Airport and flying hacks for first-time overseas travelers

43 Flying Hacks For Solo Overseas Travel (Step-by-Step) In 2023

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If you want to know the best flying hacks for solo overseas travel, consider this your step-by-step guide! Solo overseas travel can be pretty daunting, even for a seasoned traveler going to a new destination or flying solo for the first time. Whatever your experience level – or age – there are tips and tricks that can help you prepare for, and have a smooth flight.

I’ve been flying literally all my life, and as a child I had ear issues. Even in college I would have sinus problems, too. As an adult, I started solo traveling abroad, and after many trips I have the list of everything you need to know and all the hacks to prepare for solo international travel.

Read the whole list to help you prepare as you plan for your trip. Then, you can use this list as a step-by-step guide as you go from planning, to flying, to arriving!

Flying Hacks For Solo Overseas Travel: Prepare before your flight

AIrplane view clouds flying hacks for solo overseas travel

There are a lot of things you can do to be prepared for a solo overseas flight before you ever leave for the airport.

1. Make a checklist of everything you need to do, and all the info for your trip

I usually do this on my phone and on paper. You can use this to cross things off as you go. It’s also a good idea to plan things into your schedule in the days and weeks leading up to your trip (I put them in my google calendar).

  • Check your Passport and make sure it’s up to date (also be sure to pack it)
  • Find out if you need to fill out specific paperwork, like for a visa or get a Covid test for the country/countries you’ll be traveling to. Be sure to check specifically for where you’re leaving from to where you’re going on each leg of your trip.
  • Write down anything you need to buy before your trip
  • Make a packing list and a specific list for what to remember the morning before you leave
  • Write down the addresses, phone numbers and dates for everywhere you’re staying
  • Write down all your flight info
  • Research all your transportation options in advance, like trains, buses, Uber/taxi, car rental etc.
London Red Telephone Booth Sarah UK England
Paperwork isn’t the most fun part of travel, but it’s worth it!!

2. Choose your seat and specialized meals in advance

Aisle or window? Your answer may be different on long, international flights. Case in point: I used to always get the window seat, because I love getting the window view, taking plane pics and having the wall for my pillow.

However… on my latest international trip, I booked aisle seats for my long flights, and it’s what I’m going to do from now on. Being able to get up, use the restroom and walk around whenever I want is actually the best!

Long international flights (and shorter ones) usually come with meals, and you can ask for special meals in advance. You’ll need to do this when you book your ticket.

Flying Hacks For Solo Overseas Travel - Airport waiting travel - person looking out the window at an airplane

3. Be informed before you purchase your ticket(s) and Pay Attention

When you book your flight(s), make sure you pay attention to:

  • The airports
  • Layover locations
  • Layover time of day or night
  • Layover lengths
  • Airlines – know what to expect

What to do first

First, look for cheap tickets on a site like Google Flights or Research info about the airlines and airports, and make sure you’re willing to either pay less and get less, or pay more and get more. Research:

  • What’s offered free or for sale on the flight
  • Baggage costs and size allowances
  • What the airline does in case of delays or cancellations (hint: Spirit is not helpful at all, but that’s also why they’re cheaper).

Make sure not to just click on a flight before checking the time of day, and making sure you can get a ride to your destination at a time that’s okay with you. If it’s for a layover, make sure you’ll be okay either being stuck in the airport or that you’ll have enough time to go explore.

I’ve chosen flights in the past with overnight layovers and sat up in the airport… I don’t recommend it! Another time, I almost missed a flight out of NYC. It was my first time solo in the city and my friend misjudged when we needed to head to the airport. Luckily, the security line was short – but I had to rush to my gate, where they were literally closing the door! I’ll admit it was an adventure and I have a great story, but I don’t want to repeat it twice.

Don’t forget…

Also make sure you’re always paying attention to your flight’s status. You can use the app, just do a quick google search of your flight number, or ask around. This is important both in flight and in the airport, as sometimes times and gates change. Listening to announcements is super important as well. I’ve missed a flight before because no one in my party realized they were calling our name!

