Are you about to fly for the first time? Wow, that’s so exciting. I’ll always remember my first-time flight experience, and it was thrilling. That’s why I want to share with you the best tips for flying alone for the first time.
So don’t worry; you’ve got this!
Of course, there’re different layers to all these first-time experiences, such as flying for the first time ever, flying alone for the first time and first time flying internationally alone.
I’ve been there and done all of the above (multiple times), so I can share a lot of the things you need to know when flying for the first time and what to expect.
Actually, I’ve been flying alone internationally more times than with someone, so don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. When it comes to travelling alone as a woman, I can share tips for hours on end. Don’t worry, I’ll give my best tips for first-time flyers, and you won’t have any reasons to feel nervous.
Just as a precaution, if you’re flying in or to Europe, check out how to claim flight delays in Europe. It might help get some money from the airlines.
Tips for flying alone for the first time
Let’s divide the entire process of flying alone for the first time into phases, so it will be easier for you to follow and know what to expect and do in each situation.
I’m going to take you through what to do and expect before the flight, what to do at the airport, the actual flight and arriving at your destination.
As of 2020, travelling has become more restrictive, so make sure to check out how to travel with minimal risk during a pandemic.
How to prepare for your first time flying experience
The entire experience of flying alone starts when you decide to book a flight.
I use and recommend Kiwi, as it can create personalised flight connections, using different airlines for each leg of your journey, which can lower your final cost.
This is extremely useful if you are travelling internationally, and when you have more than one stopover.
What you need to do before flying for the first time:
- Print any reservation and docs you need (plane ticket, hotel booking, visa)
- Check that your passport is still valid (it needs to be valid for more than six months after your departure date
- See the airline regulations regarding the carry-on luggage and the check-in luggage (size, weight) to avoid any issues.
- Check out the most recent airport restrictions for items you can carry in your carry-on (You can’t have any sharp items, including nail scissors or liquids/creams in recipients larger than 100ml. And all liquid stuff must fit in a 1L volume transparent sealed bag). Check what you can bring on board here.
Can you carry liquids in your carry-on?
Yes, but they need to be in containers up to 100ml, and all of them need to fit inside a one-litre (1L) plastic bag.
The bag of liquids you are allowed to have in your carry-on bag is a sealable transparent bag (some airports provide it for free, some charge for it, some don’t care). In it, you have to put all your liquid containers (e.g. toothpaste, face cream, any liquid make-up, perfume). That’s why bringing liquid food will not be a good idea.
This bag should be packed on the surface and easy to reach because you will have to take it out for inspection at the airport security. I’ll tell you later about it.
I see people sweating over this liquid issue all the time at the airport, and that’s because nobody told them all these tips for flying alone for the first time.
What to pack in your carry-on when flying alone
First, consider how long it does take to reach your destination. Two hours flights need less preparation than a 17h trip which includes one or more stopovers.
Since I don’t know your exact route, I will give you tips for flying alone for the first time that apply to longer trips, and you can disregard what doesn’t apply to you.
One of my first tips (from the long list of tips for flying alone for the first time) is to check the weather at your destination. It will give you a great idea about what to pack.
If you leave a cold climate and will arrive in a hot and humid country, then you obviously need to be dressed warm enough, so you don’t freeze on your way to the airport.
But try only to get a jumper or a sweatshirt and a T-shirt as the airport temperature is moderate, and you will only get outside when you reach your destination. A winter jack will occupy a lot of space in your carry-on.
If you have to spend long hours in the airport for your connections, then consider bringing a scarf that you can use as a blanket, warm sock and a neck pillow.
Carry-on essentials when flying alone for the first time
Considering all the above, here are some things I consider necessary to have in my carry-on:
- phone and charger
- laptop and charger
- refillable water bottle
- one change of socks and underwear
- one t-shirt
- camera, batteries, sd cards
- make-up bag
- toiletries (toothpaste and toothbrush)
- my favourite snacks (airport snacks can be pricey)
I’m a blogger, so I will always have my laptop, camera and chargers with me.
Also, it’s not recommended (if not even forbidden) to place your laptop in the checked-in luggage. Would you like to have your laptop inside those checked-in bags when they throw it around the airport?
And obviously, the essentials to have always on hand are:
- Visa (if you need it) and other documents to prove the reason for your trip
- Travel Insurance (card or documents)
- Hotel reservation (some countries want to see that before they let you in)
- Money (perhaps some local currency to have when you arrive, if that’s possible)
- Boarding pass (you can get this online or at the airport)
Please make sure to check your airline’s luggage dimensions and weight (both for carry-on and for checked-in luggage).
