While many of my peers spent some time in the sun in New Orleans for this year’s American Academy of Optometry conference, I decided to embrace Fall with a trip to the Northeast. ICO does not have classes during this conference, which gave us students some much needed time to unwind and catch up on our studies. I took this time in New York.
Although I love Chicago, Manhattan never ceases to take my breath away. Flying over the iconic Empire State Building and monumental Freedom Tower always fills me with a sense of excitement and curiosity. On Tuesday me, myself, and I hopped on a plane at O’Hare destined for Laguardia.
Some of you may think, “Flying alone? Piece of cake!” Others may not be familiar with traveling alone, but it is a great way to take hold of your independence. I learned at an early age how to travel by myself and it has been very beneficial throughout my whole optometry school career. From interviews to externships, you will be doing a lot of things on your own. That is one of the great things about graduate school- you learn how to be an independent adult.
Now, because I am a strong believer that learning how to travel independently is a crucial component to adulthood and a successful optometric career, I have developed a short list of travel tips from my trip to New York. Let’s start with getting to the airport…
1. Taking the CTA
ICO is conveniently located near the Green Line of the CTA. If you are traveling to the airport, you can easily hop on this line (towards Harlem) at the IIT/Bronzeville stop using your Ventra card (bought online or at a station.) Get off at Clark/Lake to make your connection to either the Blue Line (towards O’Hare) or Orange Line (towards Midway.) These lines have easily distinguishable airport signs and take your directly to the airport. Easy and inexpensive!
2. Pack light and carry-on when you can!
I know, I know, you may need that extra scarf or the 5 sweatshirts, but try to think long and hard about what you are actually going to wear. I have learned the hard way that over packing can break the bank. Today, most airlines charge a fee to check bags and they all have an extra fee if you exceed their weight limit. Do your homework ahead of time to find out what their policies are before you begin packing. I always try to bring the minimum to avoid fees and save time heading straight to security.
3. Aim for arriving 2 hours early
This is sort of an unspoken rule when flying. Airlines generally begin boarding a little more than a half hour before the flight takes off. Even if your arrive 10 minutes before your departure time, they may have already closed the gate and won’t let you on (it has happened to me.) Playing it safe is best. I always try to arrive two hours early. I do this in case I hit any traffic on the way (especially in a big city like NY or Chicago) or if there are major lines in security or unexpected delays. It may get boring waiting around if you are really early, but being in optometry school, you always have plenty of study material to keep you busy.
4. Charge your electronics
One of the most important rules about travel that my parents ingrained into my head was always have your phone on you and charged. You never know if you will get lost or need some information about your flight. Today most of us are very reliant on our phones so it is crucial to have it available for a day of travel- especially traveling alone. Additionally, having your laptop charged can help pass the time if you are arriving early and have to wait as stated in the above passage.
5. Know your exit strategy
If someone is picking you up when you land, make sure you are communicating with them about the arrival time. Take into account how long it will actually take you to get off the plane and to baggage claim. If I didn’t check a bag, I generally ask my ride to arrive 15 minutes after our designated landing time to allow me to find where they are at. Some airports are easy to navigate and your ride can simply loop around until you arrive. Others, like Boston or New York, are very large and may even have a toll nearby. Once my dad had to pay a toll twice because he was trying to loop around the airport waiting for me and went the wrong way. If your ride doesn’t mind paying for parking, that eliminates most of this stress. Otherwise, try your best to time it well.
If you are taking public transportation to your destination, again, do your research ahead of time so you know where you are headed. Don’t get too stressed, though. There are many information desks at airports with people more than happy to answer your questions.
I hope these 5 tips are helpful for your next (or first) time traveling alone. Each time you do it, it gets easier until it is almost second nature.
Safe travels and happy fall!