Waiting at the airport - Flying Hacks For Solo Overseas Travel includes paying attention at the airport!

4. Pack for what you can handle

Make a packing list in advance and think about what you’re going to actually use. Be realistic – this will help you pack light! Think through your days at home first and what you use, then think about your destination, the weather and the activities you’ll be doing. Then, don’t bring things you don’t need.

Flying Hacks For Solo Overseas Travel - packing with camera and laptop for travel

Don’t bring valuable jewelry because it’s not worth getting it lost or stolen. For solo female travelers, you can get a cheap, fake wedding band if it makes you feel safer.

Luggage: Are you doing carry-on only, or checking a bag? Bring a smaller suitcase if you can, and check it early on your airline’s app if you’re going to check it. In many countries, carry-on suitcases have to be extremely small, so check beforehand if you’re not sure to avoid check fees along the way.

Istanbul airport Sarah
I just took a backpack on a 3-day trip to Istanbul!

5. Make sure you have an international converter and power bank/portable charger

Get these in advance and keep them in your carry-on with your charging cables. You don’t want to have a low battery upon arrival and desperately need to charge it, only to have to wait for your luggage to come through!

⚡🔋 Purchase a Portable Charger/Power Bank Here

This international converter works for the US, UK, EU & AUS:

⚡🔋 Purchase a Universal Power Adapter Here

6. Get the app for your airline(s)

Get any and all airline apps for the airlines you’ll be flying so you can get update alerts, check in early, check bags early and more.

Phone photography
Use your phone for photos, but also to keep track of your flights and more travel hacks!

7. Check in early and add your plane tickets to your phone’s wallet for easy access

You can usually get a plane ticket on email that can be scanned. Add this to your phone’s wallet (like Apple Wallet) for super easy access – it shows up on your lock screen!

Whenever I’m unable to get the virtual ticket, I just get a paper one and keep it in my Passport holder for easy access.

8. Print out necessary papers and copies of your passport

Make copies of your passport for your luggage, and print out any other necessary paperwork. I sometimes also print out a copy of my itinerary with info on places I’m staying and flight information (can be useful if you lose your phone or if your phone’s battery dies).

packing luggage

9. Put copies of your contact info inside your luggage

Write down or print your name, address, email address and phone number on an index card and put it inside all your luggage. If it gets lost, this can help it get back to you!

10. Get the airport map

You should be able to get the airport map on the app. Especially if you’re going to a new airport or aren’t sure where to go, this can help you see where to arrive and check in, as well as to see what restaurants and such are in the airport and where. More importantly, it can be helpful for in-airport transportation when going from one terminal to another on layovers.

Rome Italy travel photography

11. Plan your ride to the airport

Travel hack tip: Find Uber or Lyft on your phone in advance!
  • Pre-book Lyft or Uber rides in advance so you don’t have to worry about drivers not showing up. This is especially helpful for early morning flights!
  • Ask a friend for a ride, and double-check with them the night before to remind them! You can buy them a coffee via Venmo as a thank you.
  • If you decide to drive your own car, find out the parking area and cost in advance. Put “departures” into Google Maps for the airport.

12. Get dropped off at your airline’s terminal and area

Travel hack: Plan to make sure you know which terminal to have your driver drop you off at the airport for your airline and flight gate!

Make sure you know your airline so you can tell your driver where to drop you off to be close to check-in. You can also look up online to see where your airline is located for departures.

13. Plan to have snacks handy in case you need them

flying hacks for solo overseas travel airport food

You’re going on a long trip, and snacks are a necessity for so many reasons! You need snacks for protein, blood sugar maintenance, to help with moodiness and more. Here are some suggestions for healthy and protein-packed travel snacks for the airport:

14. Drink a lot of water in advance of your flight

Travel hack for overseas flying: hydrate a lot before your flight to avoid issues like dehydration!

Long flights can dehydrate you, which can lead to health-related issues. Of course, if you chug water on the flight you’ll just have to use the restroom the entire time, so the best thing is to drink a lot beforehand. You can drink water as you get ready to leave, on your way to the airport and when you get through security. Just make sure to have your water bottle empty while going through security!

