Haven’t flown in awhile?

January 13th, 2010

A few tips on traveling solo and enjoying it…

I know a whole bunch of ladies who are getting excited about a trip away that will take them away from their traditional families but to a new type of family for a few days… their blogging family.

No, I don’t know which pair of jeans you should pack with what heels or which top is the cutest, or even how it is ALL going to fit in your suitcase, (Okay, I have some ideas there. But that might need to be another post.) but I do know how to sail through the airport and get onto your flight hassle free and ready for fun.

First of all, let’s talk luggage.

Most airlines now charge a fee for each piece of checked luggage. (Thank you, Southwest, for holding out on charging that fee!) Some airlines, like Continental, allow you to pay a discounted rate for checked bags by paying in advance online. Paying this way does not allow for refunds, though… so only pay for what you know you’ll be bringing. Check your airline’s site to see what the fees and potential discounts might be.

Checked luggage typically has one fee for luggage up to 50 pounds and a much heftier price tag for a heftier bag. Weigh your packed bag at home so there aren’t any surprises at the airport. And consider your luggage: a really big suitcase begs to be filled to the brim. But then will it weigh too much?

If you are going to a conference, consider bringing a bag a bit larger than what you need so you’ll have room to bring home freebies. Just be sure you factor in the extra weight you’ll be adding, too.

I like to travel with a suitcase that has a nice set of wheels. In addition to just making your way through the airport, you will be lugging this bag into and out of taxis or shuttles and potentially also through the halls of the hotel. Get the wheels so you aren’t struggling.

Check in in advance

Typically you can check in and print your boarding pass for your flight 24 hours before the flight on the airline’s website. If you are hoping to swing an exit row seat (more legroom) check in sooner rather than later to see what is available. To see your airplane’s configuration and seat features, click over to SeatGuru and enter your airline and airplane information.

Almost time to fly!

On to Packing your carry-on items

Typically, carry-on regulations allow you bring one bag of up to 45 linear inches (L + W + D) and 40 pounds and one personal item such as a purse or laptop case. Any liquids or gels you are carrying must be in quantities of no more than 3.4 ounces. All of those containers of liquids must then be placed inside of one quart-size clear zip-top plastic bag. Lipstick and lipgloss are considered liquids, so they must also go in the zip bag. You are allowed one such bag of liquids per person.

Yes, there are specific exceptions to these rules, so check the Transportation Security Administrations (TSA) guidelines if you believe you need to carry something that might be exempt.

Although you cannot bring liquids through security, you can pack an empty sports bottle in your carry-on bag and fill it with water or your beverage of choice after you’ve cleared security. Even though most flights have beverage service, you never know if turbulence might delay or prevent the beverage service.

You can pack food. Consider the time of your flight and whether or not your flight offers meals (and at what cost) when determining if you should bring a snack. I typically throw something in my purse as a backup. Flights are often delayed and, in some cases, you might be stuck on the plane for longer than you planned.

Do you get cold? Consider throwing in a light sweater. Are you going to wear shoes without socks? Consider bringing a pair of socks to wear on the airplane. I usually slip out of my shoes and into a pair of socks after I’m settled in my seat.

Now that you are all packed, it’s time to head to the airport. Your vacation is about to begin!

When to go to the airport

Consider how large your community airport is and what time year you are traveling when you plan when to arrive at the airport. A busier travel time means more travelers going through security. On a solo trip from a major city not at rush hour, I like to get to the airport an hour and fifteen minutes before my flight so that I’m not in rush dropping my bags and making my way through the security line. Traveling early in the morning or late afternoon/ early evening on a weekday when a lot of business travelers might be flying? Add in a little extra time to be safe.

After dropping your bags and/ or checking in at your airline’s counter, it’s time for security.

Making it through the security line

When it is your turn to enter the security line, be ready to hand your government-issued photo ID (typically a driver license) and your boarding pass to the TSA agent. She will check the two and hand your documents back to you. You can put your ID away, but keep your boarding pass out until after you have passed through the metal detector.

While you are waiting your turn to place your things on the security tables and conveyor belt, start unzipping any bags you’ll need to open and be sure your pockets are empty.

When it is your turn, slip off your shoes and any jackets or coats and put them in a bin on the conveyor belt.  If you are carrying a laptop computer or DVD player, remove it from your bag and put it in its own bin for scanning.

Next, place your purse and any other carry-on bags either in a bin or directly on the table or conveyor belt. Then put your liquids zip-top bag on top of that for easy screening.

With the exception of your boarding pass, which you must carry, you may not carry anything with you as you walk through the scanner. All of your belongings must go through the X-ray machine.

Once all of your items are heading into the scanner, walk through the metal scanner or body scanner as directed by the TSA agent. Only one person may pass through at a time, toddlers included, so just watch for instruction.

After you walk through, collect all of your belongings as quickly as possible so as not to delay anyone behind you.  Consider moving aside with your belongings and putting everything away properly out of the way of the crowd.

Then head for your flight and get ready for the fun of your vacation!

For more tips on making it through the security line faster, check out the story on the TSA website.

Some of you may groan about sitting in tiny quarters for a few hours on your way to your destination. But, as a mom, I love my solo time in the air. Bring a book, bring some headphones (whether you want to listen to music or not), sit back, relax and maybe catch a nap. Your vacation begins now!

Do you have any travel tips that have helped make traveling solo easier for you? Please share!

This post is also linked to Unfinished Mom’s Tips & Thoughts for my First Blissdom.

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4 Responses to “Haven’t flown in awhile?”

  1. Blissdom Blogging Conference– What I’m packing | Mom's Travel Tales :: Sharing the adventure of family travel on January 18, 2010 8:13 pm

    [...] Most likely for the airplane: (Note the easy-to-remove shoes for the security line. Follow this for more tips on sailing through security.) [...]

  2. Going My Way? Travel Tips for the Old and Young — Life As Mom on January 27, 2010 3:55 am

    [...] Travel Tales is a blog dedicated to helping moms and families who travel. Amy’s got some great tips if you haven’t flown in awhile and need to brush up on airplane rules and [...]

  3. Ashley on August 2, 2010 9:48 pm

    Thanks for sharing these tips. The Relevant Conference in October will be my first time flying solo… I will definitely be a bit nervous, though I’m very much looking forward to it!

  4. Kimarie on October 18, 2010 8:23 pm

    I wish I was going to a blogging conference…maybe one of these days. This is a great update for me – I haven’t flown since I was pregnant with my third child, 13 years ago. Before that I made quite a few solo flights and I LOVE flying – the takeoff is my favorite part. Anyway, all those new security issues and the fee for luggage are new. Thanks!

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