Flying alone for the first time can be daunting. There are so many emotions that come with it – excitement, fear, anxiety. “What if I don’t know how to do anything? How will I survive on a plane by myself? What if I can’t sleep?” And the list goes on….
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It’s easy to look at someone who is flying solo and think they are a little crazy for doing so, but there are many reasons why people fly alone: some want time away from loved ones, others need space in their relationship or travel as a single parent with their kids. Personally, my reason is because of one word – adventure!
One of my favorite things about flying alone is that there’s no one around to judge what you’re doing or say “NO” when you want to try something new. You get to create your own experience and enjoy every minute of it!
Some of these may seem a little obvious, but these are all the things I wasn't sure about when I started to travel. So here's what to expect when flying alone for the first time
Table of Contents
- Before your flight
- At the airport
- The flight
- After your flight
- Flight FAQs
- 1. Is it safe to fly
- 2. Does altitude cause a headache
- 3. Can I take my own liquids
- 4. Can I bring my pet on-board
- 5. Can I use my laptop on-board
- 6. Can I use the restroom during the flight
- 7. How can I get the attention of a flight attendant
- 8. How can I stay comfortable during a long flight
- 9. What happens if I feel unwell on the flight
Before your flight
Make sure your passport is in date
Passports usually have a validity of either 5 or 10 years. Be sure to check the expiry date of your passport before you book your flight.
Many countries require you to have at least six months’ validity left on your passport in order to gain entry. You don’t want to be turned away from passport control at the airport because your passport has already expired!
Booking your flight
The pro of booking directly through the airline is that it’s easier to make changes to your flight if needs be. The pro of booking with an online travel agent is that the fares are usually cheaper.
The cheapest flights are generally found on smaller airlines, but that doesn’t mean they’re all bad. Just make sure to always read the fine print before booking – some of these airlines charge for everything!
It’s also helpful to have a good credit card with travel rewards points – it’ll save you money in the long run.
Be sure that your airline has direct flights, so there’s no layover time in between. This is important for both your sanity and the amount of time it will take to get from one place to another. But if you do have a layover, there are some things you can do: eat at restaurants that offer discounts with flight tickets, go shopping in local stores or hang out on the terminal floor.
Purchase travel insurance
Consider purchasing travel insurance just in case something goes wrong with your plans.
This is something that can be a great investment for peace of mind, especially if you’re traveling alone.
A lot of times travel insurance will cover things like cancellations or interruptions in your trip due to illness, accidents on international airlines (including lost luggage),
I highly recommend World Nomads for peace of mind with travel insurance.
Make an itinerary
To get the most out of your trip, think about what you want to do. Not only does this help plan for time on the ground but it also helps organize your thoughts and expectations while in-flight. I like to make an itinerary with events that I’m excited about doing during my stay at each destination – even if they’re just day trips.
Once you create your itinerary, set a reminder in your phone to be sure you remember your flight times!
Share your itinerary with a friend or family member just in case you need to contact them or they need to contact you in an emergency.
When you are about to travel, the first thing that you need to do is check in for your flight. You can always choose to check in at the airport but most people prefer checking in online so that you don’t have to stand in long lines and waste time.
To check in online you will have to provide all the necessary information such as your name, contact details, destination and passport details. Log into your online account and click on “Check In” to initiate the process.
The next step is choosing a seat if it is a flight with a choice of seats. Being able to choose your seat is one of the biggest perks, but we’ll cover how to choose the best seats in the next section.
After choosing your seat click continue and you will receive an email about the details once your check in is confirmed.
Some airlines will allow you to just show the confirmation email when at the airport, however some will require a printed copy of your boarding pass (and may charge you extra if you don’t have your own printed copy).
Choose the best seat
You can usually choose your seat when you check-in online. But what’s the best seat for you?
Firstly, I think the window seat is a must for everyone! Well…obviously not everyone on the flight can sit by the window, but it’s the best view in the house. There’s no sunset or sunrise like the ones you spot from up in the air.
If you’re long legged, you may wish to choose seats on exit rows. In order to figure out which seats are on exit rows, use SeatGuru, a website that offers airline seat maps and information about the layout of each plane on which they operate. It’s a remarkably helpful site.
Unfortunately some airlines do charge extra for seats with extra leg room or seats closer to the front of the plane (helpful for those who want a quick getaway off the plane).
Pack your carry-on luggage
Check your airline’s allowance for carry-on luggage. You might be surprised by how many different guidelines there are, some airlines allow up to 10kg plus a laptop bag while others only allow one piece of carry on luggage!
