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stress free air travel

How to Not Hate Flying: Real World Advice for Happier Air Travel

Flying can be a bit… Stressful. Just check the news. Airlines have been gaining a pretty bad rep.

Fortunately, those experiences aren’t the norm – that’s why they’re news. But even without that extra drama, lots of people still hate flying.

Getting checked in, going through security, finding some sort of decent airport food, the tiny itty bitty airplane seats, sitting next to strangers for hours, the waiting – in the airport, in the lines, on the plane – filling out all the right paperwork, figuring out your luggage – packing it, deciding how many bags to take, will you check something, will you carry something on, what are the regulations…

Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

So if your pretty much dread flying, I can’t blame you. But there are ways to make the whole thing much more pleasant.

I could get really stressed about flying if I let myself. I can’t really sleep on planes, don’t particularly love being surrounded by people 24/7, can’t sit still for long, I don’t do well in heat so little changes in the air temp can make me pass out and/or throw up, and when it comes to some of the rules and regulations my eye-roll game is strong.

But despite all that, I’m usually pretty chill when I have to travel by plane.

Here’s what I do to stay happy while flying

Be ok with whatever happens. 

Not like, if someone tries to stab you, just go with it. But like, if your flight is delayed, if the security line stretches across the continent, if the airline tells you to check your carryon. Try to *inhale, exhale* and be cool with it.

This doesn’t work if you’re just trying to talk yourself into being cool with it. You need to get to the state of mind where you stop fighting things beyond your control (as there can be a lot of these during air travel) and just let it go. Let go of trying to control everything or trying to stick to how you thought this day would go. Unless it is truly unacceptable, let it be what it is. Take a deep breath, shrug, and say “Whatever. The world will keep spinning.”

Headphones, Music, & Audiobooks

The few times I’ve tried reading a real book on a plane, I tend to start dozing off. So instead, I prefer to bring some good headphones (these are my personal favorites), some good playlists and new audiobooks(I currently use Audible – here’s a list of great books if you love adventures) downloaded to my phone, and both a charger and a battery pack, just in case. Delays happen.

Make the airport part of your experience – on purpose.

Sometimes you only have a few minutes in the airport, but oftentimes, you’ll have a few hours. Whether from layovers, or delays.

Instead of getting frustrated, try to relax. The seats aren’t always the most comfortable, and sometimes they’re full, so go crazy, sit on the floor. No one’s judging that hard in an airport (or if they are, they haven’t learned the first lesson.) Everyone else is tired, ready to be done, a little bored, and probably wishing for a shower.

Wander through the shops and buy yourself a pack of gum, or a bag of gummy worms, a dumb magazine, just something little you wouldn’t normally stop to get. Something that’ll brighten your day, or keep your mind occupied.

Make small talk with someone. You don’t have to talk their ear off, but making friendly conversation for a few minutes can make everyone’s day a little better.

People Watch

This is sorta a continuation of the last tip. Airports are one of THE BEST people watching spots. You see people from all over the country and all over the world. You are all temporarily stuck in this same terminal together trying to pass the time.

You see people from all walks of life, bored, wandering, talking on their phones, typing on their computers, looking for food, speaking to their travel companions, laying around, dancing around, sleeping, joking, crying. It’s a spectacularly interesting crowd.

Remember the airport employees are just doing their jobs

…and man, sometimes it seems boring.

I do not envy people who work at airports. The jobs often seems demanding in the worst ways and simultaneously monotonous (thank you Google for helping me spell both those words.) They’re dealing with tired, cranky, overwhelmed, and sometimes straight up rude people. All. Damn. Day.

I’ve had a couple experiences with rude airport employees (note: do NOT try to joke with the London entry agents. They do not do humor on the clock.) I would imagine, however, that my couple experiences with rude workers pales in comparison to the number of times they deal with rude travelers.

I have also had many more positive experiences with airport workers than negative.