I always bring an empty water bottle to fill up in the airport – that way I don’t have to wait to ask, and this is especially necessary with those cheap airlines – they’ll charge insane amounts for a tiny plastic bottle (also bad for the environment).

The Brita Stainless Steel water bottle filters water as you drink it, so it’s perfect for travel:

💦 Buy the Stainless Steel Brita Water Bottle Here

💦 Replacement filters for the Brita Water Bottles Here

15. Take a photo of your luggage

Take photos of your luggage before you check it, at the airport. That way, if it gets lost or damaged, you can use the photo to help find it or for insurance purposes. Take photos of all sides, like a rental car, and also of the contents – especially anything valuable.

Airport flying hack: You don't have to be nervous about your luggage if you take photos of it in advance!

16. Get AirTags to use in all your bags

A major issue with travel is lost luggage, but one thing has been finding lost bags, and that’s Apple AirTags. You can keep them in all your bags and even with your keys (and children, if you have them), and track them with your phone. Even if you’re past the distance to track them, they work with other phones to find the tags.

📲 Get Apple AirTags Here

You’ll also want covers for the AirTags so you can keep track of them. I have these:

📲 Get AirTag Covers Here

17. Get a VPN

A VPN is great for international travel for many reasons. VPNs block your IP address to give added security, to protect your information – which, when you’re traveling on minimal data, is needed because public WiFi isn’t very secure. A VPN also allows you to tell your internet browser that you’re in the US, which is important for things like working while abroad. I use Express VPN.

Yafo computer work Israel ocean

18. Get travel insurance

Before you go, make sure to get travel insurance! I use Allianz through my AAA membership. You can also use places like WorldNomads.

19. Notify your credit card company (if you’re not using a travel credit card)

If you don’t have a travel credit card, you’ll need to tell your credit card company you’re traveling, and also your bank if you’re using a debit card, to avoid getting a false fraud situation that can keep you from being able to use your card.

Tip: If you have a travel credit card (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred), you may not need to do this, plus you won’t have foreign transaction fees, and your purchases help earn you points towards future travel!

Digital nomading in Cyprus - computer on a table in a beachfront hotel bar

20. Make sure at least one trusted person has your travel info that can help make sure you get where you need to be!

This is so important!! Send at least one person your itinerary with all your flight info, info where you’re staying, trip insurance and anything else. Once, I forgot I was flying out of Kalamata, Greece instead of Athens and thanks to my mom reminding me, I booked a bus and an AirBNB on time to get there for the night before my flight!

flying hacks for solo overseas travel airplane sky clouds

Flying Style Tips: What to wear and bring for safety and to get through security with ease

21. Dress for comfort and safety

  • Close-toed shoes (for safety). It’s a good idea to wear your walking shoes or boots for the trip to save valuable luggage space! I wouldn’t worry about shoes that are overly easy to take off, because you usually have time in the security line to quickly untie sneakers or pull off boots.
Packing for travel hacks: Decide to bring only what you'll actually wear and need. For flights, pick a comfortable outfit that works for security, comfort and safety!
  • Comfortable/utility jacket/sweatshirt because you never know if the flights will be cold or hot… they also double as pillows/blankets.

    This Baubax jacket is made specifically for airplane travel, and has all kinds of compartments and magical things like a built-in inflatable pillow – I have one myself:

🧥 See the Baubax Travel Jacket Here

  • Long pants (for safety purposes and so you don’t get cold on the plane) that are comfortable and have pockets. My go-to pants for travel are joggers, because they’re a mix of comfortable and aren’t too sloppy! I also wear leggings with pockets.

  • Dress in layers. You can do this to save luggage space, and to be able to adapt to the airplane temps!
Blundstone boots, joggers, Baubax travel jacket

22. Put any liquids and medications in a bag at the top of your carry-on

This makes the security line so much faster! I pack nearly everything in my backpack in pouches and bags so it’s easy to unpack and re-pack quickly.

