Tips for flying (alone)

It’s a warm, sunny afternoon here in Redwood City, California. I’ve been here three full days, but have spent most of them either hanging out with my sister and her family, or  working  with the team on our mad dash to Alpha. (I would argue that Alpha is the most exciting time in a game’s development – not Beta or Gold 😛

Leaving on a jet plane Origami on display Little Man Family

Getting here was easy enough – I took Northwest and stopped over at Narita in Tokyo. While going through my usual acts of stupidity (sat in wrong seat, sat in wrong gate, argued with US immigration, etc), I realized I’d learned a few tricks while traveling alone the past few years. Without these, I would have even MORE acts of stupidity. I’m compiling them here, just in case it’s useful for somebody else.

My Top 10 Tips for Flying (Alone)

  1. Wear shoes without laces, so you can slip them on and off through metal detectors. But wear socks, because it’s cold on the plane. I love my Rocket Dog sneakers with elastic straps for this reason 🙂
  2. Don’t wear a belt. I forgot this one, and had to keep stripping in front of metal detectors.
  3. Prepare for jet lag in advance. For two weeks before my trip, I woke up two or three hours earlier than usual (though this was actually due to anxiety – I had no choice in the matter), and it turned out perfect for my westward travel. I got to the US at 9 am, stayed up successfully until 10pm, got up at 6am the next day, and was good to go. (I was not like this before.)
  4. Write travel information somewhere easily accessible. I learned this trick from my dad. I wrote down my passport/visa information (number, date/place issued, expiry date) on a post-it inside my notebook, so whenever I had to fill out forms I could just whip my notebook out and copy it. In the same notebook, I have my US address, important numbers, etc. This saves a LOT of digging-through-the-bag time.
  5. Be redundant with the important stuff. I’d printed all my conference/flight plans in triplicate and packed them in different bags, including my carry on – useful when Mr. Surly Immigration Officer suddenly wanted proof that I needed to stay until November.  Since I’m here for three months, I brought spares of things that might not be easily replaceable, such as a second pair of eyeglasses (I know someone whose vacation was ruined because he lost his glasses in the first hour of travel).
  6. Be paranoid with packing. I grouped toiletries into separate Zip-Locs instead of just dumping them into one bag. It proved useful when the cap on my cologne bottle got dislodged – it only soaked one other item, leaving the rest usable. I’d also distributed clothes and shoes between two suitcases, just in case I lost one in transit.
  7. Pack light. This is counter-intuitive for girls going on long trips – of course you want to bring everything! But, really, having bursting suitcases going INTO a trip is kind of silly. I sacrificed some things I’d wanted to bring in exchange for easier bag lifting at the airport (because I was alone, there’d be no one to help me do it). Besides, more space at the start == more space for loot at the end.
  8. The day before, check in online. So few Filipinos do this. Some airlines let you check in, choose your seat, and print out your boarding pass 24 hours before the flight. This is extremely useful when you don’t want to line up with the other passengers at 5 o’clock in the morning (there’s a separate counter for online check-ins) and also avoids getting a bad seat.
  9. Get an exit (or front) seat. People usually get window or aisle seats, but if you’re the type who stands up and walks around often, both can be a pain (including aisle seats – everyone is trying to wiggle past you!) This is why I prefer exit seats – lots of legroom, and no wiggling. I couldn’t get one on this flight, but I got a second row seat in Economy instead, and it was almost as good. The front row only had two seats instead of the usual four, which meant I had more diagonal wiggle room. Plus, since I was at the front of the plane, I disembarked early and skipped all the long lines at immigration and baggage!
  10. Prepare for boredom. Flying is boring for the most part – there’s a lot of idle time at airports, in lines, or on the plane. Unless you don’t mind staring into space, I’d suggest you bring a book, a DS, a notebook, anything. Plus, if you look busy, you’ll have less random strangers try to make conversation with you. (I am obviously an unfriendly traveler.)

For those interested, all my US trip photos will be compiled here. Since I’ve sold my FZ7, I’m now using my new Lumix ZS1 (12x optical zoom, baby!). My photos still look like crap – I’m still getting the hang of it.

Next on the adventure – Seattle!

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4 thoughts on “Tips for flying (alone)

  1. melicca says:

    Thankyou for the excellent advice! im 18 years old and traveling to south africa from the uk with various stops on my own, takes about 2 days and im really feeling the nerves now! your blog has really helped calm my nerves as i have never flown before so dont know what to expect.

    must say also very well written! i will be using your blog alot in the next week!

    Thankyou again, so much! 😀

  2. moongirl says:

    Hi Melicca,

    I hope this helps you in some way! Travel safe, and always err on the side of caution. Have fun and enjoy this great adventure! 🙂

  3. Traveling alone to Korea tomorrow… I’m not afraid of flying but i guess it’s the going alone part that I’m a bit nervous about. Excellent tips btw~

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