I think for quite some time, flying locally and internationally, I've always been used to having someone fly with me. So, in retrospect, its a secret that I wouldn't want to fly alone.
Out of the closet now are the things that I really hate about flying alone:
- It's sad to pack alone. You know its just you who's going away. And you see a lot of long faces... not to mention my cat who wouldn't want me to go (even at any other day/occasion).
It's easy for me to get lost. Physically. You don't lose me mentally unless I want to go on a daydream trip. I usually get lost inside malls and even at places I frequent. So, yes, I get lost easily. I need to make explicit notes of which directions to take.
I hate not being able to smile and talk frequently. Its sad to carry a poker face simply because there's no one to talk to. Its not a question of boredom. It never is.
Pervs are just everywhere. Seriously. Pervs applies to those who, even with an unattractive lady, they still have a menacing look that makes you feel uncomfortable.
You can't argue with switching seats on the plane. When you're alone, there's no one to switch it with! :D
There's no one to share meals with. It tough to just sit with anybody unless you're open to discussing details about yourself from the ground up. Aside from that, you might end up explaining your reasons why you sat with them (whispers: I thought, I said I just wanted to share the meal).
- Waiting for cabs and trains are a lot easier. You wouldn't mind the time passing talking to a companion. And besides, if you lack a quarter or two, there's someone to fill in the tab.
Recently, I had to fly alone. I was forced to take PAL alone to and fro the country. I was stressed, I was nervous. So here's some of my mental notes and some experiences to share for those who will also need to fly alone.
- Know your flight details, airlines, and how to move about the airport.
- Since you are travelling alone, there isn't room for any forgetfulness. Always check and double check.
* Make sure you photocopy your passport, ticket and hotel booking in three copies each. Keep one in your handcarry bag (the one you should always carry with you wherever you go), one in your check-in luggage and an extra one for your safe.
* Invest in a travel bag / pouch. It should be well enough to hold your credit cards, ids, notes, coins, passport, travel documents, etc. It should be easy to reach and stuff inside are accessible.
* Your luggage bag must also be trustworthy. Its zippers should be reliable and should have TSA locks. It should have a ready expansion zipper in case you have more stuff to bring home on your flight back. I highly recommend attaching unique, customized owned tags. This will help others to differentiate your luggage from theirs.
- Have more than enough money with you. If you don't have time to buy notes for the currency in the country you'll be visiting, have some cash on hand that you can have converted at the airport. Aside from this, bring more than one credit card at hand.
- Have a reliable phone and postpaid plan that allows roaming with you. This is a must so that you can call for help anytime you need it. Worry about the costs later ;) you're more important than that. If you aren't aware of whether you have roaming on, call your provider at least 2 days before the travel. Install internet based call apps and chat on your phone so that when you have internet connection ready, you can easily call or get in touch.
- Stay in a hotel that is reliable, safe, efficient and comfortable. It should have wifi ready for you and preferrably free ;) Sound sleep at night, good food and security is a must especially when alone and when you're a female. Hotels with safe are good hotels. Make good use of this. A friend of mine advised that based on his experience, he practices leaving half of his cash (and I suggest notes from your country of residence) plus one credit card in this safe. Also put in here your items that are hot on the eyes (like electronics, expensive cosmetics, etc).
- Always leave your room with your handcarry bag that contains all important items. Leave your room tidy with no lose items (except for those that you can afford to lose). Other items should be locked in your luggage bag.
- Keep quick reach food and drinks in your personal ref. I advise buying water, mentos candy and quick snacks in your ref in case you get hungry in the middle of the night or in between meals. This will save you time and effort to leave your room when not urgent.
- Leave a note in your room where you went and what time you left and time you're expected to be back (if you wouldn't be with a friend). This will allow people in your hotel to have some clues when you are needed to be searched for.
- Be wise and use your eyes. Bring glasses, contact lenses and common sense. Read and watch out for signages. Ask if needed.
I also have a listing of how one should move around the airport. This is based on my Manila-Singapore (and back) travel. This would be useful for first time flyers. Here's your first experience: from Manila airport to Changi Airport.
- Arrive at the airport. Check which terminal you need to be in. This is a common confusion. Details should be found in your ticket. If not, call the airlines or your booking agency to confirm.
