First Time Flying Solo? Here's What to Do at the Airport
By Sarah Hemsley
Excited for your epic adventure but nervous about flying alone? Simply follow this step-by-step guide, and you’ll soon be a pro at navigating your way around any airport.
Before you Leave Home
Check-in Online (If You Can)
Once you’ve booked your flight, you’ll receive information about how to check-in. It’s usually anytime from 30 days to 24 hours before you fly, so keep an eye on your emails for this. Bear in mind that not all airlines offer online check-in. You may have to queue up at the check-in desk upon your arrival.
After checking in, you’ll receive your boarding pass and designated seat number. It’s important to check which terminal you’re flying from so you can arrive at the right departure point.
There’s nothing worse than forgetting these essentials! Be prepared and double-check that you’ve got these to hand.
You’ve heard it before: “Don’t forget your passport!”. You should also check that it hasn’t expired and that it is valid for at least six months after your return date but do check the FCDO for the latest requirements as they vary by country. Make sure you keep it in a safe place in your hand luggage that’s easily accessible when you need it.
Most boarding passes are digital, so make sure you’ve got it on your phone, either in your emails or downloaded to your wallet. Just simply scan it at the airport.
Top tip: It’s a good idea to take a portable charger with you in case your battery is running low. Alternatively, you could print off your boarding pass for extra reassurance.
Make sure you’ve got a copy of the following either on your phone or printed out:
Have you checked if you need a visa? Some destinations require one in advance of travel, whereas other countries issue you a visa on arrival at the airport. Learn more about visas here.
Sometimes things go wrong. Make sure you’re fully covered from the moment you book! Everyone travelling with us must have travel insurance. So whether you're going on a short trip to Europe or globe-trotting around the world, insurance is an essential part of your adventure! Learn more about travel insurance here.
Top tip: If you’re travelling to an EU country, you may be entitled to a Global Health Insurance Card, which covers you for state healthcare (you’ll still need to get travel insurance). Learn more about GHICs here.
What to Do at the Airport
As a rule of thumb, you should leave yourself a minimum of 2 hours for a short-haul flight and a minimum of 3 hours for a long-haul flight, but check with your specific airline for their requirements.
Allow more time for:
- Traffic and/or delays
- Saying goodbyes
- Parking your car
- Getting transport to the terminal
Give yourself plenty of time.
Check-in your baggage
You’ve likely got a backpack or suitcase for the hold, so get your passport and boarding pass ready and make your way to the drop-off facility for your airline. Some airlines have a self-service drop-off, so simply follow the instructions. Before you pack, check with your airline for the baggage allowance and any forbidden items.
If you’re only travelling with hand luggage, head straight to security or check-in (if you’ve not already done so online).
Getting through Airport Security
Now that you’re free from your heavy baggage, you and your carry-on bag will have to go through security. Here’s what you need to know:
There are a couple of rules when it comes to liquids. Firstly, there may be restrictions on how much liquid you can carry in your handheld luggage. Most airports currently only allow up to 100 mL per bottle of liquid. Anything more has to be thrown away (rest in peace). Even water isn’t allowed but there’s usually a free drinking fountain on the other side of security, so you can take your reusable water bottle to refill.
Secondly, on some airlines, you can only have up to 10 items, and they have to fit into a 20 x 20cm sealed plastic bag, whereas on other airlines, you can take more than 10 if they don’t exceed a litre. Check the requirements with your airline beforehand.
If you’re taking a laptop, iPad, or Kindle/e-reader, it needs to be placed in a separate tray from your bag and liquids.
You’ll be waved to step through a full-body scanner. Some airports will ask you to take your shoes or belt off, so consider wearing easy clothing. Sometimes the smallest of things can set off the detector, from underwired bras to a tiny bit of aluminium foil left in your pocket from that last piece of chewing gum, so don’t be alarmed if you’re searched.
Check your gate number
Once you’re through security, it’s a good idea to check your gate number on the big screens. You can’t miss them! Make a mental note of where your gate is and what time it opens. Arrive at the gate with plenty of time.
Top tip: If you’ve got a minute, now’s the best time to stock up on snacks! If you’re travelling on a budget, a meal deal is your best friend, or if you want to treat yourself (you’re travelling after all), then you’ll find some yummy treats in duty-free.
First Time Flying Solo
Board the plane
This is the moment when the excitement kicks in. The adventure you've been preparing for is happening. You’re going solo, and there’s no better feeling! Make your way through boarding, get comfortable in your seat, and prepare for takeoff 🛫
Top tip: Bring some form of entertainment with you, especially for long-haul flights. Download and binge-watch your favourite Netflix show, learn to master sudoku, or bring an eye mask for a long, relaxing nap.
1) If you’ve booked your flights as a package, in most cases, your luggage will be checked through to your final destination. Just double-check with your airline.
When you get to the connecting airport, simply head to your next gate and patiently await your next flight. You might need to change terminals, and there might be another security check, but generally, you don't need to concern yourself with your luggage; the airport staff will handle it for you.
2) If you have booked both flights separately, then you’ll have to take care of it yourself.
Which means collecting it from baggage reclaim and then repeating the check-in process.
Check with your airline for more details.
Where to go next
Once you’ve touched down, you’ll have to go through passport control before you can be reunited with your baggage at the reclaim area.
Many of our tours include a transfer to your accommodation. If this is the case, you’ll receive an email with the details in advance.
If not, most airports have plenty of public transport links. It might be useful to do some research on this beforehand or contact our flight team for help.
Enjoy your big adventure! 🌎
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