If you’re going on a long haul journey consider bringing your own travel pillow and blanket as well because occasionally they aren’t provided. I also much prefer using my personal items instead of the airlines.
Other items to pack in your carry-on are:
- tablet / iPad
- small toiletries to freshen up
- antibacterial gel / wipes
- change of clothes in case your luggage gets lost or delayed
- phone charger
Check out some more essentials for carry on luggage in this post.
Learn about flight safety
It is highly unlikely that you’ll need to put flight safety measures into practice. Around 100,000 flights take off and land every day across the world, so you can see the chances of anything going very wrong is very minimal.
That said, there are certain safety rules we have to stick to onboard a flight.
Seatbelts must be worn for take off and landing, and during any turbulence This is non-negotiable. Once that seatbelt sign lights up, the airline crew will walk through the cabin to check that everyone is adhering to the sign.
In unusual circumstances, the airplane cabin may suffer a loss of pressure. If this happens, oxygen masks will automatically drop down in front of passengers. Passengers can put one these masks over their face to obtain sufficient oxygen and prevent altitude sickness until the plane lands again.
What you can and can't bring on board
All airlines have restrictions on what you can and can’t bring on board a flight.
Prohibited items include: knives, scissors, razor blades, aerosols, ammunition, flammable liquid, firearms, explosives. A full list can be found on the TSA website.
Any liquids over 100ml should be packed in your check-in bags, however you can purchase water and soft drinks once you’re through security and bring them on-board. You can also bring small snacks with you.
At the airport
When to arrive at the airport
As you are flying alone for the first time, you should arrive to the airport at least 2.5 hours before your flight departs. Why so early, you might ask? You have to account for delays at check-in, baggage drop and getting through security.
In some airports, it can take half an hour just to get to your gate, and you may even need to take an underground train to get there.
As a general rule, allow about 1 hour for check-in and checking your bags. Another 30 minutes to go through security, and then you must arrive at the gate in time to sit around for another half an hour.
During busy periods, such as the holidays or during the summer, allow extra time in getting to the airport and getting through security.
If you have already checked in for your flight online, you can go straight to baggage drop once you arrive at the airport.
Some airlines have self-service baggage drop, and some you will need to go to the counter. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to use the self-service. There is always a staff member on hand to those who need assistance.
A label will be printed and attached to your bag handle. This indicates to the baggage handlers which plane your bag needs to go on. And off it goes on its little adventure! You’ll be reunited at baggage claim on arrival.
Get your liquids in order
Before you go through airport security, you will need to get any liquids in your carry-on luggage in order. This includes your travel-size toiletries, e-cigarettes and any other kind of liquid containers you might have.
All the liquids you have must fit inside a small quart-sized clear bag (you’ll find these readily available just before security). Each liquid you have must not exceed 100ml.
If you want to be greener, use a small see through toiletry bag such as this one for your liquids rather than a plastic bag which will ultimately be thrown away.
Going through airport security, you’ll need to put all your belongings through the conveyor belt scanner. You’ll have to take out your liquids and electronics from your bag and place them in separate bins.
Next, take off any jewelry or belts and put in another bin. Anything that might set the scanners off needs to be removed from your person. This can sometimes mean shoes or boots also. You’ll walk through the scanner, but don’t worry if it goes off. Often they will use a small hand held scanner to check that you have nothing prohibited on you.
While you wait for your belongings at the other side of the scanner, you might notice that they take your laptop, open it up and dust it. Don’t worry, this is normal.
When everything has gone through the scanners, you can take your bins and move to nearby benches to organize everything.
Do a little shopping
Most likely, you’ll have some time to spare now until you need to be at your gate, so it’s time for a little shopping.
Duty free shopping is one of my favorite types of shopping! You can get anything from perfumes and makeup to alcohol and cigarettes at extremely discounted prices. It’s also a great place to buy electronics.
Most airports will have places you can buy travel essentials and accessories, such as a neck pillow, luggage tags or even spare luggage.
Make sure you keep an eye on the time because the departure gate will close 40 minutes before your flight takes off. If you get there 39 minutes before your flight and the door is closed, then you’ve missed your flight. Even if the plane sits there for the next 2 hours!
Boarding your flight
Boarding the plane is pretty straightforward. They’ll scan your boarding pass and passport and you’re on your way.
As soon as you find your seat, take out whatever you need during the flight from your carry-on luggage and stow it in the overhead lockers. Then take your seat and immediately put your seatbelt on. Crew will be checking that you have your seatbelt secured before take-off.