If your carry-on weighs more or is larger than its specified dimensions, you will have to pay more and perhaps have to check in your carry-on to be placed in the hold of the aeroplane.
All of this is specified on your ticket, and you can always call the information support centre to check what exact terms apply to your ticket. But do this at least a couple of days before your flight.
How to get the boarding pass?
Depending on the company you’re flying with, there might be some different ways to get your boarding pass.
These days, most companies have mobile apps, and you can check in online using the app to let the company know you’re still coming.
If that isn’t an option, check their website and see if you can check in online on their website. The check-in step is actually a validation of your ID, where you have to confirm your passport information, and you also get to choose your seat and meal preference (unless you are flying low-cost).
All companies offer the option to check in and choose your seat at the airport before departing, but low-cost companies will charge you extra for this service. That’s why it’s always better to check in online, one day before your flights.
So what are your options to get the boarding pass, the piece of paper (physical or digital) that will enable you to enter the airport, pass through security and board the plane?
- Check-in online or via the company’s mobile app
- Check-in at the airport using a check-in machine or at the check-in counter (you can find it by checking the flight information table located near the entrance and see which check-in counters are assigned for your flight)
Remember that most low-cost companies (especially in Europe) will charge you extra if you don’t check in online up to two hours before departure. So please pay extra care to the conditions of your airline.
Be aware of all conditions when flying low-cost to avoid paying extra fees. I can’t stress this enough. Remember that most low-cost carries will charge you for any deviation from the general rules. Actually, that’s how they make money.
Food: Can you bring food on the plane?
When flying with a low-cost company, prepare your food before leaving for the airport and pack some snacks in your carry-on.
That’s a good idea to save some money since low-cost companies don’t serve food for free. Their options are also limited and perhaps a bit pricey.
If you are flying a long-haul flight, then you will have the options to choose your desired type of in-flight meal when you complete the online check-in process. Most large airlines offer it for free.
If you fail to choose any of the special options, you will receive the standard meal, which might not be suitable for you.
Also, remember that you can choose your meal up to 24 hours before your flight. This is a good incentive to check in online (for me, at least, since I am a vegan).
During the pandemic of 2020, some companies didn’t offer any meal options, while others offer a standard vegetarian meal to everyone. That’s another reason to bring your own snacks for longer flights, especially if you have any dietary restrictions.
For shorter flights, even big companies might not offer customization meal options, but check it out anyway.
When to bring your own snacks for the flight?
If you don’t have any meals included, make sure to bring some of your favourite snacks. Airport supermarkets might be more expensive than regular ones, so do your shopping before reaching the airport. Also, make sure you can fit all your snacks comfortably into your carry-on ( no extra bags are allowed).
If you are preparing for a long flight, make sure to hydrate yourself plenty the day before.
The aeroplane’s air is very dry, and your body will suffer from dehydration.
Arriving at the airport when you’re flying alone for the first time
So you got to the airport.
Near any of the entrances should be a big table with all the flights from that terminal and you should find your flight there.
Check the flight number and destination, because sometimes there are different companies with the same destinations departing almost simultaneously.
If you have any questions about your flight or what to do next, look for the information desk and ask the airport staff.
Now, if you don’t have a boarding pass, you will need to check in using a machine (if your company offers that service).
How to get the boarding pass at the airport?
You can get a boarding pass from the check-in desk, where you also can drop off your check-in luggage. If you have check-in luggage, you’ll have to go there anyway, but it’s better to check in online because you can choose your seat. The person from the check-in counter will assign a seat automatically, and there will be no time for you to think about it.
As this is your first time flying alone, I recommend choosing a window seat, somewhere between the middle and the back of the plane, so you can also see the plane’s wing when you look out the window.
Remember that I told you to have a refillable water bottle? That’s not only to use less plastic but because once you reach the airport, you will need to get rid of all the water inside the bottle to be able to pass through security.
You’ll see tons of half-full plastic water bottles discarded just before the security area. Don’t be one of those people. Please!
If you still have water, go to a restroom and dispose of the remaining water. You can refill it after you have passed security.
Food and water bottles are allowed in your carry-on
And yes, you are allowed to take with you an empty water bottle and solid food when you pass security. They search for forbidden substances and items, not for your food.
Yes, fruits are ok most of the time. But it is an issue with your destination, especially if it’s on another continent. Check this before leaving for the airport.
Remember to have your boarding pass and passport ready when you pass through security. Some ask for it, and some don’t.
What you’ll need to get out for security inspection at the airport?