Travel hacking tip: Place everything you'll need to take out at security at the top of your bag!

23. Make sure your electronics are easy to take out

Yes, this means all your electronics. A lot of places will want you to take your laptop out of the case and so-on, too.

24. Make sure your water bottle is empty

Don’t go through security with water in your water bottle… you can get it taken away at worst (it’s happened to me), or it’s just embarrassing at the least.

25. Take vitamins

It’s also a great idea to take an immune supplement, like echinacea and zinc or elderberry, to keep yourself from getting sick on flights because of the germs and the lack of sleep. I usually take a multivitamin.

Flying Hacks For Solo Overseas Travel: While you wait on your flight

An underwater snorkeler in Oahu, Hawaii

26. Scope out your gate first and make sure it’s the right one

Go to your gate right after security, even if you have a lot of time. Look at the sign at your gate or ask someone working if you don’t see your flight. This has prevented me from going to the wrong gate, and from not realizing the gate changed!

27. Find the nearest restroom

Scope out the closest bathroom to your gate so you can go closer to boarding – because you can’t usually go for awhile once you board (but if you really have to go, ask to go once you get to your seat).

28. Fill up your water bottle

Make sure to fill up your water bottle in the airport so you have water during take-off!

Flying Hacks For Solo Overseas Travel: While flying

airplane flying sunset sky travel resources flying hacks for solo overseas travel

29. Don’t stress about sleep

Get in the mindset of your destination’s time zone and sleep as you’re able – stressing about it only makes it worse, and you can plan for time to sleep when you arrive.

There has been many an international flight, or domestic flight with unexpected delays, where I can’t sleep when I plan on it… whether that’s in a plane or long airport layover. So I do my best to have a successful flight journey by knowing ahead of time I’ll probably have to be super exhausted before I can get any sleep.

Have ways to distract and entertain yourself while flying overseas!

Enjoying the journey

While it’s not ideal, in my tired state I try to enjoy my journey as much as possible. Whether it’s eating a meal in an airport restaurant or ordering coffee at an airport cafe while I doze off or watch movies, I focus on keeping my attitude positive and my expectations low. I’m always proud of myself in the end for getting through it!

On a recent flight I didn’t get a blanket, I was too cold to sleep, and they had apparently been giving multiple blankets to other passengers and were out when I asked. So, I bring a pillow or sweatshirt, sleeping mask, warm clothes/jacket that can double as a blanket, and good headphones. I sometimes play slow music to help me sleep, so I make sure it’s on my iTunes ready to go.

😴 Purchase Adjustable Sleeping Masks Here

😴 Purchase Ergonomic Travel Pillow with Sleeping Mask & Earplugs Here

30. Sanitize your seat

You can avoid getting sick by sanitizing your seat and just having sanitizer with you in general! You can bring your own, but most airlines give you a sanitizer packet when you board, too.

Airport and flying hacks for first-time overseas travelers

31. Have things to do to fill your time, like pre-downloaded shows, movies and podcasts and journal

You can’t always get internet, and sometimes you need something on your own phone – maybe at the airport, or while waiting to board, or even in the airplane. Download your favorite movies, shows and podcasts to have on hand.

One recommendation for a movie to inspire you in times of anxiety is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty!

Looking out the window while flying

Travel Journal

Imagine you’re on a plane or in an airport, and your electronics are on low or you just don’t feel like using them, and you don’t want to read. Enter: the travel journal. You can record your thoughts/feelings, and/or your itinerary and adventures. You can also do this electronically, but sometimes it’s nice to write on actual paper, ya know?

This Wildlife Vegan Leather Journal is made at the oldest paper company (est. 1800) in Lebanon! They’re also partnered with the WWF (World Wildlife Fund).

📙 Check out the Wildlife Journal Here

32. Bring a Kindle, book or audiobooks

I’m all for real books with paper – and sometimes, I’ll bring a book I’m reading on a trip. But it gets pretty hefty to try to bring more than one, and with a Kindle you can bring unlimited books! Plus, with the portable charger you can re-charge it as you travel.

