Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A College Girl's Guide to Traveling Solo + Free Packing List

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, aka paid links that help keep Haley Marie Blog alive. But don't worry: all of the opinions are still my own! 

Hello, beautiful! I have a confession to make: I've never flown by myself before. There, I said it! I've been to Paris, London, Wales, Alaska, San Francisco - you name it. But never have I ever gone anywhere alone...until now, that is.

On May 3rd, I'll board a plane by myself in Boston and land in Pennsylvania, where I'll spend five days soaking up every second with my long-distance boyfriend (but that's a whole other post!). There's not a single part of that sentence that doesn't excite me, but for every ounce of excitement, there's also a small pang of stress, anxiety and fear.

Traveling usually makes me nervous in a good way, sending an adrenaline rush down my spine. But then again, I've never been the one in charge of all the not-so-glamorous bits of traveling before. From the boarding passes to the checked baggage fees to the TSA's ever-evolving rules and requirements, I have to admit I'm a little overwhelmed by the whole process of traveling alone....

....which is precisely why I decided to write this post for you guys! I know that for every question I have about traveling alone, you guys probably have three. So, I decided to do some research and come up with some pro tips for traveling solo that we can both take advantage of on our next adventures!

P.S. Stay tuned until the end of the post to download my free printable packing list for all your upcoming travel needs ;)

Do: Dress the Part


Whenever I was a little kid and headed to the airport with my family, I always took pride in choosing the perfect outfit to travel in. After all, I wanted to look glamorous and cultured like the celebrities I aspired to be like! (Cough cough Audrey Hepburn cough.) But as I've gotten older, I've learned one thing about traveling that's super important: comfort comes first. 

Especially if you're taking a lengthy international flight or a redeye, you should prioritize being comfortable sitting down for hours at a time over wearing your favorite pair of skinny jeans. In fact, I would argue that you should avoid skinny jeans altogether, since long-haul flights can mess with your circulation! (For that reason, I recommend a cute pair of slip-ons - sweater Uggs, anyone? - and fuzzy socks for the plane.)

Last but not least, stay warm by dressing in layers! In my experience, the temperature inside airplanes rarely matches the temperature outside them - so bring a light jacket, sweatshirt or cardigan and a trusty blanket scarf to keep you warm and cozy in the chilly outsets of the atmosphere.

Don't: Check Baggage

You know those international flights for $99 that almost seem too good to be true? Well, that's because they are: usually, they charge money to bring anything more than a small personal item onboard (including carryons!). Instead, I recommend splurging on tickets with an airline you know and trust, which usually includes a carryon with each ticket. 

To avoid the extra surcharge for checking baggage, I recommend packing a carryon with a well-planned capsule wardrobe of 10-15 pieces (or less!). You would be surprised at how many outfit combinations you can make for a weeklong trip with just a few items in your wardrobe. 

Planning your outfits ahead of time can prevent you from overpacking and help you fit all your clothes into a smaller carryon. My favorite way to plan outfits as of lately has been the Cladwell app, which lets you create a virtual wardrobe full of pieces that look similar to your own. 

Cladwell's best feature is the capsule feature, which lets you select a group of pieces in your wardrobe and advises you on how to combine them into outfit combinations. Example? I picked out 14 pieces to pack for my five-day trip to visit David in PA and it returned nearly 40 outfit combinations. And that doesn't even include accessories!

Do: Separate Liquids and Medications 

We all know that the TSA has regulations about what size liquids you can bring on an airplane...but something I just learned about the TSA? Medications must also be separated along with liquids! Who knew, right?

The rules are that you are only allowed to bring liquids under 3.4 oz, and that the total amount of liquids you bring must fit inside a clear, one-quart plastic bag. The only exception is if you need to bring medications such as ointments or liquid medicines that are over 3.4 oz; however, they may be subject to additional screening from the TSA. So, be sure to set your medicines aside in a separate plastic bag and remove them from your carryon along with your toiletries!

One way I like to save money when I travel is by buying the empty miniature bottles and filling them myself, rather than stocking up on all the miniature versions of my favorite products. However, a few things I always buy in the travel sizes include: Neutrogena Oil-Free Cleansing Wipes, Not Your Mother's Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray and Batiste Dry Shampoo Divine Dark.

Don't: Bring a Full Water Bottle

For obvious reasons, you shouldn't bring a full bottle of water (or any liquid) into airport security! Believe it or not, this is something many people - myself included - tend to forget...and then we wind up disappointed when the TSA officer asks us to dump out our Starbucks in the nearest trash can. (Not that that would ever happen to me, of course.)