Security staff will tell you exactly what and how they need you to arrange your stuff on the security belt that leads to the scanner.
Remember that you will have to get your laptop and bag of liquids out of your bag. This is the bag that you should have prepared since you started packing your bag.
If you fail to put all the liquid containers in that bag, you will get stopped by security, and an officer will start unpacking all your stuff right there on the counter, to find any liquid you have inside. Trust me, they will know.
Also, the laptop needs to be placed into a separate tray. Sometimes, they also swipe some paper on your laptop and check it for traces of forbidden substances, but this is just a random check, and it takes just a couple of seconds.
Going to your gate, after you pass security and customs
If you are flying internationally, then you will first go through customs, where an officer will check your passport and boarding pass. They usually don’t ask anything when you’re leaving. They might ask something when you will be arriving, though.
After you have passed through security, you can get your stuff; you need to be checked by the customs office. After that, you will enter the duty-free area, aka the international area.
You will see some screens with all the flights and the assigned gate for each one. Make sure to check it to know where to go. Larger airports have many gates, and it can take you more than a couple of minutes to reach your gate. The gates’ names are letters followed by numbers (e.g. A1, B20, D5)
Also, check the information screens when the boarding time is approaching, as sometimes the boarding gate can change.
You can buy stuff duty-free, and you can even buy food or beverages to serve on the plane. But it needs to be packed. Consider getting something that will not flood the aircraft with a pungent smell.
Remember that if you are travelling with only a carry-on and you want to buy something large or liquid, those items will have to fit into your carry-on when you get back, as the same regulations will apply.
Boarding the plane when flying for the first time
Finally, it’s time to board the plane.
You have found the gate, the name of your destination is written on the screen on top of the gate, and there are lots of people waiting to board.
Honestly, I never get why people want to stand up in a queue and why are they so eager to get on the plane. But whatever. As long as you are there, it’s ok.
Have your boarding pass and passport ready for inspection. The staff at the gate will also inspect your carry-on to make sure it follows all their regulations. And if it isn’t, they will ask you to pay extra and even ask you to place it in the hold of the aircraft.
On your boarding pass, you will have the number of your seat.
The flight attendant will welcome you and ask you to see it when you enter the aircraft to point you to your seat.
Once you reach your seat, step out of the aisle to make room for others to pass. Stow your carry-on in the compartment above your head.
Remember to take out any items you want to use during your flight, such as your earbuds, book, magazine, or laptop, so you don’t have to open that compartment during the flight.
Pay attention to the safety instructions (especially when it’s your first time flying)
Take your seat, and buckle up.
After the boarding is complete, the flight attendants will start demonstrating the safety measures and what to do in the case of an emergency.
As one of the tips for flying alone for the first time, I recommend you pay attention to their instructions. You’ll most probably never need to do any of those things, but in the improbable situation (how they put it) of a crash, you might find it handy to know what to do to save your life. But those things never happen.
Enjoy your flight and try to keep your seat belt fasten throughout the flight (especially when the captain switches on the seat belt sign.
Some people are scared of the landing, but I find it fascinating. Especially when you’re watching out the window and you can see as the plane approaches the ground.
Arriving at your destination after your first-time flight experience
After landing, do not sit up until the seat belt sign has been switched off. You will be instructed by the flight attendants on what to do next.
When you open the overhead compartment, make sure you don’t hit anyone with any objects that might fall off.
Make sure to check the seat and the pocket seat before you leave the aircraft.
After you get off the aircraft, the staff from the airport will direct you towards immigration if you’re travelling internationally or directly to the luggage pick-up point if you’re flying domestically.
After you pass through customs and have picked up your luggage (if you have any checked-in luggage), you can use the WiFi from the airport to learn how to reach your hotel.
Use Google Maps indications for public transport directions. You can also ask that at the information desk. Obviously, the cheapest way would be to take public transport and the most comfortable way would be to take a taxi.
I usually check the address of the hotel before leaving home so that I know exactly where I am supposed to arrive and how to get to the hotel without being scammed. Also, there might not be wifi available at your destination, so it’s better to play it safe.
If you choose to rent a car at the airport, I recommend booking it before you leave. You don’t want to get there and have no available car for rental.
And with all of these tips for first-time flyers being said, I think you are ready to start planning your first time flying alone and will have no issues getting safely to your destination using all my tips. And please don’t be nervous about flying alone for the first time! You’ll be just fine!
I wish you a safe journey, and don’t stop exploring.
P.S.: Do you have other tips for flying alone for the first time I should add to this guide for first-time flyers? Please leave them in the comments. Thank you!