📚 Check prices for Kindle Paperwhite Here

An even more ideal option for traveling is Audible, which I recently joined and am so glad I did! I love that I can listen to audiobooks in my car or anywhere without carrying a book – plus, it’s harder to sit and read because I do that all day long already! I love that I can listen while walking down the street, shopping or eating out solo.

Audible also has exclusive podcasts, so I can find more great ones to add! Members get a number of free credits per month (I get one per month) for certain books, and then podcasts and many other books are free!

📚 Sign up for Audible Here to see if it works for you!

I recommend The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho for a book you can read on a flight. It’s a short but adventurous read that will inspire your travel and life!

📙 Order The Alchemist on Kindle Here

📙 Order The Alchemist Audiobook Here

33. Have moisturizer handy

Flying can really make your skin dry, so keep moisturizer where you can access it on long flights.

The flight isn't the most fun part of travel, but it's worth it! Keep your eyes on the prize... photo is of a laptop and cocktail at a beachfront cafe in Cyprus while digital nomading

34. Make sure you have headphones handy

I actually bring 3 types of headphones on trips. It may seem like a lot, but it’s worth it:

  • I’m all for earbuds, but I always rely on my regular headphones for that low battery situation, and find myself using them a lot on trips.

🎧 Get Headphones that plug into iPhone Here

  • Also, I always forget now that I have the iPhone headphones that connect to my phone, to bring regular headphones… and on US domestic flights, many of the major airlines have TV screens but don’t offer free headphones like on international flights!

🎧 Get Headphones with a regular headphone jack Here

  • Last but not least, I swear by these bluetooth headphones – they’re affordable, and better than anything else in this price range, plus they’re harder to lose because they have a cord that connects them to each other.

🎧 Get Bluetooth Headphones Here

35. Chew gum during take-off and landing

Chewing gum during the plane take-off and landing can help to de-pressurize your ears!

An airplane about to take off

36. Drink water and don’t be afraid to get up, walk around and stretch

As I mentioned before, drink water on and off throughout the flight to stay hydrated, and don’t be afraid to get up when you need to! It’s not good (and can be dangerous in some cases) to sit for too long on long flights.

37. Tips for managing anxiety on flights

  • Eat healthy and exercise, starting before your trip
  • Use a meditation app or deep breathing techniques
  • Take Ashwagandha, a natural adaptogen that can help with stress, anxiety, sleep, and more
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugar
  • Bring protein-rich snacks
  • Play games on your phone (my go-to is Solitaire)
  • Color, draw or write
  • Get BetterHelp counseling – you can write and text your counselor throughout your trip (they offer financial aid, too)!

38. Tip: How to avoid ear pressure and what to do if you have a cold or sinusitis

This is my tried-and-true method – works every time! A nurse suggested this to me years ago:

  • Take 24-hour Sudafed before your flight
  • Take Afrin nasal spray (it dries you out a lot but works like a charm) and Arm & Hammer saline nasal spray
  • Drink water

Flying Hacks For Solo Overseas Travel: When you arrive

39. Get local currency before you leave and bring a travel-friendly credit card

You can get local currency at your bank before you leave so you get better exchange rates and have cash on hand on arrival, which can be necessary. Also, get a travel credit card without foreign transaction fees, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Paying at a cafe

40. Have your transportation figured out in advance

Plan transport to and from the airport for when you arrive and leave each part of your international trip, so you don’t get stranded! Some places don’t have public transportation on local holidays, for instance, and taxis at airports are rip-offs. You can get an Uber if it’s available, or call your hotel to see if they have a suggestion like sending a professional driver. You can also ask Airbnb hosts for advice and help. If you do take public transit, make sure you know if you need a pass or how to pay, and where to go.

Beverly Hills California shopping yellow store and car

41. Get a SIM card or have another data plan like eSIM or International plan in advance

Most of the time, getting a SIM card when you arrive works fine. However, sometimes there are issues, like:

  • In Cairo, there’s no public WiFi at the airport. I pestered them until they let me use theirs so I could get an Uber.
  • In Cyprus, I got a SIM only to later realize it wasn’t working, and that my locked phone wasn’t taking it. I had to get an international plan with my carrier instead.

