There are two common emotions when planning for your first flight alone. There is the excitement that you are going on a grand solo adventure and testing your skills as a traveler. On the other hand, there is also the anxiety that comes with first time flying alone. Even if you are fine with the idea of leaving the ground, there is a lot to get your head around. The check-in and security procedures are daunting to anyone with no previous experience, and the airport isn’t always the most welcoming place.
If this all sounds familiar, don’t worry. There are steps you can take to make your first flight alone a lot less scary and easier to manage. Here are some airport tips for first time flyers.
- Creating Your Checklist For Your First Time Flying Alone
- What To Do The Day Before The Flight
- What To Do The Night Before The Flight
- What To Do The Morning Of The Flight
- What To Do When You Get To The Airport
- Tips For Boarding The Plane And Settling In
- Tips For Handling The Flight Itself
- Prepare For The Expected But Know That It Will All Be Fine
Creating Your Checklist For Your First Time Flying Alone
The process of your first time flying on a plane is long and complex. We can’t pretend that this isn’t an overwhelming experience because there are so many things to remember, and anxious thoughts are sure to race through your mind. One of the best ways to tackle this is by breaking your first flight alone into stages and understanding what to do at each point. You can check them off as you go and know you are much closer to reaching your destination and a deserved break.
It might even be helpful to have a physical checklist on hand where you can literally cross them off one by one. This also creates a nice record of what to expect, so you don’t miss anything and get some unexpected surprises. So, let’s start from the very beginning, which is the day before you even go near a plane.
What To Do The Day Before The Flight
Preparation is key when working yourself up to face your first flight alone. The more you know and the more you have already under control, the easier it will be. This means familiarizing yourself with as much as possible so that it is familiar when you encounter it.
For example, you might want to look at the floor plan to help with navigating the airport. This way you know where the check-in desk and security areas are in relation to the entrance. Some airports can feel a bit like a labyrinth so this can really help. The same goes for your destination airport so you can easily find baggage reclaim and the nearest taxi rank or public transport link.
Seasoned travelers also recommend downloading the app for your airline so you have an easy reference for all their rules and regulations. Apps can also provide notifications for when you can check in, flight information, and other helpful alerts. This helps because many companies offer an online check-in system 24 hours before a flight. You can get that part out of the way from the comfort of your home and get your digital boarding pass. This also allows you to pick your seat in advance. Go for a window seat before they are all snapped up!
Another tip for preparing for the flight the day before is to watch a safety briefing video. This can ease your mind about how all the safety features work before you’re expected to find your seat and fit a seatbelt.
What To Do The Night Before The Flight
With everything in order, you can then spend the night finishing packing. Make sure that your cabin luggage is well-organized, with everything you will want in easy reach. This includes vital devices, medication, and paperwork. Ensure you don’t violate the rules about sharp objects and liquids in your carry-on bag. Also, make sure you haven’t exceeded the maximum weight or dimensions. Each airline is a little different, so double-check their website.
With your mind at ease about the safety procedures, how to navigate the busy airport, and checking in, you can sleep more soundly. Try and get to sleep at a decent time, so you aren’t sleep deprived while dealing with the airport. Make sure all devices are charging, and you’ve set your alarm with enough time to get ready and get to the airport.
What To Do The Morning Of The Flight
Get up with time to have as leisurely a morning as you can. Rushing around in a panic isn’t going to help those first-flight nerves. Enjoy a nice breakfast because you might not find the time or anywhere with a decent option at the airport. Have a nice shower so you are refreshed and not feeling too grimy sitting in that plane for the duration of the flight.
Dress in an outfit that you know will be comfortable and practical enough for both the journey and your first afternoon at your destination. This also means being mindful of any metal elements that might be an issue in security.
Speaking of the destination, it is a good idea to get yourself in their timezone before you leave. Frequent flyers will pretend they are already on that schedule and change the time on their watch when they board the plane. This helps trick your mind into accepting the real time when you reach your destination. This isn’t so necessary for a trip coast to coast but can make a big difference when heading over to Europe or Asia. Just make sure to keep an eye on the accurate time at home, so you don’t start running late.
On that note, you want to make sure to get to the airport well in advance of your flight time. This can be frustrating as you might end up waiting around for a while. But, it is better to be checked in and past security with time to spare than rushing through the system and hearing your flight call. Different airlines will have their own guidelines on when to arrive. 2 hours before the flight is best to give you enough time to handle everything without cutting it fine.
