Last summer, I undertook the gruelling orderal of flying alone and to be honest, it wasn’t that bad. So today, I’m here with my tips for flying alone.
1. Bite the bullet, get there early: One of the best ways to kill pre-travel nerves to be in the airport. I recommend getting to the airport around three/three and half hours before your flight. That way you can check your luggage with your airline, get through security and just kill time in the area around your gates. Most airports allow you to go through security around three hours before the stated boarding time on your ticket (please check for your local airport as that policy may differ) and so it’s better to go through closer to that three hour mark rather than wait and allow crowds to build up.
2. Security isn’t as terrifying as you think: When people think of airport security, they tend to think of a dark room where your bent over a stainless steel table and cavity searched. The reality is a bunch of bored looking people trying to shepherded confused tourists and verbose natives through an artificial choke point. Again, dependent on your country of travel, you will be asked to place hand luggage and shoes and coats in the x-ray queue, pass through a metal detector (or even full body scanner) and you may have a wand waved over you or maybe you’ll get a pat down. Either way, security won’t want traumatise you for life. Here are things you can do to make your trip even smoother:
- Don’t be a moron and talk about crime, terrorism or the horror stories you heard on Buzzfeed about airport security
- Prep yourself as you progress the X-ray machine- take off your jacket, empty your pockets. It saves time and it stops the queue from being held up
- Say thank you to the official at the other end, it’s polite and they’ll appreciate it.
3. Navigating an airport can vary: All airports are well signposted in a variety of languages and it isn’t hard to find your way from A to B. That said, be prepared for a curveball or two- such as Charles De Gaulle’s inter-terminal shuttle system. Even you find yourself hopelessly lost; there is staff everywhere whose job it is to make sure that you get from A to B. The best thing to do is research prior to your trip- make sure you have at least some familiarity with the airport layout at both ends of your journey.
4. Prepare yourself for a wait: If you followed my advice in point 1, you will have a wait on your hands. Make sure you have a book or two or an airplane compatible tablet. Airport approved food is also a good idea because airport food is expensive. As long as you have something to do, the waiting isn’t too bad.
5. Have everything ready: Make sure you that your bag is ready to be snatched up and rushed out to a taxi the night before your flight. Make yourself a checklist and ensure that it is completed in duplicate. If you are meeting someone on the other end, ensure that they know your flight number, estimated time of arrival and which terminal you are landing at if that affects things such as which arrivals terminal you will exiting from. If you are getting a lock for your suitcase, the TSA approved 3 digit lock is the best as it allows for a non-intrusive method of entry into your luggage if your luggage is to be searched.
6. Know your flight terminology: Finally, while not essential, it is good to know what certain terms mean; as this will help you plan your trip:
- Layover: This is a connection point on domestic flights and ranges from 30 minutes to 23 hours
- Stopover: This is a connection point on; typically, international flights and is a wait of over 24 hours.
- Courtesy phone: These are, typically, where telephones used to relay information to a specific individual. You may be asked to pick up a courtesy phone if, say, you aren’t on your flight for some reason
- Operated by: This means that your actual flight will be on the plane of a company different to the one you booked with, usually as part of a two part flight or subsidiary company. Example: Delta, operated by KLM
Have you flown alone? What advice do you have for people in that situation?