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Vacations can also be a major source of anxiety, especially if it involves air travel. Just getting through security can be time-consuming, frustrating, and stressful.
Plus, if you’re a nervous flyer, the whole trip to your destination can leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Read on for helpful tips to minimize stress and anxiety when flying.
Pack Your Carry-on Bag to Meet TSA Regulations
No one wants to be the one holding up the checkpoint line for everyone else. The stress of having everyone’s eyes on you is so uncomfortable! The best way to minimize that happening is by packing your carry-on to meet TSA regulations.
Always pack liquids in a clear ziptop bag, and make sure they fall under TSA’s limit of 3.4 ounces or less. Also, have your laptop and other large electronic devices (anything bigger than a phone) easily accessible to place in the security bins.
Another thing we’ve experienced recently is having our snacks pulled out and tested. I wasn’t expecting that the first time it happened. I had to basically empty the entire bag to pull them out.
Now I put them in a separate ziptop bag on the top so they are easily found and tested.
Consider Splurging for TSA Pre✓ Or See If Credit Card Covers It
One way to make the security checkpoint much easier is to spring for TSA Pre✓. The fee is $85 for 5 years. The process is fairly straightforward. After you are conditionally approved, you can schedule an in-person interview and get your fingerprints taken.
Once accepted into the program, it allows you to skip the process of taking off your shoes and jacket. In addition, you don’t have to remove liquids or your laptop from your carry-on.
It’s often a much shorter, faster line than the traditional checkpoint, with the majority of travelers making it through security in under 5 minutes!
Alternatively, you can check to see if your credit card reimburses for TSA Pre✓ or Global Entry.
Global Entry is the program that trusted travelers gain expedited entry into the US after traveling internationally. The program has a $100 fee, which includes TSA Pre✓.
There are a few travel-centric credit cards that cover the fee for Global Entry. I recently got a Capital One Venture card and it offers a host of great travel perks.
One of which is reimbursement for Global Entry. It was effortless, too. I filled out the application online, paid my fee, and before the paperwork has even been processed on the government’s end I had the $100 credit applied to my account.
I’m looking forward to finally getting the interview and breezing through security on our next trip!
Pinpoint Anxiety Sources and Find Ways to Ease Them
For me, the majority of my travel stress is having to leave my dogs, which we do right before leaving to catch a flight.
Flying is just a necessary part of our life with living in Alaska and having family in Florida, and that means we have to bring them to a boarding kennel.
The way I eased anxiety over this is by doing a lot of research on the available options and checking reviews. I then went and did a walkthrough and brought the pups to see how they liked it.
When they seemed pretty happy and the kennel seemed clean, well-organized and safe, it definitely helped take some of the stress off for me.
Plus, they post photos on Facebook daily, so I get to see their happy faces and know they’re well taken care of.
If your stress is caused by worrying if you’re going to miss your flight, always plan extra time to help alleviate that fear.
Even for overnight flights, we plan on just under two hours to get through security and get to the gate. It may be a little excessive to some, but not having to worry about missing flights or rushing through the airport helps.
Know What to Expect When Flying
It helps to have an idea of the layout of the airport so you can find your gate easier. Many airlines offer a mobile app to keep up on flight delays and gate changes. Some even have maps for the biggest airports built in.
It also helps to plan appropriately long layovers, which could vary depending on the airport of your layover.
For example, a layover in Portland requires much less time than a layover at Seattle (SeaTac) just due to the sheer size of SeaTac and the fact that the gates tend to be spread out.
If your stress is the actual flight and dealing with turbulence, you may find it helpful to look into the science of how normal turbulence occurs.
Turbulence is caused by many different factors, but normally has to do with the difference in air temperatures between warm air currents and cooler air currents.
It may be helpful to view them sort of like “potholes in the sky” to avoid panicking.
It’s also helpful to keep in mind that pilots are extremely skilled in handling the plane. They also train regularly on how to manage and minimize turbulence as much as possible.
L-Theanine is an amino acid commonly found in green tea. It helps calm and ease anxiety without making you feel groggy or drowsy. So basically, it’s like drinking cups of green tea without having to make frequent bathroom trips!
L-Theanine has been my go-to stress reliever for years! I started taking it when working a high-pressure job, and stuck with it to help ease travel anxiety.
It also boosts the function of the immune system, which always seems to take a hit while traveling. Anything that helps fight bugs while on vacation is a good thing for me!
There are quite a few different brands, but my favorite is this one from GNC.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is such a calming, relaxing scent. It helps ease stress and alleviate anxiety, while also working to soothe sore muscles. It’s also great for bug bites and sun exposure!
Just be aware that everyone prefers different scents. Try not to go overboard with the smells while in close quarters on the plane. I apply oils to my wrists while waiting to board, and sniff it when I need a quick boost of relaxation.
One of the best changes in air travel recently is being allowed to keep your phone on through the entire flight as long as it’s in airplane mode.
This is super helpful because now I can listen to some relaxing music while the plane is taking off.
I download a good assortment of chill tunes, upbeat music, and nature sounds to my phone to match whatever mood I’m in.
Maybe be a little more careful with your music selection than I was on my last flight, though! I adore John Mayer’s voice and find it soothing. However…
We’re going down and you know that we’re doomed. – John Mayer
Slow Dancing In A Burning Room
Those are definitely not the best words to be listening to when the pilot turns on the fasten seatbelt sign and the plane starts bumping around due to turbulence!
Music also helps mask the noises from other travelers, whether you have a baby next to you or Chatty Cathy right behind you. This also works to mask some of the plane noises, that while normal, may be an anxiety trigger.
Limit Alcohol and Coffee
While a boozy cocktail can help take the edge off for some people, overall it’s not a great idea to drink and fly. The change in air pressure affects how your body processes alcohol. It can cause you to become dehydrated more easily, and experience more light-headedness than normal.
Coffee is a stimulant, so it’s best to stay away from that too. It’s important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
When flying, I bring a few of my favorite tea bags and a honey stick. When the flight attendant comes by, I ask for a cup of hot water and sip on a nice cup of tea to help relax.
Talk To Your Doctor to Review Medication Options
If you suffer from more intense anxiety, have a chat with your doctor. There’s no shame in getting some medication to help you through! Traveling should be a fun experience.
While the flights are typically the least fun part, a bit of meds could help start your trip on a good note if you’re dealing with strong anxiety.