It's easy to feel nervous about your first trip alone, or just travelling alone in general. As an international student I've gotten used to this because I have to fly across oceans regularly in order to go home or see my family. So I'm sharing my tips and tricks that I've picked up throughout my solo travel to make things easier for you, in a series of posts called A Complete Guide to Solo Travel. This post is focused on flying alone, and beat the fear and boredom that this may cause. So let's get started.
There are a number of reasons you might find yourself traveling alone, and why you should consider doing it in the future.
A lot of the time, it's not a choice. Most of the times I've travelled alone it has been because I needed to get home and nobody could travel with me. It was just the only option. Sometimes things just come up and you don't always have somebody on standby ready to hop on a plane with you.
It can be surprisingly relaxing to travel alone. Plus, sometimes you might just need a solo getaway without having to think about anybody. It's a good way to just have some time to yourself, even if there may be a lot going on around you. I've done some of my best thinking during 10 hour layovers in empty airports.
It's good to step out of your comfort zone from time to time and challenge yourself to do something that makes you a little uncomfortable. Instead of going out of your way to meet somebody before a trip together, consider meeting them at the destination and using the journey as a personal experience to encourage a little growth.
Before You Travel
Now that we have the reasons why you might be alone out the way, let's get into the steps you'd need to take in order to enjoy your trip.
Know Your Schedule
When you're alone with nobody to remind you of anything I cannot stress enough how important it is to know your times and connections well. Missing a flight when you're alone can be a nightmare, so make sure you're extremely familiar with your schedule so that you'll always be in the right place at the right time.
Research The Airports
This is specific to any trips that transit through multiple places, but it's saved my life a bunch of times. Know the airports you're going to and see if there's anything important to note about their security rules or anything specific to the country they are located in. It's good to know if they have extra high security, or it's super busy and you may need to set aside more time to get through it. Or if it's very quiet and boring and you might need some extra entertainment for while you're there.
Pack Your Carry On Well
This is a topic I will cover more fully in a different post as there is so much to go through, but my biggest suggestion here is to pack light. When you're travelling alone your carry on becomes a part of you, which means the only time you put it down is when you're sitting next to it. You don't want to have to lug around 3 different bags every time you so much as go to the bathroom. Be smart and know what you need so that you avoid dropping things and feeling weighed down whenever you move.
Make a Document Checklist
If you already feel nervous about travelling alone the last thing you need is to be stressing about whether you have your passport or not. Make a short checklist of your documents that you can keep somewhere easy to see, like your phone lock screen, so that every time you change location you can quickly rattle off everything and make sure you're not forgetting something super important.
Dress for It
Dress comfy and relaxed. Don't make your trip more complicated by being uncomfortable. Wear shoes that are easy to take off for security, and have an extra layer in your carry on for when you get cold on the plane. The more prepared you are, the less stressful the trip will be.
During Your Trip
Once you're all prepped and ready to go, there are still some things you can do during your trip to make your life easier as well.
Always be Aware of Your Funds
Always have some money when you're travelling. I recommend having a bit of cash but also a card with money on it in case of issues regarding currency. Anything can happen and it's always good to make sure you have some money on you incase your bag is unexpectedly overweight or you want to buy some food.
Explore The Airport
Pass some time by walking around the duty free and checking the airport out a bit. Especially for long layover, this can be a fun way to stay entertained. I once walked around a German airport for 3 hours before finding a napping zone at the very end with a bunch of sofas and cozy places to lie down. So take a look around instead of camping in one spot for the entire wait. Also try finding a new place to eat, it's a good way to while up time and enjoy yourself, but avoid eating too much because flying while bloated is never fun.
Find Your Gate Early
I always go to my gate first once I arrive at an airport, so that I am always aware of how far I have to go to get to it. The worst thing is when you plan well and think you have plenty of time only to realize at the last minute that your gate is much further away than you anticipated, and you have to run through the airport just to make the final boarding call. Even if you have a 14 hour layover it's still a good idea to figure out where you need to end up first. You might even find that the store or restaurant you wanted to go to has another location closer to your gate anyways.
Avoid Sleeping in Airports
Try and avoid napping in the airport unless you really trust yourself to wake up in time. One of the most embarrassing ways to miss a flight is to fall asleep near your gate. Since nobody will be there to wake you up, you might be better off waiting it out. I usually try and plan my sleep around my flights, so that I sleep while I'm flying and have nowhere to go. If you absolutely cannot stay awake then I suggest setting a lot of alarms, rather risk annoying the people around you than missing your flight.
Sit Next To Families
This is a bit of a random one and should be done with caution but it has not failed me yet. When you're in an airport looking for a place to sit try sitting next to a family. The reason I do this is so that if I want to go to the bathroom without losing my seat I can ask them to keep an eye on my stuff. It's a little stereotypical and there's no hard science behind it but I find that families, particularly with younger children (5-9, any younger than that and they might have their hands full) are generally more friendly and usually have some parental instincts. They're less likely to steal from you and probably have a lot of stuff so your will fit right in and people won't realize it's unattended. In general I'd say try not to leave your stuff alone to begin with but if you're going to a bathroom 10 feet away and the seating area is packed then sometimes it's worth the risk. Sometimes.
Things to Remember (Safety Concerns)
Don't Leave your Things Lying Around
Regardless of my previous point, as much as possible, keep you things with you. Also be aware of what you're carrying. Make a mental list of everything you're holding every time you arrive in a new location so that when you stand up you know you haven't accidentally put down your bottle, or wallet. Always double check that you haven't left anything before you walk away because trust me, an airport is one of the worst places to lose something.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Airports can be big and confusing so try and make sure you know where you are and where you're going. Check directions and maps frequently so that you don't find yourself in the wrong place, and if something feels wrong then leave, or at least consult airport staff. Try not to look too lost or confused, as that will single you out as an easy target. If you need to go to the bathroom and get your bearings then do that, but don't stand around looking helpless. Play it safe, and if you feel like something is off then consider telling airport security or staff. Rather let it be a false alarm than keep quiet and find yourself in a bad situation.
Stay In Touch
Communicate with your friends or family. Update people on your travel regularly so that everybody knows your safe, and more importantly, they'll notice if you're not. Every time you land somewhere new or leave just send out a quick text to let somebody know where you are at all times. It will make you feel safe and I'm sure the people who care about you want to make sure you're alright.
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Thanks for reading, see ya in a bit!