What NOT To Do When You Travel Alone for the First Time

Emmys view before boarding the wrong train

Photo courtesy of the Blue & Gold Staff

Emmy’s view before boarding the wrong train

Emmy Williams, Staff Writer

I’ve been traveling for my entire life.

I grew up with family in Minnesota and Georgia, so airports were always a familiar place to me, or so I thought. When I was 12, I went through the airport as an unaccompanied minor, which meant that my mom walked me through everything up until I boarded the plane, and once I landed my grandma was at the gate.

More recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Minnesota by myself, without the added benefit of someone to walk me through everything. As it turns out, traversing the airport by yourself is much different than when you’re with your family. So, without further ado, I am going to tell you everything you shouldn’t do the first time you travel alone, so you don’t make the same mistakes as me.

1. DON’T use a passport cover that’s hard to get off.

I was well prepared to go through the security line. I had all of my important documents ready. I had my liquids in a separate bag and I had shoes that would come off easily. Once I arrived at the TSA officer checkpoint, I showed him my passport and my boarding pass. This is where everything began to go wrong. He then instructed me to remove the passport cover, which I had never had to do before. I struggled with it for about 30 seconds before I decided to swallow my pride and simply rip it off of the passport. He stared at me in disbelief for a moment, checked my passport and boarding pass, and I moved on.

What to do instead:

Make sure all of your important documents are easily accessible! I suggest keeping all of them somewhere safe where they won’t fall out of your bag on accident. Also, just don’t use a passport cover, it isn’t worth it.

2. DON’T make uncomfortable small talk with the creepy old guy sitting next to you.

I had been stressing about who was going to be sitting next to me on the plane for weeks. I wondered whether it would be someone nice who’s my age, or if it would be someone quiet who wanted nothing to do with me, or by some stroke of bad luck, if it would be someone who really wanted to talk.

When I sat down in my cursed middle seat, I noticed a baseball hat with the logo of some football team sitting on the seat next to me. I had a sinking suspicion that an unfortunate situation was beginning to arise.

A few minutes later, a middle aged man plopped down next to me. He smelled like beer. I noticed that nobody was occupying the window seat, so I moved over to create an imaginary barrier between me and this guy. I tried my best to look busy, but eventually he decided to ask me where I was from. I answered his questions with short, clipped, responses but something just wasn’t clicking for him. He told me much more about his life than I cared to know.

When the flight attendant came by to take orders for drinks and such, he asked if he could buy me a drink. I thought he was joking at first, but his facial expression said otherwise. I was somewhat shocked, but I declined politely and turned away.

What to do instead:

Look busy! A good tip is to wear headphones even if you aren’t listening to anything, and have a book (if you have one) open in front of you.

3. DON’T take the wrong train.

Once my plane arrived at the gate back in Georgia, I de-boarded and headed for the “plane train.” If you’ve taken the plane train before, you know that there’s two trains, one heading in one direction and one heading in the other.

I was extremely worn out as it was around 10 pm, so I got on the first train that I saw. As the train ride progressed, I noticed that with each stop more people would get off and nobody would get on. When we reached what I thought was the stop before mine, the only other person on the train got off. I was alone and extremely confused. I stayed where I was, assuming that the train would eventually move. It stayed where it was, and somehow I didn’t get the hint that it wasn’t going anywhere.

A few moments later, a message began to play from the intercom. “Please exit the train. Please exit the train. Please exit the train.” I exited the train, and found myself in an unfamiliar area of the airport. I came to realize that it was the international terminal, and that I was completely lost. I followed the signs and eventually I got to the domestic baggage claim, where my parents were waiting for me.

What to do instead:

Pay attention to your surroundings! If it feels like you’re in the wrong place, you probably are. When you’re navigating the airport make sure you take note of the signs around you, and try your best to not take the wrong train.

4. DON’T be nervous.

I was unnecessarily nervous when my mom left me at the security line. In fact, I was incessantly nervous for almost the entire duration of my time traveling to Minnesota. I was close to having a nervous breakdown multiple times because of how large and unwelcoming the airport seemed. However, once I felt more comfortable, I actually really enjoyed myself. Surprisingly enough, I sometimes find myself wishing I could go back to the airport.

What to do instead:

Don’t be nervous! Navigating the airport on your own seems like a daunting task, but it isn’t all bad. Listen to your parent’s advice, even if it seems annoying, and answer their texts so they don’t get worried that you took the wrong train or ripped your passport in half or got kidnapped by the creepy old guy sitting next to you. Enjoy the feeling of freedom and buy yourself a coffee or tea.