portable Charger
I don’t know what it is about airports, but the lack of 21st century help is mind boggling to me. For example, everyone travels with cellphones. Why aren’t there outlets at the gates? Whyyyy? Or, even more frustrating, some gates only have two available outlets inevitably surrounded by groups the size of a small field trip huddled around them? Argh, so annoying. Avoid this frustration and pack your very own portable charger in your carry on bag. A dead cellphone battery is the last thing you want.
4. Call Someone You Love
Feel lonely and scared at the airport? Then pick up your phone and call someone who understands you! I always call my parents before I board my flights alone. Talking to them gives me an extra reassuring boost of bravery. Reach out to people. You’ll feel much less alone. And don’t feel embarrassed about your worries when it comes to flying solo either. As I’ve written on this blog, flying fears are very common and nothing worth wrapping in a thick layer of shame.
5. Keep Your Passport and Essentials Close
Don’t pack your passport (or other ID) and other essentials, such as medicine or emergency contact numbers, into your checked luggage. Just don’t do it. I’m serious about this. What if you experience a health scare mid-flight? What if someone decides to steal your passport making you unable to legally enter the country? You’ll be SOL, as the kids say. All necessary items need to go into your carry-on bag, enough said.
6. Do NOT Fall Asleep in the Terminal
I know. You’re tired. Believe me, I understand travel fatigue all too stinkin’ well. There’s nothing quite like teaching all day and then waiting at the gate for an overnight international flight knowing you won’t sleep even five minutes. So, yeah, I understand. However, you should try and avoid falling asleep at the terminal as a solo flyer. No one will wake you up when it’s time for boarding or if the gate should happen to unexpectedly change. You’re responsible for yourself. Don’t rely on other people to warn you.
7. Watch the “Departure” Boards
Gates unexpectedly change for no reason. A sudden gate swap happened to me on my most recent trip to Seattle. I had to walk all. the. way. across Newark Liberty’s Terminal C, which took close to 15 minutes. I would’ve been in trouble had I ignored the boards and waited til the last second to get on my plane. So keep an eye on the departure board for your gate. Again, you’re responsible for yourself. It stinks but self-reliance is part of the package when you choose to fly alone.
Tips on Flying Alone: On the Plane
1. Pick the Correct Seat
Believe it or not, a lot of people sit in the wrong place upon boarding the plane. I’ve actually seen arguments break out over someone in the incorrect seat, haha. Unbelievable, right? My advice to solo flyers (and really ALL flyers) is to double check your seat number prior to boarding. Airlines move around people all the time even if you reserved a seat ahead of time. Frustrating, but not much we can do about it. Don’t hesitate to ask the flight attendants if you’re not too sure where to go. They’ll be happy to help you.
2. Don’t Hassle the Flight Attendants
Speaking of the flight attendants, these poor people put up with a lot of nonsense on a regular basis. Rude passengers, vomiting passengers, frightened passengers (aka me). Don’t make their job more difficult. For instance, lift your own bags and place them into the overhead bins, even when you’re alone with exhausted muscles and limbs. Make the flight attendants happy and they’ll make you happy in return.
3. Talk to Your Seatmates, but Know When to Back Off
Sometimes sitting quietly for an eight hour flight is boring. Booooooring. It’s understandable to want to chat because let’s face it: having a companion to talk to eases one’s nerves, too. So make conversation with your seatmates, but only if they’re willing to talk to you too. For some people, it’s annoying to make small talk with strangers, so stay aware of those social cues and back off if necessary. However you might end up making a brand new friend on your adventure! Yay!
4. Don’t Block the Aisles
Fellow solo flyers, don’t block the aisles at any time before, during, or after a flight. Keeping the aisles clear is actually a safety procedure. I know, I know. You’re only one person. How much space could you possible take up? Believe me, those aisles are narrow. Chill in your seats and only move around the cabin when you absolutely need to. The flight attendants will love you for it.
5. Be a Respectful Flyer
Even as a solo flyer, not being a jerk is a simple action and one that’s much appreciated by everyone on the plane. Being respectful includes not bringing smelly food on the plane, talking or playing music loudly, hogging the arm rests, reclining your seat alllll the way back during meal times, nudging the seat in front of you, and repeatedly blocking the aisles.
Nervous? Check out these 43 Tips for Fearful Flyers
Tips on Flying Alone: After You Arrive
1. Fill Out Your Landing Card
Some countries require you to complete a landing card. Notably, the United Kingdom and United States require all passengers to fill in this card prior to going through customs. Bring a pen with you to avoid any delays. Knowing your flight number will also help you complete the card faster. Be prepared ahead of time.
2. Double Check Your Connections
Delays and gate changes might have happened while you were en route to your next destination. After you arrive, be sure to check the boards for any essential updates. This tip is especially important if you have a tight connection coming up. You don’t want to run in circles.
3. Thank the Pilots and Crew
Your pilots and crew work hard to make a safe and smooth journey a reality for you and other passengers. As a solo flyer, appreciate these people and say “thank you” upon disembarking the plane. Keep in mind saying “thank you” is much different than clapping. Do not clap. It’s condescending, haha.
4. Call Home
Remember when I said to call loved ones when you’re waiting in the airport looking like a complete nervous mess? You should do the same thing now that you’ve reached your new temporary home. I’m sure your relatives want to know that you’ve safely arrived at your next destination. Give them a quick call or send a text message. You’ll feel so proud of yourself for flying alone despite your fears. Rock on, traveler!
What are your best tips on flying alone? Share all your suggestions in the comments. And remember, kiddos, don’t feel afraid to fly! It’ll all be okay at the end of the day.