Check before you go and be flexible if issues arrive!

42. Be flexible and patient!

Mindset is probably the most important thing when flying solo internationally. You may be flying an obnoxious budget airline, have a delayed flight, get seated near a crying baby, and just not feel comfortable in your seat or like being around people… but mindset shifts can help, like:

  • Prepare yourself mentally beforehand for annoyances
  • Put your excitement about the trip before all else. You can put a photo of your destination on your phone screen, for instance, to remind you
  • Think of the annoyances as part of the journey, and part of your badge of honor for being a traveler. Imagine the stories you’ll tell one day!
  • Do the aforementioned anxiety exercises
  • Have your favorite move downloaded on your phone for when you want to check out

I remember the moment when I realized solo travel is about the journey, it’s freeing and there’s no reason usually to freak out: It was on my first solo trip, as I was taking a train from Copenhagen to Sweden and didn’t realize I needed to leave from a different station. Long story short, I ended up having to spend a night in a random train station. I almost cried but stopped myself, realizing I had nowhere to be that badly and that I’d be okay. That changed my outlook on travel completely!

TLV Israel Yafo Skyline Cat airplane

43. Use free apps to make solo international flights and travel easier

  • TripIt
  • Uber, Lyft, Beat Passenger: for getting taxis and rides
  • KiwiTaxi: Airport transfers
  • Google Maps
  • WhatsApp: Used internationally for texting, calls and more
  • Moovit: Used in some countries for public transit
  • Waze: Used in some countries like Google Maps
  • Apple Wallet
  • Trainline & EuroRail: For Europe
  • Duolingo: For language learning
  • Google Translate: For everyday easy translation

Flying Hacks For Solo Overseas Travel: FAQs

Airplane flying in the sky with clouds

👉 How do I travel internationally for the first time alone?

Prepare beforehand and plan. Write down important info and have a trusted friend who has all your info and can help you. You can also use a travel planner or even go with a tour group, which can help you have people to travel with and a guide upon arrival.

👉 How do I overcome flying alone?

The best way to overcome any fear is by doing it and finding out that it’s not that bad! It also helps to be prepared, to work on your mindset and use meditation and deep breathing. Have friends and family you can communicate with, or even a counselor.

👉 What to do when you want to travel but have no one to travel with?

Travel solo! Traveling solo helps with your confidence, various skills and more, and you can make friends while traveling by going on tours, pub crawls and staying at hostels.

👉 How do I get over solo travel anxiety?

The best way to overcome any fear is by doing it and finding out that it’s not that bad! It also helps to be prepared, to work on your mindset and use meditation and deep breathing. Have friends and family you can communicate with, or even a counselor, and make friends on your trip.

👉 What are tips for first time flying?

If it’s your first time flying, preparation and patience are key! Look up everything you need to know in advance, and use airline apps to have flight info handy. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, too.

👉 What helps anxiety before flying?

Meditation and deep breathing exercises, eating healthy and physical exercise, and natural supplements like Ashwaganda. Make sure you eat enough protein and avoid sugar, caffeine and alcohol.

👉 What can I take to calm my nerves when flying?

You can take a natural supplement like Ashwaganda, or something like Tylenol.

👉 What should you not do before a flight?

Before a flight, don’t overdo the caffeine, because it will mess with your ability to sleep and adjust to time zone changes. Also don’t forget to drink water before a flight, but not too much. Don’t forget to pay attention to flight changes and where to go for your flight. Don’t forget to get a ride. Don’t go without checking flight and destination requirements for luggage and paperwork.

All In All: 43 Flying Hacks For Solo Overseas Travel In 2023

Hopefully, these tips can help you get set up for success for solo overseas travel! The more you go, the easier it gets, too. And, it’s easy to make friends when you’re traveling with group tours, pub crawls and staying at hostels… the travel community is the friendliest there is!

For more travel tips, find all my travel resources here!

Find all my international destination guides here!

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