April 19, 2023

21 Tips for the Anxious Traveler.

I didn’t step foot on a plane until my 24th birthday.

I’d wanted to travel since I was young and dreamed about seeing faraway places, but between a serious fear of heights and one particularly terrifying plane crash movie as a child (I’m looking at you, “Alive”) I had also developed a phobia of flying.

When I finally decided to book a flight—from Baltimore to Las Vegas, so not even starting off small—I spent weeks beforehand stressing about every potential thing that could go wrong.

I worried about not arriving to the airport on time and needing to rush to make my flight.

I worried about what to pack, about packing too much, about not packing enough.

I worried about forgetting my ticket and ID and being turned away.

I worried about getting through security and having to deal with TSA.

I worried about making sure I had enough snacks and water.

I worried about being too hot or too cold or wearing too much clothing or not the right shoes.

I worried about needing to use the bathroom on the plane.

I worried about drinking alcohol on the plane…and not drinking alcohol on the plane.

I worried about the take-off and the landing and the turbulence.

I worried about being uncomfortable in my seat or feeling claustrophobic.

Honestly, I was a giant ball of uncontrollable anxiety. So much so that my dad ended up prescribing me anti-anxiety meds for both flights.

The meds didn’t help, and I struggled with the take off and landing and turbulence, and I was uncomfortable at times, and I was too hot or too cold at other times (…and I did opt for some alcohol). But I survived.

I’ve flown countless times since that stressful January day, and while I don’t worry nearly as much now as I did then, I’d still consider myself a fairly anxious traveler.

Which is why I reached out to our kind and knowledgeable Elephant community last week and proposed an important (to me…and maybe you) question:

“I’m taking a 14-hour flight next month! What are your travel tips and hacks for getting through a long flight?”

Some of the tips were ones I’d heard before or actually already do when traveling, but there were so many others that felt like light bulb moments. That made me feel like I could breathe a little easier. That had me rushing online to hit “purchase.”

If you’re an anxious traveler or someone who just wants to feel more organized, comfortable, and at peace when flying, bookmark this list now:

1. Flight attendant here: 95 percent of medical events I’ve experienced onboard are people who took a pill and had a drink. I don’t recommend. Bring your own refillable bottle to fill up in the airport and drink lots of water. Wear a sweater or a scarf that you can take off if you’re hot, put on if you’re cold. Bring some healthy snacks and get up and walk around for a minute or two every couple of hours. However make sure you’re not in the flight attendant’s way when doing so. Bring your favorite kind of neck pillow and a good pair of headphones for in seat TVs. A good book too and you’re set. ~ Leigh

2. Compression socks, sleeping pill, booze, earplugs, eye mask. ~ Karen

3. International planes normally if not always fly overnight and have movies and entertainment. Watch a movie, eat, listen to music, and try to sleep as much as possible. Once you land you’ll be on a different time zone so that sleep you get on plane is important. They’ll serve you dinner and breakfast and snacks in between. ~ Marion

4. USB powered heating pad with extra portable batteries for sore/stiff muscles. ~ Stephanie

5. Noise—I cannot stress this enough—cancelling headphones. ~ Cat

6. My recommendation…be cozy. Plan on sleeping. Take homeopathic Jet Lag and Melatonin for 3 nights, starting on the plane. You’ll be rested and your clock will be in sync. Your vacation will be wonderful. ~ Cynthia

7. Very loose fitting, comfortable clothes and sandals with an extra pair of socks to take off your shoes and still have the icky plane floor off your feet. When I flew to India I was so grateful to be comfortable! ~ Casey

8. Best tip ever: Bring your full size pillow and buy a window seat. Not a small or donut pillow…full size. You are welcome. ~ Irene

9. There’s a kind of calculator/planner that you can find online which helps you prepare for jet lag before travelling. For example, for about a week beforehand, you start going to bed earlier (just an example off the top of my head). If you don’t want to go to that trouble, then my tip is definitely to change your watch and phone to the time of your destination as soon as you board the plane.
Secondly, take a book or two, headphones for music or online films, and I’d take writing for paper. It’s a great chance to write some letters to friends and family. And drink plenty of water throughout the flight, along with regular stretching. ~ Heather

10. A couple of Warrior I poses and a couple of Seated Twists, every two-three hours, even if you have to modify them while in the potty. And earpieces for your phone so you can listen to guided meditations. ~ Jan

11. Good power bank for your phone, 10-foot charging cord. ~ Karin

12. I’ve taken a couple 16+ hour flights in coach—buy a foot sling to hang from your tray table and a good neck pillow. Window seat helps, so you can lean against it. I am not a huge TV fan, so I always go in with both an audio book and a Kindle book. Be prepared for swelled ankles and feet after so long in coach. Wear comfy clothes you can spread out in, incase it’s an emptier flight and you can spread out over a row of seats. Wear something layered so you can adjust for comfort. International flights always offer free wine; take it if it will help you sleep. Bring snacks if it isn’t an Asian airline (their food is usually actually good). Also, the Bose noise cancelling headphones are worth it. ~ Casey

13. Lots of great suggestions here. I’ll add: Hydrating face mist, lip balm, moisturizing nose spray, Vicks—long flights will dry you out so fast. (I’ve done Louisiana to Australia many times) A sleep aid, if that normally helps you. Wear comfortable, loose fitted lounge clothes. If you can afford to go premium economy, it’s worth it. Business class is amazing but so expensive these days. ~ Heather

14. Dramamine! I slept through my entire 12-hour flight to Hawaii! ~ Jenn

15. Bring panty liners or fresh underwear to change into. A nice scarf and lots of moisturiser. Happy travels. ~ Caitriona

16. Patience. ~ Gabrielle

17. A portable fan. ~ Cynthia

18. Pack a mini self-care kit in your carry on (toothbrush/paste, face/body wipes, deodorant, hydration tablets like Nuun, herbal tea, hard candies or cough drops, ginger chews, Tylenol/Advil, etc.) Fill up your water bottle before boarding. I drink only water and eat lightly on board since heavy meals and alcohol keep me awake. Also wear compression socks to help with blood circulation. Bon voyage! ~ Crystal

19. Tennis ball to sit on for spells to help with my sciatica. ~ Stephanie

20. Pack any meds you have in your carry on along with a change of clothes in case your checked luggage gets lost. ~ Angela

21. Fast. Drink lots of water. Walk about and do toe raises and stretching every 2 hours. Be polite and charming with your neighbours. Start that book you’ve always meant to read. ~ Kevin

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