Flying by Yourself: What You Need to Know

By Timothy Hayes on May 30, 2015

No matter what, being suddenly and very truly alone even when surrounded by millions of people is terrifying. You might know it’s coming. You might feel excited by it at first. Then the rushing sense of dread comes from nowhere to blindside you. You might feel lost, sick, or unusually sad. Welcome to an airport.

Flying is the number nine most reported phobia by Americans with approximately 25 million sufferers nationwide. The fear is primal and difficult to shake. You’re in a pressurized tube at 30,000 feet. That’s gut wrenching for anybody who thinks about it for any length of time. Feeling nervous about flying is very common and nothing to be ashamed of.

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While many people fear flying, according to the US Travel Association, in 2012 Americans made 2.1 billion flights alone. That’s staggering. The massive amount of air traffic in the U.S. of course needs loads of monitoring. Enter the FAA or Federal Aviation Administration. This Cabinet agency was formed in 1958 to deal with an increase in air traffic as cheap airliners began popping up post-WWII.

Since then, the FAA has been in charge of aircraft maintenance safety procedures, pre-flight checks, licensing, and most importantly, air-traffic control. The FAA is up in flight towers around the U.S. ensuring that the flights leave on time safely and arrive likewise. Their track record is fantastic. So if flying’s got you nervous, don’t sweat it. The FAA’s got your back.

Before you even get to the airport, you’re going to need to do some work and research. Firstly you need your ticket and boarding pass taken care of. Make sure it is all set before you leave and have the receipts printed to show to the airline clerk in case something goes wrong. If you’re travelling overseas, you’ll need your passport too. This can take upwards of two months to complete, so make sure you start the process of getting your passport as soon as you know you’ll be leaving the country.

When packing, make a checklist of all the materials you’ll need. Then take this to someone who’s flown before to see if they can add anything or suggest anything that needs removed. Some objects can’t be carried on planes since 9/11 and the list of what is and isn’t allowed surprises some. The TSA has a list online of prohibited material.

When packing up, figure out how many days you’ll need clothes for and add one. This is in case something happens and you need a quick change. Check with your airline and see how many bags you can have and how big your carry-on can be. Separate your packing materials into two sections: checked luggage and carry-on. It can be helpful to physically lay these on two sides of a room to ensure they end up in the right bag.

Your carry-on bag should contain keys if they’re not clipped to you, passport, wallet if it’s not in your pants pocket, any electronics like tablets or computers you will want/need en route, that extra change of clothes I mentioned in case something goes wrong, maybe a jacket, a toiletries bag, and any personal affects you will need during the flight. Remember, this is a simple grab and go bag, not a suitcase. Your carry-on ideally is small, simple, and lightweight.

Anything you can’t put into your carry-on bag should go into your luggage. That means extra clothes, shoes, bigger toiletry items, any equipment you’re bringing, and everything else heavy and unwieldy. Don’t forget however, that airlines have a limit to the size of baggage permitted. Carry-ons shouldn’t be more than 45 inches including handles. Some airlines provide size-comparisons at their front desk to make sure your baggage will fit. Your checked bag should not weigh more than 50lbs according to most major airlines. That being said, don’t push that limit. Keep it light if you can, because you’ll have to lug that bag between terminals when you have a layover.

The night before your flight, do last minute checkups to make sure you’ve got what you need and go to bed early. The day of your flight, wake up very early to prepare. Eat something before you get to the airport. If you’re a coffee person, do not skip coffee. Right before you leave for the airport, make sure you know your game plan of where, when, how. Know where you are going. Know when you have to be there. Know how you have to get there.

When you get to the airport, check in, check your bag, and get through security as soon as you can. Once you’re done there, make sure you have everything in order and wait for your boarding call. If you have layovers, make sure you still know where, when, how. Get that game plan going ahead of time on your flight.

Remember to be courteous to your fellow travelers. Some of them might be on a third flight of the week. Patience and understanding help prevent short tempers and stress. If you’ve got questions, ask your flight attendant or a traveler next to you. Chances are that they’ve flown before and might be able to answer your questions.

Travelling is stressful. The whole experience can be very tedious and draining. However, it can be a time for new, fun adventures.

On an aside, if you’re looking for a good read during your flight or layover, check out “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E Smith.

Be safe, be prepared, and have fun.

Enjoy your flight!  (image via http://dc405.4shared.com)

By Timothy Hayes

Uloop Writer
I'm a Sophomore at The Ohio State University. My major is Journalism. I used to hate writing until a very passionate 6th grade teacher showed me how fun it could be. Since then, I've expanded my skills and portfolio to encompass short stories, poetry, articles, speeches, movies scripts and play scripts.

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