travel tips

Why boarding last will get you a better seat and how to make friends as a solo-traveller

Tips for travelling solo, how to pick the smartest time to fly plus why boarding last will get you a better seat

The best way to meet people is to focus on other solo travellers –they’ll want to meet someone too. Picture by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

David Alwadish is the founder and chief executive officer of ItsEasy, which specialises in expediting travel-related paperwork such as passports and visas.

The company has processed over two million such documents in more than four decades, and it’s authorised by the US State Department to provide passport services to the public for a fee. It can also pre-review applications to ensure they won’t be rejected at the last moment and intervene if issues arise.

David Alwadish is the founder and chief executive officer of ItsEasy

The 67-year-old executive commutes between two homes, one in Great Neck, New York, and the other in Boca Raton, Florida, which influences his airline of choice.

“I travel so much on JetBlue, because they have the latest flights to get me to Boca Raton. I can leave my office late and make their last flight,” he says.

His schedule – back and forth to Florida every other week or so – means he racks up around 60,000 miles per year, and more if he and his wife and two sons venture overseas on a trip or two.

Heading somewhere cold? Take this gadget with you

The durable, double-duty Ocoopa Hand Warmer is a little cheat. It’s great for keeping my hands warm on the go.

I love to take it with me on cold weather trips. In 2015 I had a [heart] valve replacement, and since then, I get a little chilly.

With three temperature settings, it can be tailored to your specific needs, whether you’re outdoors in the cold or indoors in a chilly environment. Because it’s rechargeable, you don’t need disposable hand warmers, making this an environmentally friendly choice.

The best way to score a better seat on a plane

I’m absolutely the last one onto a plane. All those people doing this barbaric dance of rushing to board – it’s as if they want to get to Florida before me, but, of course, they’re not going to.

Waiting to board the plane last means you can have a full pick of the remaning free seats. Picture by Slava Taukachou on Unsplash

I just sit there, waiting, and then board the plane after all of them. I might be in a middle seat at the back of the plane, but if you’re the last one on, you can see which other seats are open once they’ve closed the boarding doors, say, an aisle closer to the front.

If you know no one’s behind you, you can take that instead. Walk down last, and you’re able to check out everybody’s seat.

Want to save on your liquid allowance? Try this hack

Portable soap sheets are a must-have for me. My wife brought them to me, because she wants me to have Purell – to not get Covid or get sick again – but I don’t like having bottles in my hands.

These are more TSA-friendly, since you don’t have to use up any of your liquid allocation in a carry-on for them. They’re easy to fit in my pocket.

Where to find a friendly resource on any destination

Browse or join expat Facebook groups in your destination for local travel advice and insights.

I went to South Korea a while back to try to get Samsung to do something with a patent I have, and I studied the expat groups.

Seoul’s market district was recommended to Alwadish on a Facebook group with travel advice. Picture by: Ann Danilina on Unsplash

They told me to go to Seoul’s market district, which is open 24 hours a day pretty much, for food – kimchi for breakfast, rice cakes all day long.

It’s better to use those groups than Google, because you can ask the questions you might have when you land but of someone who’s already done it. It’s a preview of what your experience might be: real people, real questions, real timely things. And Facebook is a lot friendlier than, say, X (formerly Twitter).

This surprisingly useful garment serves Alwadish well

I usually wear my FBI hat to travel. I got it in Washington. I think there’s no doubt that it makes people look and wonder.

And when they’re wondering, they err on the side of respect. I’m looking at everybody, and they’re looking back at me very carefully. Listen, I walked on to the plane one time, and I couldn’t believe it. The lovely flight attendant said, “Thank you for all you do.”

And so, what else was I going to say? I just said, “You’re welcome. And the same thing to you. I think we both have very responsible positions, and you should not be second-rated for what you do.”

Travelling solo? Here’s how to make friends

The first trip I took on my own was to Acapulco, Mexico, a long time ago – I was in my twenties.

“Without question, the best way to meet people is to focus on other solo travellers.” Picture by Bhupendra Singh on Unsplash

I went because I was a jilted lover, and I was feeling sorry for myself. I just decided to jump on a plane and go. I learned a lot about myself on that trip. And I met so many people by myself.

Without question, the best way to meet people is to focus on other solo travellers. They’re the ones who’ll want to meet someone too.

Try this trusty way to get to the airport

I love the subway ride to LaGuardia Airport. From my office in midtown Manhattan, I can walk right down the escalator and jump on the F to Roosevelt Avenue, then get the Q70 [bus] to the airport, which costs nothing.

I’m always there in 40 minutes, instead of taking an Uber that could go $70 (€65) and stop and go and stop and go the whole time.

What to check when picking the smartest time to fly

We all know how busy the airport of departure is going to be, but Google when your destination will be busy, too, to avoid landing congestion: Heathrow is busiest after 10 a.m., for example.

The reality of travelling and then coming back is not easy. When I was in Lisbon recently, so many planes just landed at Lisbon during a certain time, and it was daunting –getting on buses to get to the terminal. It was hours of checking in and checking out.

Lean into the social spaces on a train

Even if you’re not travelling in a group of four, take the four-top on a train, with the table. Don’t shy away from sharing that space on a regional train or Acela.

Opt for the tabled seats on a train for conversation-starters and making friends. Picture by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

I had to go to Washington [DC] with my attorney, and we sat there. Right across from me was this gentleman who works for McKinsey who travels almost non-stop. He took my card, because he loved the fact that I could help him with passports.

We had a great time, and it was all because of the setup on the Acela, like four people around a kitchen table, which meant you couldn’t help but not talk. We didn’t stop talking for three-and-a-half hours.