Five Things To Remember Before Departing for Your First Solo Flight

Here's how I learned to prepare for my first solo flight without falling victim to my anxiety.

Very recently, I embarked on a trip from Indianapolis to California to attend a research conference. As excited as I was to ditch the cold weather for the beaches of San Diego, I had previously managed to avoid planes for about four years. Flying has always caused my anxiety to skyrocket (see what I did there?), but not because I have a fear of airplanes or heights. Rather, I had a fear of navigating the chaos of an airport. Nonetheless, I was determined not to let my anxiety get in the way of such a great opportunity to travel. After watching tons of YouTube videos and reading travel blogs, I decided to compile my five best tips for traveling into this list!

1. 3-1-1!

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I usually have a tendency to overpack for things, but I knew that this habit would cause unnecessary stress during my travels. Finding a way to fit all of my necessities into a backpack allowed me to avoid the stress of checking in my belongings and waiting at baggage claims. Some airlines allow you to bring both a personal item (like a backpack) and a carry-on for free, so don’t stress too much if you need more space than just a backpack! Remember to put all of your liquids and gels in a one quart-sized baggie. You can put any liquids and gels in this baggie, but they all have to be less than 3.4 ounces, and you can only have one baggie per passenger. Make sure to also check out the TSA list of things that you can pack in your carry-on and checked luggage.

2. Check In Online & Print Boarding Passes

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The airline you are flying with will often send you an email 24-48 hours before your flight, allowing you to check in online instead of at the airport. This will save you some time that you would otherwise be spending standing in line to check in in person. If you choose to check in online, you can also pick your seat and print your boarding passes. Your boarding pass has important information on it, like your terminal, gate, and departure time. You can also choose to have your boarding pass be sent to your phone, but sometimes a paper copy is safer, just in case your phone dies or you can't access the airport’s WiFi. Make sure to have this on hand when you are preparing to go through security!

3. Check Your Departure Time Often!

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Your flight can be delayed at incredibly short notice, so it’s very important to check your flight’s arrival and departure times and check often. I signed up for text alerts for my flights, but the text alerts were less reliable than checking online with the airport or airline or checking the large board in the airport. The board and websites are updated every 60 seconds, so they will always have the most up-to-date information.

4. Bring Something to Occupy Yourself

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Because my trip was scheduled for the middle of a busy semester, I packed lots of homework and reading materials for my long flights. Neither of my flights had free WiFi, so it's important to bring work or activities that do not rely on online access unless you want to pay the price. Because I know I get carsick, and I did not want to risk motion sickness for hours on a plane while getting my work done, I made sure to pick up some Dramamine before I left for the airport. You can find this motion sickness natural cure by the Tylenol at Walmart.

5. Be Kind

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As Ellen DeGeneres says, “Be kind to one another!” I came to the airport with a lot of questions. I was nervous about what to pack, where to go, and if I was going to be able to make my connecting flight. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to the flight attendant staff and even to other travelers. That being said, be kind to the people you communicate with while traveling! Your interactions will go so much more efficiently, and you will often leave situations feeling calmer, if you approach others in a calm demeanor. Traveling is a great opportunity to gain some independence and broaden your worldview, but this is all more fun with a positive attitude!

Do not let your fear of flying or navigating get in the way of traveling! For more information on preparing for your upcoming trip, I recommend checking out the websites of the airport(s) and airline(s) you will be traveling with.