My First Time Flying Solo: How I Survived

There are certain moments in life when we need to buck up and put on our adult panties, even if we’ve just entered adulthood—like preparing for a job interview, owning up to our mistakes or even getting our asses out of bed and to class on time (just you wait, freshmen). This past summer, I experienced perhaps one of the biggest adult moments of my life yet: having to fly on an airplane all by myself.


I had the opportunity to visit one of my college besties (she’s also a writer for Her Campus, and you can read her articles here!) in Chicago for a few days in July, and it was an offer that I just couldn’t pass up. My first thought was to take a train via Amtrak, but that mode of transportation was notorious for being delayed or super freaking late, which I couldn’t afford on an already short trip.


The only other option I had was to fly.

Sure, it wasn’t my very first time going to an airport and riding a plane (I’d actually flown many times before, mostly to Florida, and I loved being in an airplane and looking out the window). This was different, though, because I always traveled with my mom who, no debate necessary, is Superwoman. I didn’t have to worry about getting my ticket, keeping an eye on my luggage while going to the bathroom, or even making sure I was at the right gate because my mom always took care of that. Little did I know that flying by myself would come with a lot of responsibilities.To help ease any nerves you may have for when you have to fly alone some day, here are a few tips that ultimately helped me survive my first solo trip.




This first one is kind of a gimme, but it’s always a better deal when you book your ticket in advance (i.e. 60 days before). Also make sure to check multiple airlines for the best rate.




The rule of thumb for traveling is to show up at the airport two hours before your flight. This is extremely helpful when going alone because knowing you have lots of spare time to get through security, find your gate, and relax will instantly calm your nerves and have you focused on your vacay!




One of the first things I worried about was whether I should check a bag or just bring a carry-on. A huge perk of checking your luggage includes not having to lug it around the airport with you; a con, however, is that you need to go to baggage claim, whereas carry-on fliers (like me) can simply leave the airport once they’ve landed. Another perk of bringing a carry-on bag includes the fact that you’ll be able to watch it at all times; knowing I was accountable for my things made me ten times more aware of my surroundings. A con for taking a carry-on, however, includes having to get any liquids scanned in security. Either option is perfectly fine for travelers; just pick the option that works best for you.



If you decide to travel with a carry-on and you have liquids with, you need to be extra careful. Not only do you need to put all liquids inside one quart-sized plastic bag, but you also must make sure none of the items you bring exceed 3.4 fluid ounces in weight (all liquid items MUST fit inside that one plastic bag). Examples of liquids enforced by TSA security range from facial soaps and toothpaste to gel deodorant and mascara. Check online before your trip to see what else qualifies as a liquid because it’s better to be safe than sorry!




Whenever you see a gift being offered through a makeup line (Clinique and Estée Lauder usually have great deals), take advantage of it! More likely than not, those gifts will have goodies that are perfect for traveling. I suggest that you create a space (maybe a small bin) where you can stock up ahead of time and put your travel-size essentials aside.



Not all airlines offer this feature, but because I flew with American Airlines, I was able to see a map of the Chicago O’Hare airport on their iPhone app. I cannot begin to explain how helpful this was because instead of second-guessing which direction I should go, I knew exactly what path to take to get myself down to ground transportation. If your chosen airline has an app and you’re flying to an airport that you’ve never been to before, make sure to download it and check if it has a… can you say “map”?




Here’s a couple great ways to cut down on your time or chance of delays in the security line: (1) If you have any pieces of jewelry you normally wear, like your everyday rings or necklace, put them in a plastic bag in your purse and wait until after you’ve gone through security to put them back on; (2) I know it may look funny, but I usually wear a pair of low-rise socks with my sandals so when I have to take my shoes off, which are just a simple slip, I won’t be walking around barefoot (P.S. you can take your socks off and put them in your bag once you’re past security so you won’t look like a dork anymore!); and (3) Be ready to go and have your ID/boarding pass in your hand… no one likes it when they have to wait for someone ahead of them to get these things out. Don’t be that person!




You never know who’s watching you, so make sure to ALWAYS have your hand on your purse and any carry-on bag; when you go to the bathroom, never take your eyes off either; and lastly (this one’s my favorite tip yet), I recommend you put a $20 bill in the very front pocket of your purse so it’s easy for you to get to when you need to buy a snack and you don’t have to rummage through your wallet in front of others—this can protect you from having your credit cards and any other personal information exposed to onlookers.

Traveling should be exciting, especially when you’re doing it alone for the first time. Minimize those adulting jitters by keeping these helpful tips in mind. Be responsible… but also have fun! Bon voyage!