- Before you enter the airport terminal:
* Have your passport, ticket and ID ready to hand over to the inspector.
* Make sure your accessories are hidden. I recommend buying a pouch or a jewelry envelope to hold these accessories and placed in your handcarry.
* If you will carry a laptop, invest in a laptop bag that is airport friendly. You may want a bag you can attach to your luggage bag.
* You will enter the first scanner. This is usually hassle free. You don't need to worry if you aren't carrying a firearm or explosives.
* Head straight to the checkin counter. You will see several queues with counters. Your flight number should be displayed on the correct queue. Here you will learn if your ticket does / does not include the travel tax. If it doesn't the checkin personnel will alert you to go to the correct section to pay for your travel tax. Here, the personnel will ask for your passport, ticket and/or ID. Tell the personnel if you prefer a specific seat (window seat or aisle seat). You can also ask if you want to be seated in the middle, front or back of the plane. Here, you can put in your luggage for checkin. Usually your maximum luggage weight is 10kg - 20kg depending on the aircraft for travel. Make sure the personnel will put in the correct tag on your bag. Watch carefully. After which, the personnel will hand you your boarding ticket. In there would be found the detail of which gate you will be boarding in. Take note of this. You can ask the personnel if you cannot distinguish where the boarding gate info is in your ticket. Also found in your ticket is the time of boarding. Take note of this.
- Walk to the boarding area and pay your boarding pass. Our current boarding pass is now only Php 550. Before going to the immigration counter, you will again be asked for the boarding ticket and passport. Here your ticket is now only a secondary document you need to carry at all times. Keep the ticket in your travel pouch
- You are now going to be queued to the immigration counter. Fill in an immigration card while in queue or before queuing. Here you will be asked for the full name, passport details (date and place of issue, expiration date, passport number). Also important here is the address where you will stay in the country you are travelling to.
- Now you will pass a secondary scan which will be more detailed. Make sure you still haven't worn your accessories on. Here, everything would be put in a tray for screening. Shoes will also be removed for screening.
- Wait. Read a book or a magazine, eat. More waiting. Just try to enjoy yourself while waiting for the boarding time.
- When your flight is announced, go to your boarding gate. Have your boarding pass ready for inspection.
- Board the plane. Relax. Eat. Sleep. Arrive at your destination.
- Before you disembark the plane, the flight attendants will distribute a disembarkation card that you will need to fill up completely. Notice that the details you need here are those that are similar to the immigration card you filled up before you were allowed to enter the boarding area.
- They will also announce the belt number where your luggages will be queued on. Take note of this because this will also be the signal where you will exit.
- Now after you get your bag, call your loved ones and tell them you've arrived at your destination safely. Near the exit are two areas for declaring goods (usually the conditions and rules are found in the disembarkation card). You only need to declare something if you are carrying more than 10K of whatever currency or total cost of goods. You can head on to the "no items to declare" exit.
- Your bags (checked-in and hand carry) will be scanned again.
- Exit the airport and have fun in your destination.
Now, after having so much fun, when you're ready to head home, here are some more tips and experience.
In case you still have some few notes to spare, or you'd probably like to go shopping for duty free items, head on to the airport early. Early is defined as 4-5 hours earlier than your flight. Normal is 2-3 hours before your flight.
Again, be ready with your documents. You should have your passport, ticket and the half of the disembarkation card left with you when you arrived at the immigration.
Check-in your luggage. Verify that it will be added the correct tags and stickers before leaving the counter with your boarding ticket. Take note of your boarding time in the ticket.
Enter departure area. Eat. Shop. Have fun while waiting for your boarding time.
Arrive at the boarding gate. Here, you will be scanned again for the last time. Remove all accessories and put in your jewelry envelope. Remove your coat or jacket. Also expose your ipods, mp3 players and laptop.
Fix your stuff and enter the boarding lounge. Read. Fiddle with your phone. Fiddle with your laptop. Pretend to be busy while waiting for the actual inflight boarding.
Board the plane. Relax. Eat. Sleep. Arrive at your destination.
Buy chocolates at the Duty Free section! Call your loved ones and tell them you've arrived safely home.
And now, you're home. Back to regular programming.