Life Abroad

TIPS for Flying Alone for the First Time

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As our American students gear up to head off on their international adventures, Olivia, a former student who studied abroad in Norway shares some tips on how to make that long flight across the globe a little less daunting and perhaps even fun!

Flying alone can be terrifying if it’s your first time, but it doesn’t have to be! The first time I ever flew internationally alone was when I first left for Norway. I had traveled alone domestically and I had traveled internationally with a group before but going on a long haul flight alone was a first for me. Here are some tips to help get you prepared and hopefully calm your nerves.

Pack your carry on and personal item first.

Try to pack as little as possible in these bags because you will have to lug them through the airport and through customs. Keep important items like medicine, headphones, phone charger, magazines/ a book, and a drink in your personal item so you can have them at your feet the whole time.

Dress comfy but nice.

This is one of my hardest rules to follow. Whenever I’m on a long flight I just want to wear comfy sweatpants and a t-shirt. However, I know that when I dress nicer I feel better about myself and I feel more confident. On my flight to Norway in 2015, I wore a comfy pair of jeans, a black t-shirt, and a flannel. I was comfortable and I felt much better about myself when I first met my host family at the airport.

Set your phone and watch to the time zone of your destination

This will help you get adjusted so you don’t have bad jet lag. If you are from New York and you’re going to Paris, for example, you should be eating and sleeping on Paris time so you are more adjusted when you land. Normally airlines will deliver food and turn the lights off and on according to the destination’s time zone as well.

Look at maps of all the airports you are traveling to

I love doing this because I am a chronic over-planner! I look for restaurants I want to possibly eat at and where the bathrooms are. This way I feel more prepared and don’t have to run around the airports during my layovers looking for a place I want to eat at.

Check for a seat change!

When you check into your flight, see if you can change your seat. If you were randomly assigned a middle seat they might have an aisle or window seat that can switch you to upon check in. It never hurts to ask for free upgrades either, especially if you mention that it’s your first time traveling alone.

Sleep on long flights

If your flight is longer than 5 hours I really recommend falling asleep. It is better than staying awake and stressing about your travels. Plus you get the added benefit of waking up refreshed and not tired. Things like reading a book or doing some easy seated stretches can help you relax and prepare your mind and body for rest. 

If you don’t plan on sleeping, bring entertainment!

Some people can’t sleep on planes but don’t fret. A lot of flights on major airlines will have TVs on the backs of the seats for you to use. However, these can be unreliable so bring something as a backup. Either an iPad or laptop with some movies downloaded so you don’t have to pay for pricey airline wifi or some magazines that you can pick up at the airport.

Last but not least! Relax! You’re about to embark on a great adventure!

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