Going on your first solo flight can be quite daunting, even if you’ve been planning it for months beforehand. I took my first solo flight in the summer of 2019 – where I flew from London to Chicago to visit my friend in Kalamazoo, Michigan – and almost every spare moment before I left, I would spend looking at things that could somehow help me prepare.
Regardless on how many times you’ve flown on your own, the process can seem a little stressful when deciding what to bring, how much of said things, and what you’re going to use them for.
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How to plan and prepare for your solo flight
It’s a really good idea to have a plan for everything before you get started, so hopefully this post comes in handy for your first – or even 10th! – solo flight, and how to prepare for it.
Make a checklist for what to pack.
Making a packing list for what you take is one of my essentials. This way I can keep track on what I plan to bring, and what I do actually end up taking. It also means that I can make plenty of revisions before the trip, so I can decide what things I value bringing the most.
One of my top things to do is make two identical lists – one for while I’m still figuring out what I decide to bring, and one for while once I’m away so I can make sure I take home everything I originally took. Researching packing lists is a great way to figure out what you want to take with you on your trip, especially if this is your first trip, you may not know what are good things to bring or not bring with you.
If you don’t want to write down the packing list by hand, I would really recommend using Notion. You can use notion on your laptop, iPad/tablet, and even your phone, so you won’t have to worry about transferring files! You can also share pages on Notion, in case you wanted to send anything to members of family or friends.
These lists can also be essential for making sure you bring all the critical documents with you like your passport and boarding pass. If you’re unsure where to get started, head down to the end of this post for my own packing list!
Have a plan of where you’re going – an itinerary.
Whether you’re planning on staying with friends or not for the whole of your trip, it’s important to make a list of where all the places you’re planning on going to, and roughly the days you’d like to go.
This way you can plan on where you’re hoping to go on your trip, and when you want to be there. Of course you don’t need to plan out every second of your trip – I would leave a day or two maybe to rest and eat some good food or even if the weather changes dramatically. Setting out specific days to do things also means you’re more likely to actually do them too.
Having an itinerary is also very useful for if you are always on your own, because you can give a copy of it to someone close like your family, so they always know where you’re supposed to be on your trip.
Bring things that will be useful for your trip
Being savvy with what you bring on your trip is one of the key things, especially when you have limited luggage space. Bringing lots of layers might be pointless in summer months, and taking sandals when you won’t be by a pool or beach, or if you’re avoiding using hostels (please bring sandals if you’re staying in a hostel!).
If you’re trying to be as low impact as possible on your trip and plan to get a lot of take-out food or hot drinks, bringing a storage container and reusable cutlery might be something to consider for your packing list, but only if you know you’ll use it – these can take up lots of room otherwise.
Try to be clever in what clothes you take too. Bringing clothing items that can be used in multiple outfits and for multiple occasions can be a great way to save space and save valuable weight in your luggage.
For instance, bringing a light dress that you could wear for both sunny days but also the occasional formal event or meal, baggy trousers that are light but could also double up as pyjamas – the same for vests and tops too. Shoes that are not only comfy but work with your outfits are a must – walking boots paired with a dress doesn’t always work for everyone!
Pack your carry on wisely.
If you’re bringing both a carry on and a hold piece of luggage, placing things that will keep you occupied and healthy in your carry on is a great idea. Some great things to pack into your carry on could be:
- headphones – noise cancelling are especially great.
- ear plugs – I really like the ones from Loop. The Quiet ones are great if you want to try to sleep and block out sound.
- sleeping tablets if you’re hoping to sleep on a long haul flight but worried you might not be able to.
- a book, magazine or e-reader.
- an empty water bottle – you can fill this up after you’ve been through security to make sure you stay hydrated throughout your flight.
- a small bottle or tin of moisturiser – planes can be very dehydrating so bringing this can really help.
- a travel pillow and a blanket or scarf – planes aren’t especially comfy or warm, so these are a must if you plan on sleeping.
- a battery charger / power bank – some planes don’t have charging ports at seats, depending on how long your flight is, so bringing this is an essential for me.
