This month's life tips is over Flying/Travelling Alone.
To state this first and foremost - the internet is your friend. When you travel, there can be SO many things to consider and prepare for, and it can quickly become overwhelming, expensive, and confusing. While websites should still be evaluated briefly for their credibility, it is incredibly easy to find a large amount and variety of helpful information for your travels!
The first step is to look at what you can afford. Whether you have saved up the money, intend to put it on a credit card to pay off, or some other method, pay attention so that you are staying within that budgeted amount. Whether it’s 500 or 5000, be ready to break that down into different expense categories.
Location, Location, Location.
Firstly, where do you want to go? There are multiple parts to consider for this - how far away it is (and therefore how long it will take to get there), and how long do you want to stay there for. For example, if you are staying within your country, then travel may only take 8 hours or less and is typically cheaper than flying abroad or overseas. Usually the farther you go, the longer you may want to go to make that travel time worth it. For example, for an American it may be a good rule of thumb to go abroad for no less than a week since it may take a solid 12-24 hours to get there. However if you are flying from Idaho to Chicago, only 2-4 days may be enough to feel ‘worth it’.
For accommodations, try to balance cheapness and safety. Don’t be afraid to look at reviews but allow a grain of salt since even the best place could have a deeply unhappy customer. If staying with friends, great! If you are splurging, such as staying at an all inclusive resort, pay attention to any additional fees and what is or isn’t included.
Food and Currency.
What will you do for food? Eat out every day? Might you have a space to cook? Is food included? Make sure you include space in your budget for this, such as $20-50 per day depending on your anticipated itinerary. Speaking of money, look up the currency of your destination if you are traveling abroad. Decide whether you feel comfortable using your credit card abroad or whether you would prefer to use cash (in which case you can either get cash at home somewhere or at an ATM when you arrive using a debit card).
Booking the Flight.
-- What sort of identification will you need? When in doubt - have a passport. Make sure your passport is not expiring in the next few months. A passport is your go-to for flying and cruising.
-- If you bring carry on that’s bigger or you don’t need, like a backpack or small suitcase, there MAY not be enough room overhead. You may have to check it at the gate. That's not such a bad thing! That means it is checked for free, and will be waiting for you right in the boarding tunnel as you disembark the plane, exactly the same place as where you handed it off.
-- Pay attention to whether you can choose your seat. Typically I prefer to sit by the window, but if the view from high up may bother you or you want unobstructed aisle access for stretching your legs or bathroom visits, you may prefer an aisle seat! Generally, no one likes the middle seats, but sometimes that’s all that’s left. It’s part of life. As for the supposed amount of foot space (such as 30 inches), keep in mind that whatever you choose to keep with you and stow on the floor will use up some of this space.
Prepare for the climate of your destination. Look up the typical highs and lows for that area for that time of year, and as your trip approaches, keep an eye on the current weather conditions. Always bring a packable rain jacket just to be safe! Having items that can be packed up small is very beneficial for saving space, but that doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy all new gear. Travel sized toiletries are also great, but again, you don’t have to go buy everything. Those tiny tubes of toothpaste and the simple toothbrushes from dentist visits? Save them for travel! Remember - many airports require your liquids and such to be in a clear, quart sized bag (like a medium ziploc bag) though usually any sort of makeup or toiletry bag of a similar size will get through with no trouble as long as you've pulled it out of your luggage to be scanned individually.
In your carry on, consider bringing some handy items including bandaids, itch cream, cut ointment, pain reliever medicine, and anything you may want to access during or immediately after your travels.
Security and Timing.
If you are flying, go ahead and look up what is not allowed on airlines/through security, or what items are allowed in the cabin but not below in the unpressurized cargo area. When you pack your carry on item, typically a purse, tote, backpack, or laptop bag, add a few small things just in case something happens and you have to spend an unexpected night somewhere. A toothbrush, toothpaste, any contact needs or medical needs, your phone charger, and an extra pair of socks and underwear. For any luggage you are checking, be aware of any size or weight limits! Some airlines allow 1 free checked bag and some do not. The common weight limit I have seen is 50 pounds or 23 kilograms.
When it’s time to pack and get ready, allow EXTRA TIME for travel!! If it’s recommended to get there a whole three hours early at the airport, just do it. That’s better than showing up and realizing the security line is longer than you expected, or checking a bag for the first time turns out to be more confusing than you thought. With that extra time you can always find an area to sit, get something to eat, listen to music, etc. Food and other purchases such as headphones, souvenirs, or even deodorant are often going to be extra expensive at the airport, so don’t be afraid to make a packing list so you aren’t stuck buying $6 travel sized deodorant. While drinks are prohibited through security, you can bring an empty bottle to fill up after at a drinking fountain and typically have a sandwich and other snacks packed along. Nearly every airport I have ever been to has at least one Starbucks, so I also like to make sure I bring along any Starbucks gift cards! Yes, you can bring your food and drinks with you onto the plane. Don’t bring yogurt through security; it may be considered liquid at some airports.
Tidbit: Using the app and intend to scan an electronic ticket? Take a screenshot so that you aren’t relying on cell signal and data since airports may have slow signal due to the amount of people there.
Navigating the Airport.
Finding the right gate for your flight can be confusing. Ultimately, the gate number is what you are looking for, but there may be different buildings or terminals at the airport. For example, at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris there are several buildings including A, B, C, etc. When this is the case, there may be a corridor or tunnel between buildings that you can walk through, or alternatively the airport may have a little shuttle subway or bus. Charles de Gaulle airport, or CDG, has a shuttle bus that runs in a loop between the main buildings. So, you may be at gate 57 terminal B. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions!
If traveling through multiple countries on the way to your destination, keep in mind you may need to go through security at each airport. If you have separate bookings on different airlines, such as 2 flights via Delta to Bogota, Colombia, but your final destination is Barranquilla which Delta doesn’t go to so you have another booking with a South American airline to get to that final place, you will need to collect your luggage in Bogota and then proceed to the appropriate place to check it in again at that second airline you are switching over to. Typically each airline has its own counter or area to receive passengers for checking in and checking luggage.
Getting on the Plane.
Typically boarding begins AROUND 30 minutes before the scheduled takeoff. Better to be at the gate 45 minutes before. Often times your ticket will say a boarding group number. Airline employees will call this over a speaker “Boarding Group 3 now” and you go join the line when your group is called. Follow the others onto the plane, and be mindful of your seat assignment as shown on your ticket. The pattern is always A at a window and then continuing across a row. The seat arrangement is also usually depicted in a diagram over each row of seats and will show a little drawing of a window next to A. Yes, you need to sit in your assigned spot.
In your space, be courteous of other passengers - don’t be loud or sprawl out in their space. Also, planes are dirty. Although passengers don’t change as frequently on a bus, planes are still not sanitary and you really shouldn’t snuggle too much with your seat. Hand sanitizer is a great idea. Be respectful and don’t leave trash if you can help it. The flight attendants typically come around twice after serving the snacks and drinks so be on the lookout for trash opportunities, or you can always carry it out with you.
Get the airline app. It often includes great information such as your electronic ticket, your terminal and gate information, opportunities to change or upgrade your seat, contact information for the airline, updates of if your next flight has been delayed, and even maps of the airports you are flying through.