First Time Flying Alone: What to Know

Our well-traveled daughter has always hated the idea of sitting next to a stranger on the plane. So, we should not have been surprised when she suddenly got the urge to fly by herself to see her grandparents, right? During Covid? We assessed the risks. Let her grandparents assess the risks. Then supported her first time flying alone.

If you are comfortable with the risks, there are some advantages to flying during Covid. Southwest is one of several airlines not seating anyone in the middle seats. Our daughter was guaranteed not to have to sit next to a stranger. And, everyone is guaranteed an aisle or window seat. On Southwest this is promised through September 2020.

Waiting to board a Southwest flight.

Not all airlines are created equal. We love Southwest. The family boarding policy and no additional fees makes me comfortable. I no longer even shop around after wasting countless hours trying to predict and add up extra fees that other airlines add on.

What is it Like First Time Flying Alone

I can’t speak to our daughter’s perspective. Though I did ask her to make a video. Maybe we’ll be able add that here at a later date.

But I can tell you what it was like as a parent. All along, when she seemed to be getting nervous, I told her, “You’ve got this!” But the day of, both her dad and I were nervous ourselves. As I said goodbye at the gate my heart was pounding. My emotions were going haywire. I was so proud of her for tackling this fear. And, yet my palms were sweating.

I suppressed the urge to text her just as she disappeared down the gate hallway. I suppressed it again as I watched the plane pull out of the gate. Then I promptly started calling her grandmother, who was meeting her at the other side.

One of the perks of flying during Covid is the short security lines. This is the shortest TSA line I’ve ever seen at DIA. Don’t ever count on this!

What is it Like Flying During Covid

We live in a more rural resort area of Colorado (Vail) with lots of outdoor activities and space to spread out, Our community was hit early with Corona. But because of that and having a hospital and infrastructure to accommodate a large increase in population during key times of the year, our community was able to test and respond.

It was very strange driving into a large city. At first we thought we would make an over nighter of it in downtown Denver. But once we realized that a favorite restaurant still wasn’t open, we had second thoughts.

In the end I drove our daughter down by myself. I haven’t been indoors anywhere other than my office and Costco in months. We pulled right in to park, put on masks and walked to the terminal in to check her in. Lines were short. Most people were following the rules and wearing masks. The exceptions really were the exception.

Insider Tip: Check out other considerations of traveling during Covid times.

Boarding the airplane by herself for the first time.

Flying as an Unaccompanied Minor

Every airline has different policies and fees regarding unaccompanied minors. As I mentioned earlier, Southwest is our choice of airlines and some quick research reinforced that was the best airline for our daughter to fly on her first flight alone.

I did have to call to make the reservation. Ultimately I was able to use miles to book the flight and just pay the $50 unaccompanied minor fee. I provided names addresses and phone numbers for myself as well as her grandparents whom she was visiting and who would be meeting her at the gate. All set!

That $50 unaccompanied minor fee was well worth it in my mind to be able to walk with her to check in, get her boarding pass, go through airport security and then wait at the gate for her to be the first person to board the flight along with one other unaccompanied minor.

On the other end, her grandparents arrived more than the 45 minutes early to the gate. They showed their ID at the check in counter and were given a pass to go through security.

Travel Tips for All First Time Flyers

  • Pack luggage and determine whether it is best to check your bag, or carry it on.
  • Check your airline’s carry on policies. Some are very strict not allowing more than one personal item to be carried on. Others are more lenient.
  • Print your boarding pass and/ or flight information. Put it in a safe place with you passport or other ID.
  • Leave for the Airport earlier than needed. Plan to arrive before recommended departure time to alleviate any stress.
  • If you don’t have any special check in needs, use the SkyCap and splurge on tipping to avoid the check in counters.
  • At the Sky Cap or Check In counter be sure to make note of your departing gate and ask the best way to go thorough security to get there. Sometimes check in agents may know where the lines are shortest.
  • Be prepared to pull out electronics and take off shoes for the security screening. I fully embarrassed my daughter by wearing socks with sandals through security. It made removing shoes an ease. But I didn’t have to walk through in bare feet.
  • Once through the security screening, buy a bottle of water or fill up a refillable water bottle.
    Proceed to your gate to confirm the flight is still on time.

How was your first time flying alone? I was about the same age that my daughter is now. We hadn’t even dreamed up cell phones or tablets yet. And, I had a nine hour layover in the Amsterdam airport. Needless to say, they had to let me out of the unaccompanied minor room to explore the airport. So much independence can be gained by traveling solo!

First Time Flying Alone: What to Know

Liana Moore

Liana Moore is a third-culture kid with a hangover from those days that is a severe case of wanderlust. She is more comfortable driving the cliffs of Amalfi, Italy or the dirt roads of Costa Rica or attempting to decipher the street signs of Osaka, Japan than navigating the theme parks of Disney World. But she loves it all. She doesn't believe a vacation is complete without an adventure. Her husband and kids know well that "adventure" often is code for mishap or challenge and it usually results in a good story. They seek outdoor experiences whether in the mountains, on a beach or in the jungle of a tropical country. Her favorite vacation is... all the ones she hasn't yet taken, as well as those she plans on taking again. And, that list is so, so long. But she continues to extensively explore her home state of Colorado, spends lots of time wandering Texas, California, New Mexico, Costa Rica, Mexico, Norway and has even explored Kazakhstan.

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