For a lot of people, college is the first-time that people have to travel by themselves. The first couple times, navigating the airport by yourself is stressful – it’s a new environment, you have to worry about things you never thought about before, and you have a lot of things to be responsible for. Frankly, it can be overwhelming.

Since I went to boarding school, I’ve been making international flights by myself for around five years now, at first making the trip from JFK to Heathrow, and now from BWI to Heathrow. Over the years, I’ve made a lot of mistakes (re: one time my parents forgot to leave me luggage when they dropped me off and I had to lug all my stuff around the airport in a sealable laundry bag) and spent a lot of times waiting around in airports, scouting out the best locations to grab quick noms before the flights. As a result, I like to think I’ve accumulated some knowledge about how to efficiently and easily travel. To save you all some hassle, I’ve distilled what I think are the most important bits of information and turned them into a bullet point list, below. Hope you enjoy!

  1. Give yourself more time than you think. Thankfully, I’ve never missed a flight before, but I know people that have and I know what a stressful experience it can be, especially if you’re new to traveling and all you want to do is go home. To save yourself the hassle, always give yourself a buffer period. Plane doors often shut 45 minutes before the departure time, but you want to give yourself way more time than that. Before you set off, you should check how long it will take to even get to the airport itself via whatever transport you’re taking – I know that via Uber, it takes about half an hour to get to BWI from Hopkins. Once I’m there, I generally give myself an hour to get through check-in, baggage drop-off, and security. On top of all of this, I give myself an extra buffer period of 20 minutes. It may seem a little excessive, but when it comes to traveling which can be both expensive and stressful, it’s much better to be safe than sorry!
  2. Wear your heaviest clothes on the plane. If you’re the kind of person who overpacks for everything, like I am, the weight limit on baggage can serve as a major problem. Something I’ve found helps is if you wear heavy clothes on your person instead of stuffing them into your suitcase – this means layering your hoodies, sweaters, etc. It can also mean carrying things that are a little heavier in your carry-on; my speaker, for example, is a compact yet heavy object that I can easily slip into my backpack that helps take a couple pounds off of my baggage weight.
  3. Check-in online. This sort of ties into tip #1, but checking in online saves you tons of time at the airport. Online check-in usually begins 24 hours before your flight, and if you’re early enough you’ll not only get your boarding pass and save yourself from waiting in line, but you’ll also get to pick your preferred seat (and we all know that on long haul flights, the middle seat is The Worst.) Once you have your boarding pass, my go-to move is usually to screenshot it for easy access when you get to the airport.
  4.  Have a designated “passport” pocket. There have been so many times when I have had to dig through my backpack, looking frantically for my passport and half-panicking that I’ve lost it. I’ve found that putting all of your airport related items, like your phone, your earphones, your chapstick, your ticket, and your passport, in one place can save a lot of time and stress while traveling. This can either be a small shoulder bag or a pocket on your backpack, but whatever place you choose make sure it is easily accessible and secure. I use the small front pocket on my bag to keep my valuables.
  5. Memorize your passport details. Having your passport details memorized helps make online-check in easier, and makes filling out customs forms (which you have to do on international flights) much easier and faster.

Hopefully these tips help make traveling just a bit easier for you all! Safe travels this winter break!