If you’re flying alone for the first time, then take-off may seem a little unnatural, even scary. The plane taxis to the runway, then speeds up before making the steep incline.
You’ll hear strange sounds and it may be a bit bumpy, but this is all normal and nothing to worry about. Take the opportunity to look out window and watch the city below disappear.
What to do during your flight
Enjoy your movie, watch the clouds from the window or just take a nap under the comfy blanket! Also keep in mind that most airlines give you at least a snack, if not more, so this is a great time to grab some free food.
Food & drink
Most long haul flights have a meal service on-board. If you’re expecting a meal just like you would get in a restaurant then you’ll be very disappointed. The food is “airplane” food and is usually pretty bland but will keep you from starving until you reach your destination.
For shorter flights, there is usually a trolley service where you can buy snacks and drinks.
If you’re someone who gets hungry often, consider bringing extra snacks with you.
You can use the restrooms throughout the flight except during take-off, landing and when the fasten seatbelt sign is on,
The restrooms are very basic and tiny but they’re kept clean and tidy.
Turbulence is when the plane moves in a jolting motion. You may also feel a slight bump as if the pilot’s turned on the breaks. Since this is a natural condition that occurs every now and then, you should not be too scared if it happens.
Just think of it as sort of like a rollercoaster ride. It can be fun!
After your flight
After the plane lands, it will be a while before you can disembark. Usually, everyone scrambles to get out of their seats, grab their luggage from the overhead compartments, only to have to stand in line for 15 minutes while the crew prepare for opening the doors.
You’ll need to go through immigration before heading to the baggage carousels.
Finding a cab
Be sure to choose a regulated cab company when you get to your destination. Sometimes, drivers will approach you outside the airport offering to drive you to your hotel, but they usually charge excessive fees, or worse, they may not in fact be drivers.
Alternatively, while it may cost a little more, you can book a driver directly with your hotel to pick you up at the airport. They’ll wait for you at arrivals with a sign with your name on it so you can easily identify them.
1. Is it safe to fly
It’s safer to fly than drive your car. Flying is the safest form of travel compared to other modes of transportation, according to Department of Transport and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) statistics.
2. Does altitude cause a headache
Flying does not produce headaches; if you are prone to them, however, there may be factors on board besides flying itself that could contribute such as cabin pressure changes or dehydration which make your headache worse. Travelers can minimize their risk of getting a headache by drinking lots of water before your flight, bring light snacks (avoiding chocolate or food with caffeine), and not sleeping during meal times. If you are dehydrated, it may give you a stiff neck due to dryness which is more uncomfortable than a headache. You should try having some water, or try to get a drink from the flight attendants. Then if your neck is still stiff, you can ask the flight attendant for an inflatable pillow that is stored under your seats and then put it behind your head while you’re sitting.
3. Can I take my own liquids
Yes, you can bring your shampoo, body lotion and other toiletries in a zip lock bag no more than 1 quart-sized bag per person. Make sure it is 3ml or less than 100 ml for any liquid item.
4. Can I bring my pet on-board
Small pets such as dogs and cats should be transported in carrier cases. They must fit under the seat or in your lap, depending on the airline’s regulations on pet carriers.
5. Can I use my laptop on-board
Yes, as long as it fits in your carry-on luggage (You may have to put it in a checked bag, if it doesn’t). You may use your laptops and tablets in most cases. These electronics must be used with the airline’s power so make sure you do not turn them on until you are instructed to do so.
6. Can I use the restroom during the flight
Absolutely! Just not during take-off landing or when the seatbelt sign is on (usually during turbulence).
7. How can I get the attention of a flight attendant
If you need something, hit the call button above your head and wait for your flight attendant’s response. They’ll be happy to bring you a blanket, pillow, extra snacks or anything else you’d like. Please wait for the flight attendant to come by and don’t get up until they’ve reached your row first.
8. How can I stay comfortable during a long flight
The best thing to do is drink plenty of water before your flight so you don’t become dehydrated. Make sure to get up and stretch your legs too. My favorite accessory for keeping comfortable on a flight is a foot sling.
9. What happens if I feel unwell on the flight
If you are experiencing extreme pain or nausea, let the flight attandant know immediately so they can help you out as soon as possible. Also understand that this is a rare condition and most likely won’t happen to you at all.
PIN FOR LATER!
I hope this post has helped you feel reassured and confident about flying solo for the first time. You should be excited to go, not scared!
The most important thing is that you have a plan of action before your flight so that it will all run smoothly with as little stress on both yourself and those around you. Remember these tips next time you fly alone and enjoy the adventure!