Instead, what my mom always taught me to do growing up was to bring an empty reusable water bottle in my backpack and fill it up at the water fountains. If the idea of drinking airport water freaks you out, follow in my footsteps and invest in a water bottle with a Brita filter! This might sound crazy, but I swear to God you can taste the difference.

As for your morning or afternoon coffee, wait until you cross through TSA to chug that cuppa' joe. Because Starbucks may be the love of my life, but it definitely tastes better in my mouth than in the trashcan outside airport security.

Do: Chew Gum 

This is probably the first "travel tip" I ever learned! Ever since I was a little girl, my mom used to take my brother and I out to buy magazines and fresh packs of gum for our trips to visit my grandparents in California.

The reason for the gum? That minty fresh taste does more than just make your breath smell better. In fact, it helps relieve that nasty air pressure that builds up inside your eardrums. So, chewing a piece or two of your favorite gum during takeoff and landing can make you feel a thousand times better by the time those airplane wheels hit the runway.

Personally, I'm a fan of the Trident Sugar Free Gum in Minty Sweet Twist - it's a classic. However, Simply Gum is perfect for those of you who are conscious of your health and what goes into your body, whereas Project 7 Gourmet Gum makes unique flavors for the more adventurous gum enthusiast. Regardless of what kind you choose, I promise this hack will make your travel experience ever the slightest bit more comfortable.

Don't: Waste Your Layover

Let's face it: while direct flights are always the dream, sometimes that three- or four-hour layover is simply unavoidable. My motto? Rather than resenting the boredom that often accompanies these hours-long holding periods, try to make the most of your time wherever you are! 

If you're in a city with an extraordinarily long layover - like, we're talking 6+ hours here, people! - you might consider leaving the airport and doing a little sightseeing while you're in town. For example, I booked a flight to Italy for this August that includes a 12-hour layover in Munich, Germany, so I'm planning to spend the day exploring castles and beer gardens before boarding my plane at night.

On the other hand, if you're simply stuck in one place for a couple of hours, I highly recommend staying within the bounds of the airport so you don't risk getting left behind in the hustle and bustle of airport security. However, that doesn't mean you still can't explore! In fact, staying on your feet during a long layover is a great way to stretch your legs and avoid blood clots once you catch your next flight.

Do: Pack the Perfect Travel Bag

Packing the right bag can make or break your flying experience, determining everything from how bored you are during your flight to how well you sleep to how much you're able to take onboard. That's why I always take special care to pack a travel bag - aka that TSA "personal item" everyone's always talking about - that meets my needs when I'm on the go.

That being said, here's a short sampling of things I strive never to forget when I'm jetsetting between states:

  • ID and passport. Because, well, duh.
  • Empty water bottle. As discussed before, reusable water bottles save money and the environment, and won't get you busted by TSA.
  • Hand lotion and chapstick. Flights can be extremely drying. That's why it's important to keep your skin quenched throughout the course of your adventure! (Drinking water helps here, too.)
  • Emergen-C and hand sanitizer. I don't know about you, but I tend to get sick every time I fly somewhere new. Prepare yourself to take on the germy airport wth a healthy, portable dose of vitamin C and some germ-proof sanitizers.
  • Kindle. I used to be one of those girls who never wanted a Kindle because she'd miss the feeling of paper and ink beneath her fingers (still true!). But I will admit that I'm in love with how the miracle of technology has made it possible to take thousands of books wherever I go in one small, rose gold package - which I am especially grateful for on long-haul flights.
  • Portable charger. Outlets on airplanes tend to be, well, nonexistent. (Unless you pay extra for all those in-flight accommodations, that is.) That's why I like to bring my own portable charger for a little extra juice at cruising altitude.
  • Healthy, non-perishable snacks. Last but not least, what's a solo trip without a little in-flight snacking? Some of my favorite plane-friendly snacks to munch on mid-flight include LUNA Protein Mint Nutrition Bars, Modern Oats All Natural Oatmeal Cups and Trader Joe's Simply Almonds, Cashews & Cranberries Trek Mix.

Don't: Forget Anything! 

Last but not least, make sure you've packed all the right essentials for your trip by using my free printable packing list! This list will help you prepare for your next adventure with little more than carry-on luggage. Simply click on the image below to enlarge and print your free checklist, courtesy of yours truly :) You're welcome, babes!

What in-flight essentials couldn't you live without? 

LMK in the comments below!