- a comfy sweater – again, planes can be quite cold due to the air con, so I definitely recommend a sweater, even if you’re flying in the middle of summer.
- simple snacks – depending on the length of your flight, you may or may not get an in-flight meal (you should find out when you book) so bringing something like a fruit bar would be a good idea.
Plan how you get to and from the airports.
This is a thing you really need to know about, as it’ll just be yourself and no-one else to make the planning or booking arrangements. Make sure you know how to get to the airport, whether that’s by taxi or a friend/parent giving you a lift, what time you need to be there for according to when your flight is, and which terminal you need to arrive at.
The same goes for when you arrive at your destination. Do you have a place to stay? If so, make sure you have a plan on how to get there, what the best way to travel will be for the time you arrive there (taking public transport may not be the best idea in the middle of the night or at rush hour), and what to say if you’re getting a lift/taxi in a country with a different language. The one thing you don’t want is to get into a taxi, say the address to where you’re staying wrong, and end up in a completely different location!
Make sure you can use your phone abroad
Going to a different country means that using your data or making calls might cost you more. Make sure before you leave, to look into your phone plan and what it can do with Roaming, and if you need to buy a different plan or get a new number/sim card.
This is a really important thing to look into regardless of the length of your trip and you’re solo. You can sometimes get local sim cards at airports or grocery stores, but it’s not guaranteed that they’ll work, so sticking to one from your home country is what I would recommend.
Organise your bank accounts and local money
If you’re going to a different country, it’s a good idea to get some cash in the local currency before you leave. Make sure you know what currency that country uses, especially if you plan on going to multiple. If you’re planning a trip to Europe and the UK for example, make sure you bring Euros as well as British Pounds.
With your bank account, depending on who you use while away, you could get charged for being in a different country. Make sure you look into what their charging rates are, and possibly consider signing up for a new account if they’re good while abroad. If you’re from the UK, look into Monzo and Revolut before you’re next trip.
My solo flight packing list
If you’re unsure where to start when it comes to packing, I’ve added in a generic packing list below – it’s more aimed towards summer/warmer months and should work best for 1-2 weeks, but you can always tweak it to fit your needs!
- Visa (if needed)
- Boarding passes (get them on your phone too!)
- Travel and health insurance
- Maps and booking reservations for where you’re going and staying
- A printed out itinerary of your trip
- Toothbrush and toothpaste – dry versions like toothpaste tabs can go in your carry on, but not large tubes of actual paste
- Shampoo and Conditioner – you can sub these for shampoo bars and conditioner bars if you want to just have everything in your carry on, or just to save space
- Shower gel – or just use your shampoo to save space
- Sun cream/lotion – this is really important regardless if you’re going in summer or winter! The sun reflects off snow, meaning you could possibly burn – so look after your skin!
- After sun
- Deodorant – aerosols can’t go on planes, so make sure you have either a roll-on or a stick
- A razor – safety razors can’t go in your carry on, but they can go in your stored luggage
- Period products
- First-Aid Kit – make sure you bring the essentials such as plasters/band-aids and antiseptic wipes – blister plasters are a great idea if you’re going to be on your feet a lot
- Medicine and pain killers – if you have any prescription medicines, make sure you don’t forget those
- Water bottle
- Phrasebook – don’t rely on your phone to translate for you, you may not be able to get signal on your phone all the time
- Suitcase and backpack
- Padlock – an idea if you’re staying in hostels
- Eye mask for sleeping
- Local currency and wallet/purse
- Travel journal – this isn’t essential but it’s a great way to keep all your memories and physical tickets together
Make sure when bringing liquids, that they are all under the size limit for your carry on – which is 3.4 oz or 100ml. You’re allowed to bring larger bottles in your stored luggage, but make sure it’s well wrapped in case of leaking. Also please check with your airline provider beforehand, because some have different rules to others. If you’re worried, I would recommend brining solid toiletries, as these not only last longer but also save you a lot of luggage space.
I hope this solo flight guide helps you plan your next trip! Do you have any good tips for solo flyers?
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