Flying Tips for the Nervous Traveler Part I

I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who associates the holidays with travel.

Since moving out when I started college at age 18, I’ve had to make the “pilgrimage” home come Christmas time every year to be able to celebrate with family and hometown friends.

These days, however, my journey home at Christmas is a little more epic than it was when I lived only 2.5 hours by car from my family’s house. Now, my travels involve much more than jamming my dirty laundry into my Geo and crusin’  down I-55 North. The reality of my situation now is: 8-9 hours of flight time from Madrid to Chicago with a lay over thrown in somewhere in between.

I’m sure that everyone can agree that 9 hours of sitting on a plane doesn’t sound like an awesome start to one’s holiday vacation… but just imagine that scenario mixed with a mild-moderate flying phobia and you’ve got a recipe for one very stressful situation.

Yes, I am unfortunately a “nervous flyer” (but I swear I’ve gotten much better!). For me the worst parts are: take offs, turbulence, bad weather, evening flights, and the sound the landing gear makes when turned on…

Why am I publicly sharing my deep dark secrets about my feelings toward plane travel?!? Because flying, over the past 3 years, has become something common (and almost routine??) in my life and therefore I’ve been forced to develop some tricks and strategies to help myself cope during an activity that, for me, is pretty scary.

And so, I figured since tis’ this season to be traveling, I would share some of my “knowledge” about overcoming flying anxiety in hopes that maybe you, upon reading this, will arrive to your Christmas destination (or your destination at any time in the year) a little less stressed out. My “guru insights” are mainly directed towards those who travel by plane (long distances) but perhaps some of this could be useful to those who mostly “road trip it” in car.

At the very least, even if you aren’t interested in my flying tips, I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of my somewhat excessive (and maybe at times – ridiculous….) travel planning and flight rituals.

Hey, whatever works – right? 😉

Part I – Before the flight

In my case, the things that I prepare and do leading up to a flight are perhaps the most important elements that prevent unneeded flying anxiety.

Without fail I always try to: (in order of importance)

1) Have a good night’s sleep. Many can attest to the fact that if I don’t sleep at least 7 hours, the next day I am an emotional disaster (which is only magnified by the stress of having to get on a plane). Don’t make the mistake (like I have many times) of thinking that you don’t have to sleep the night before because you’re going to “sleep on the plane”. That for me always backfires and I end up being so nervous due to my lack of sleep that I can’t fall asleep on the plane…. It’s a vicious cycle I’m telling you!

2) Pack and organize everything in advance. You have enough stuff to worry about the day of your flight to have to be struggling with suitcase organization and finding the charger to your cell phone. Save yourself the stress and get it done at least the night before (and also remember to weigh your suitcase if there are weight restrictions on your flight!) I promise you if your luggage is neat and organized before you leave you’ll gift yourself a little sense of calm during a time of mayhem 😉

This better not have been the morning of our flight!

3) Shower and eat breakfast/lunch/dinner. Okay the shower part sounds obvious but I have made the mistake of not showering and/or washing my hair on the day of my flight. Take it from me, you don’t want to have to sit, un-showered, in the same seat for 9 hours without any fresh air all the while feeling gross because your hair is greasy. Enough said.

Finally, be sure to eat before heading out the door to the airport! Sometimes you’re in a rush and think – I’ll pick up breakfast once I get through security… but sometimes you’re pressed for time and this never happens. I get super crabby and uncomfortable if I’m even the least bit hungry so I always eat before so I don’t run the risk of starving (and therefore stressing myself out) during the first couple hours of the flight.

Part II At the airport

Congrats! Your bags are checked, you’re clean and well fed – now it’s time to navigate the airport and find your gate!

1) Do the necessary stuff as fast as possible. This means as soon as your bags are checked, book it to security, and once that ordeal is over locate your gate and double check that you’re at the correct place. Sometimes I get distracted looking at the stores and stuff when I should be locking down my gate location. Gate numbers are known to change or there’s always the risk that you’ve  accidentally gone to the wrong gate (guilty) – so from my experience it’s best to just make sure you know where the gate is and then do your airport exploring to avoid potentially missing your flight!

2) Don’t use the perfume at the duty free shops. Ha, I never follow my own advice with this one! I always go there and sample the latest fragrances and then I end up making myself sick from the smell on the flight. Just stay away! 😉

3) Do some walking around/stretching. I know I must look like a freak of nature doing this but I always go for a 15 minute power walk before getting on my flight followed by some stretching. I swear this makes me feel calm and it helps me get out some of my nervous energy. Plus, surely all doctors must recommend a nice stretch before a prolonged time in a cramped seated position, right? 😉

This concludes your first installment of Flying Tips for the Nervous Traveler. Be sure to check in sometime next week for my run down of what to do once you’ve boarded the flight as well as what is, in my opinion, the best travel outfit. (It must work because I wear the exact same thing every time I fly ;-))

A sneak preview of my "go to" flying outfit - yes this picture is from 2 years ago and the same clothes are still being worn! 😉

Until then!


9 thoughts on “Flying Tips for the Nervous Traveler Part I

  1. Oh my goodness. A very funny yet informative post! I am not a nervous flyer, but I did like your tip about a good night’s sleep and being well fed before a long flight. And I can totally relate to” being distracted” and not realizing that your flight has been changed or delayed. Thankfully, for me it happened in the ’70’s when the Green Bay Airport was so intimate they actually called me by name at the bar to remind me to board my flight. 😉

  2. Haha! This is awesome! First of all, you are adorable. Second of all, I love the part about showering. I totally agree that it sucks to be sitting somewhere feeling gross and stinky!!! Can’t wait to see you!!

  3. I’m laughing at your mother’s comment. I’m picturing her at the bar in Green Bay. Those were the good old days when you could park your car in the front of the airport, check in and then go back and park your car in the lot. I once forgot to go back and park my car. The Green Bay airport called home and left a message that if I didn’t move my car, I was going to get a ticket. Only in Green Bay. As always, Rachel, your blog is wonderful and you are such a talented writer. One bit of advice on flying — I used to hate take offs too, but then I pretend I’m flying the plane and the adrenaline rush is fantastic. Of course, this may be in part the result of the stiff drink of booze before I board — another good tip for a nervous flyer. Have a wonderful journey home!

  4. Pingback: Tips for the Nervous Traveler Part Dos « The Ray in Spain

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