Make sure to leave with enough time to get to the arrivals area of the airport. This might take longer than expected in bad traffic. It is a good idea to take a taxi that will drop you right at the door and won’t mess up the route. Friends and family offering to see you off might stall for time, arrive late, or just make you panic more.
What To Do When You Get To The Airport
If you have been able to check into the airport online the day before, this step shouldn’t be so difficult. If you couldn’t, you need to go and find a check-in desk. Have your ID ready for inspection, even if this is a short domestic flight where you don’t need a passport. Answer all the questions honestly and hand over any luggage that needs to be checked in.
Be prepared to feel some anxiety at this point. It isn’t nice watching your belongings disappear on that conveyor belt, and it makes it all more real. But, you will see it at the reclaim on the other side.
Another aspect of handling the airport that is anxiety-inducing is the security procedure. The more prepared you are before you get to the detectors and TSA agents, the better. Take off your coat and belt ready to hand over. This will prevent any hold-ups and too many questions at the scanner. Remove keys and money from your pockets. Your belongings will pass through one scanner while you go through another. If it beeps, don’t panic. They will check you over, figure out the anomaly, and wave you through. Then you can redress and sort out your belongings in your own time.
At this point, you should be checked in and through security with plenty of time to spare. You might not have a clear indication of which gate you need yet. But your preparations the day before mean you have a good idea about navigating the airport. You can use this time to relax with a book or mobile game, or you can explore the shops and any cafes in the area. Maybe grab a coffee and watch the planes land. Make the most of this time and the unique experience.
Tips For Boarding The Plane And Settling In
Eventually, you will make it to your gate and get ready for boarding and your first time flying on a plane. Be prepared to listen out for your seat number as they board the plane in sections. Also, expect to find people trying to cut in line so they can board first.
The process of getting onto the plane will depend on the airport and the position of the plane in relation to the gate. You might walk a short distance out to the plane steps that correspond with your seat number. Or you might be at an international airport with those connecting bridges that take you straight onto the plane. These are great in bad weather. In other cases, you might have an exceptionally short trip in a shuttle bus.
Once you are onboard and have found your seat you can start to get comfortable. If you struggle to locate the seat, the cabin crew will be more than happy to guide you. Take the time to stow your bag safely, either in the overhead locker or under the seat in front. Take out anything you will want for the duration, such as a book or travel pillow.
Then you can put on your seatbelt and mentally prepare for take-off. If you are anxious, distract yourself by watching the goings-on on the tarmac from your window, reading the in-flight magazine, or trying some breathing exercises.
It won’t be long before the safety demonstration, and the plane starts moving. Even though you watched the video the night before, be courteous to the cabin crew and pay attention. They might even make it entertaining.
Tips For Handling The Flight Itself
Now that you are strapped into your seat, and the plane is making its way to the runway, it won’t be long until you are airborne. It is a good idea to immerse yourself in this feeling because there isn’t anything like your first take-off. It is exhilarating to feel the plane rise up and watch the ground shrink away.
Soon the pilot will call for the seatbelt signs to be switched off. However, it is important to remember that it is best to keep it on for safety reasons. You can get up to get things from your bag or to go to the toilet. Those toilets aren’t as scary as you might have been told.
The next step is just to enjoy your first time flying alone. Depending on the duration and the onboard facilities, you might get to enjoy a meal and a movie. Don’t forget that you should mentally be in a different time zone now. So this might be a late dinner rather than lunch.
The final tip for a comfortable flight is to prepare for some bumps along the way. Turbulence is a common part of flying, just like going over a bump in the road. It feels odd but is nothing to worry about. The bump when you land will be more violent, so prepare for that but remember that the pilot is in full control.
Prepare For The Expected But Know That It Will All Be Fine
No one can promise that every flight will be perfect and uneventful. There may be a textbook procedure for every step of the process, but life doesn’t always work like that. Perhaps the TSA agents want to check your bag even if you did everything right. Perhaps there will be some blip in a system somewhere that throws things out of line. Perhaps you’ll be seated next to the passenger from hell. The trick is to appreciate the possibility and calmly let them go when they happen.
These airport tips for first time flyers are a good basis, but be open to what happens. Go with the flow, and don’t be afraid to ask for assistance if you get lost or confused. You aren’t the only one feeling that way. Step by step you will get through the airport and onto your flight to your dream destination.
Once you land, you will look back at the morning’s adventure and wonder why you were so worried. With this first time flying alone under your belt, the return journey should be a piece of cake. Then there will be nothing stopping you from traveling alone in the future.