For some reason I almost ALWAYS get pulled for a random security inspection while going through the TSA checkpoints. This has happened as long as I can remember when I have to fly somewhere.

One time I was pulled aside to get wanded, sometime in my teens, in what essentially was pajamas, probably looking like I just got out of bed. The whole thing seemed so funny and awkward that both me and the TSA agent started laughing.

Don’t be afraid to stretch

Planes are weird and awkward for all of us. We all know at some point we’re gonna have our butt in some strangers face, or they’ll have theirs in our face. The infamous airplane butt scooch is one of mankind’s punishments for stealing fire from the gods or something.

But (remember tip #1?) it is what it is. So when you’re legs are starting to stiffen and you feel the crazy coming on, just say excuse me, scoot past ’em, and take a little walk around.

Sometimes they’re tray table is down and they’re doing stuff, but you’re not being rude, you’re a human that requires blood circulation to not die. We’re all in this together. You’d do the same for them, right?

Forget Jet Lag, Sleep if you can

catching some sleep while travelingI know there’s all that stuff about “stay awake so you can beat jet lag!” and that’s fine, but this is my take on it.

I have a really hard time sleeping on planes, but if I can, I will. Even if it means I’ll be getting in to London at 11pm and have to go right back to bed and might not be particularly tired.

Why?

Because I find I’m just a better human if I do.

If I stay awake for the 20 or whatever hours during an international trip, I may be on track to beat jet lag, but I’m also on track to be just fucking exhausted. I’ll be falling asleep trying to drag my luggage off the conveyer belt, finding my hotel, checking in… And god forbid something goes wrong!

If something goes haywire after you’ve just spend X-number of hours avoiding sleep, you’re going to have an infinitely harder time keeping to tip #1.

You’ll be tired, cranky, much more likely to be rude to people who are just doing their job, your thoughts will be slower and your mind far less sharp and ready for problem solving than it would be if you just slept.

Plus, after all that travel, there’s a good chance you’ll still feel tired enough to go back to sleep, even if it still takes you a couple nights to fully adjust to a new timezone.

Remember these 3 items – everything else can be replaced

  1. I.Ds
  2. Money/Cards/Wallet
  3. Electronics

Technically, even electronics can be replaced, but they can get pretty pricey so would be more of a stressor to lose, which is why I include them in this check list for my travels.

Each time you’re leaving, getting on a bus, tram, getting out of a taxi, getting off a flight, leaving the security checkpoint, GO THROUGH THIS LIST.

3 things. That’s it. Make a mental note to recount where these 3 things are, and you can save yourself some big headaches.

Your luggage gets stolen, your ticket misplaced, you forget something at home… As annoying as it might be, if you have these 3 things, you’ll pretty much always be able to move forward relatively easily.

I don’t stress about forgetting stuff or leaving things in my hotel room (which I’ve done plenty) as long as I check these 3 necessities off in my mind while traveling, a lot of potential stress just melts away.

To everything else, I can much more easily say, it is what it is.

Keeping the [inner] peace while flying

These are observations and practices from my own experience flying. I know people who get totally stressed when they have to travel by plane, and there are certain aspects that I definitely would rather avoid.

But it is what it is. Really. You can either spend time stressing, worrying, trying to control everything, or your can ride out the experience as content as possible. The time will pass either way. All you can control is how you spend it.

P.S.

…I didn’t realize when I started this that airports and air travel were going to turn into some kind of metaphor for life… I am secretly very deep. *Tries to meditate* Ommmmmmmm *Is distracted by a dog so stops meditating*

Real world advice on keeping your chill through long travel days

Learn to enjoy air travel

How to stop dreading flights

Dread flying no more - real world advice

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I've had gelato in Italy, pizza in Egypt, crepes in Paris, and gruyere in Gruyere. I've rafted rivers, climbed canyons, been lost in foreign cities - and foreign museums :P - and road trip whenever I get the chance. I bring my camera and dog wherever I can, always looking for the next adventure, then I write about it here. Follow along and say hi!

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