Traveling solo can be a rich and rewarding experience …. once you leave the airport. Navigating the airport to catch a flight to your destination is the key to mastering traveling on your own.
Here’s some small adjustments I’ve made to ease the stress of getting through the airport when I’m traveling solo!
Before You Head to the Airport:
- Download any travel apps such as GateGuru so you can quickly and easily get flight updates on your phone
- Make lists of what to pack and keep it light so you’re not wheeling heavy luggage
- If you’re flying through a new airport, pull up a map online to get a feel for where your airlines gates are located.
- Know which side of the airport your airline is located and arrive at the arrivals for that side of the terminal
- If you can afford it, upgrade to a better cabin and/or reserve your seat ahead of time so you can get an aisle or window
Getting to the Airport
- Driving to the airport – research and find parking with shuttle service to the airport, make a note on your phone of where your car is parked or take a picture of the nearest lot marker.
- Public transportation – get train or bus schedules ahead of time and allow enough time for delays and stops to get to the airport 1-2 hours ahead of your flight.
- Get a ride – Have a friend drop you at arrivals so you can check bags at the ticket counter, or use the ticket machines to check in.
Going Through Security
- I’ve worn flip flops on bare legs and a long flowy skirt and still had my ankles patted down! Wear whatever you feel most comfortable in. Most US airports will ask you to remove your shoes. Wear slip on shoes, sneakers or boots so you can quickly slide them on after you go through the scanner.
- Soaps and lotions containing glycerine may set off a false positive for “explosive trace detection” when you’re scanned. Keep your smile at a 5 and maintain your dignity. Try to stay calm and neutral even if you do get “patted down”.
- If I’m checking a bag, I put all my toiletries in it so I don’t have to remove liquids at the scanner. One less thing to worry about.
- Always take out your laptop or tablet and put in the bin with your bag, scarf, shoes and carryon.
In the Airport
- Take an empty water bottle and fill it up once you’re through security.
- Use a cross body bag to keep your hands free and one carryon preferably with wheels. Makes it easier to navigate bathroom stalls.
- Head to the departure gate and find a seat close to the check in desk. By all means use your phone for updates but I’d avoid getting buried in work on a laptop. It’s easy to go on auto pilot when you have a long wait. Stay alert to what’s going on around you.
Boarding the Plane
- If you’ve reserved a seat near the front of the plane, you’ll be closer to getting off first and having better access to flight services.
- Avoid drinking alcohol for many reasons. Keep your judgement clear and head off the dehydration headache.
- When reserving your seat, request a special meal. You’ll get served first and it’s a treat. (Or trick depending on which airline you fly)
- Be congenial but draw the line at long intimate conversations that could lead to awkward situations once you deplane (we’ve all been there)
Your Destination Airport.
- I recommend when traveling internationally, to arrange for transportation from the airport ahead of time. Don’t necessarily rely on grabbing a taxi or Uber.
- When I flew solo into London last year, I arranged for a car to meet me at Heathrow. Check with your hotel, most have car services they can arrange an airport pickup. Ask what the set rate is and be sure to check if they take credit/debit cards or if you need to bring local currency.
- Speaking of Heathrow, here are some alternatives to getting into London.
- Traveling solo domestically? If you don’t have someone to pick you up, research options beforehand. If you’re staying with a hotel, ask for a shuttle service or a preferred taxi provider. I emailed our hotel in Paris ahead of time to ask which taxi service they recommended from Gare du Nord.
I highly recommend the Tripit app to keep all your flight and travel details in one easy to glance at location on your phone.
Personally I find preparation is the key to feeling in control when I’m traveling solo. I’m not one to wing it, especially if I’m traveling to a new destination. Navigating the airport on your own can be stressful. Being prepared gives you the tools to relax and enjoy the ride without stressing about the unknown.