Tips for Flying on Your Own

I recently took a flight by myself for the first time. I have flown more times than I can count, but I had never done so without someone else. My first experience flying without an adult was two years ago with my younger sister. For some strange reason, flying on my own before the age of 18 was on my bucket list, and while I was 18 months late, I still did it. During my 2018 fall reading week I flew from Hamilton, Ont. to Winnipeg, Man. to visit family. While I am not an “anxious flyer” (I actually love flying), I could be considered an anxious pre-flyer because I get nervous about all the lead-up to the flight. Here is a collection of tips that I used when flying alone for the first time that helped reduce my pre-flight and post-flight anxiety!

PRE-FLIGHT

Find cheap flights.

If you have to pay for your holiday yourself, finding cheap flights is essential, but difficult. Flights within Canada have increased in price which makes it harder to travel. Thankfully, there are a few low-budget options for people who are okay with the bare minimum. I flew with Swoop, which is a new airline -- less than six months old -- and owned by WestJet. In addition to Swoop, there is Flair, which is another low-fare Canadian airline.

If feasible, pre-pick your seat.

Whether that means paying for your seat the day you buy your ticket or logging onto your account 24 hours before your flight, pre-pick your seat. If you are particular about where you sit, like myself (I needed a window seat with everyone sitting on my left side -- don’t ask why), paying the extra $6.00 for each flight ($12.00 in total) was 100% worth it for me. Also, it allowed me to have some control over my flight, which overall helps with my anxiety.

Dress comfy but not frumpy.

This can be said for really any flight. You should dress comfortable enough to sit in a cramped aircraft for a few hours, but leave the pajamas in the bedroom. Before my flight I was still able to get up, get dressed and put makeup on before I left at 6 a.m. While I could write an entire article about why you should put effort into your attire when you fly, I would just be repeating what Sophie-Claire Hoeller said for Insider.

Avoid large airports.

The first time I flew alone I was able to fly out of John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport and into Winnipeg Richardson Airport, two very small airports. If you have ever been to Toronto Pearson International Airport, you will understand how overwhelming it can be and smaller airports take away that anxiety. I highly suggest flying out of Hamilton for two main reasons. First, it only has two gates and one room so you will not get lost; and second, you get to walk on the tarmac next to the airplane, which is hella cool.

Go through security an hour before your departure time.

While this may be more of a personal preference, I like to be going through security an hour before my flight is scheduled to depart. This way there is a lot of time for potential security hold-ups and it gives you time to relax on the other side. My flight to Winnipeg was set to depart at 8:30 a.m. and I was sitting on the other side of security by 7:40 a.m. While nothing went wrong this time, I have been pulled for a random security check in the past that took over half an hour.  

Be prepared to not have access to TV systems.

On newer flights, they have entirely removed the TV systems from the flight and the only way to watch the on-flight entertainment is through an app on your phone or laptop. Once you are on the plane, however, it is almost impossible to download these features, so make sure you do so beforehand or come prepared with school work or a book.

POST-FLIGHT

Have arranged pickup plans.

Another way to decrease anxiety is to know exactly who is picking you up and where. I had been to the Winnipeg airport many times before, so I knew the layout and where my aunt would be. If you do not have someone directly picking you up, make arrangements with an uber or driver before you arrive at the airport.

Use noticeable luggage.

Another way to make your first solo flight easier is to have noticeable baggage or bright bag tags. Usually, my mom or dad are responsible for luggage, and while you may know what colour your suitcase is, a lot of them look the same. While my suitcase is not overly different than most, I had a bright yellow bag tag that I could see from far away. Mine is also a Kenneth Cole suitcase so there is a large K and C on the back that help it to stand out.

Bonus Tip

I highly suggest hard luggage over soft. I recently converted and it had changed my travel life. My cat can’t pee in it (he did that to my last two), I’m less worried about the fabric tearing and I find they’re lighter than soft-shelled luggage.

While flying may still make you anxious, hopefully these tips will help reduce your pre-flight anxiety and make your holiday run smoothly!