I was talking to somebody the other day who has never had to (or has gotten to!) fly by themselves. They mentioned that it seemed like such a lonely affair and they asked me if I had any solo travel airport tips. Now, I should warn you, I actually love the airport. Probably too much. I jump at the chance to drive somebody to the airport just so I can be around it. But that being said, I thought I might take this opportunity to talk about a step into solo travel that I haven’t thought of before — surviving the airport and the plane ride by yourself. This is perfect timing because this week I just got back from TBEX North America and…you guessed it! I’m flew from Philadelphia to Minneapolis (and back) by myself. In fact, I was sitting in an airport writing this! Here’s how I survive a day of travel, especially when there’s a layover. And then that layover is delayed. Without further adieu, I bring you my solo travel airport tips!
Solo Travel Airport Tips
Things I Always Pack in My Carry-On
I can’t be the only one in the whole world that didn’t realize you can take food through security at the airport, can I? I spent 80% of my life thus far thinking this was the case. Alas, it is not and you are NOT stuck with airport food. So for those souls out there that also didn’t know (if you did, just let me be in my own little world): bring your own food! I usually come armed with beef jerky, trail mix, a protein bar of some sort, and a little piece of candy for if I get cranky. Trust me, even if you’re watching what you’re eating: the candy can be a lifesaver. Twix is my candy of preference, if you’ll be traveling with me anytime soon.
But hey, just double check the rules for your specific airline or destination. Just in case!
Oh hey, did you know you could bring water bottles on planes too? I learned this one a few trips before my food epiphany, but it still took too long. Flying dehydrates you like, a lot. And that is yet another piece of the puzzle that can lead to cranky travelers. So grab an empty water bottle (or suck down that water on the way to the airport) and you are set. Lots of airports these days have water bottle water fountains to make our lives easy. But. Wouldn’t ice water be even better? Don’t be afraid to stop by a bar in your terminal to see if they’ll fill up your bottle with ice water. I haven’t had one turn me away!
Also: shoutout to all of the Southwest flight attendants that have refilled my bottle on the plane. You are my everything.
This one is especially necessary for contact wearers who tend to fall asleep on planes. First off, high five! You fell asleep on a plane! Chances are I did too. And then when you wake up and your eyes feel awful? Yeah. I’ve been there. Contacts are now crunchy and gross. Even if you don’t wear contacts, I bet your eyes don’t feel fabulous. Always tuck a container of eye drops into your carry-on so you can make a quick pit stop and feel like a human being again.
Continuing the process to feel like a human being again, make sure you’ve got deodorant at easy reach. What an easy way to stop smelling like stale air! I typically travel only with a carry-on anyway, but I make sure this is easily reachable. It’s just a pain in the butt to get into your suitcase just for deodorant. That’s what outside pockets are for!
Thank goodness for a watch. I didn’t used to travel, let alone have, a watch…but it has changed my life. No longer do you have to be frustrated when your phone won’t adapt to the local timezone. No longer do you have to worry about connecting to wifi to update the time on said phone. Let’s step away from the phone dependence for a minute and look at our wrists. I always set mine to the time zone I’m going to before the plane takes off, that way I don’t get any nasty surprises when I calculate how much time I have left based off of the arrival time.
How to Stay Entertained at the Airport
I know podcasts are not a new thing, but they are seriously great for airport excursions. Because I’m obsessed, I listen to travel podcasts while I’m at the airport. You might be able to find some about the destination you’re going to, or you could dream about your next stop while you’re flying home. Some of my favorites are The Budget-Minded Traveler, the Zero to Travel Podcast, and XX, Will Travel. I’ve got so many suggestions that I’m just going to have to make another post about it.
You can also get really fancy if you’re going to a destination that doesn’t speak your language and brush up on your language skills. There’s a podcast for that, I bet! I use Coffee Break Italian for my Italian lessons lately, but I know the Radio Lingua network has other languages too. Give it a search and see what you can find!
Yes, that’s right. I don’t bring a Kindle or a Nook. I’m still bringing books along with me. And yes, there’s a plural tacked on there. I’m going to be in trouble should I ever shift gears and become a backpacker. But what if I’m not in the mood for what I’m reading? Usually I’ll bring a “story” book and a non-fiction book so I’ll be happy whatever mood I find myself in at the airport. On this particular trip I’ve got In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. I think I’m set.
I have no shame where this is concerned. I’m that girl standing in the corner of the boarding area stretching. Your legs do NOT like to sit still for very long, and you’re about to be cramped in an airplane seat for the next however many hours. Do it. Stretch it out. It doesn’t have to be anything obnoxious. Touch your toes a couple of times. Stretch your arms above your head. Do some neck rolls. Nobody has to be any wiser. Do I still not have you convinced? At least take a walk through the terminal. Call it people watching! Just move your butt.
If you’ve got a REALLY long flight, put a pair of compression socks on your carry-on packing list. I use these for running, but I’ve also taken them on planes when I’m wearing close-toed shoes. They’ll keep your legs feeling a lot lighter. And don’t forget to actually stretch and/or get up when you’re actually on the plane! Keep your body happy and you’ll be happier.
The Grand Daddy — Actually Talk to Somebody!
I know, right? It’s pretty mind-blowing, but I bet you there’s another solo traveler on your flight. Or another solo traveler in the airport near where you are sitting. See if they’re up for a chat! If they’re not, at least you tried. If they ARE, maybe you’ve found a new friend. You’re in an airport, it’s easy to find something to chat about. Ask them how their book is, where they’re traveling, where they’ve traveled, etc etc. I had a four hour layover (where I intended to get blogging done) where I ended up talking to a fellow traveler for the whole time. Definitely a good way to spend your time in the airport.
Hopefully with this survival kit you are armed and ready for a solo trip to the airport. Of course, you could always depend on stuffing your nose into your phone. But you’re getting ready for an adventure! Open your eyes up to the world around you, hey?
Or ignore your own advice and sit on your laptop to type out a blog post when you’re very behind on blogging. You win some, you lose some!
- Have you flown solo before? I’d love to hear what you do to pass the time. Any book or podcast recommendations for us?
- Where’s your next trip? Fill my travel dreams!