Tips for Pre-Flight Anxiety

A few months ago, I wrote about my top travel tips for anxiety, and recently I've been flying so much I wanted to do another post on tips specifically related to reducing anxiety at the airport. Usually a week before my flight, the anxiety starts creeping in and I remind mysel to start doing my tips to reduce it.


1. Download the airline app and make sure you can get the seat you want. Do what you can to get the seat that you feel most comfortable in. If possible, I try to get a premium aisle seat. I usually buy my plane ticket on points, so paying $30 bucks for extra boarding literally saves my sanity. If you don't want to purchase a premium seat, you can at least have some control and nab a better seat than you were originally assigned. I refresh the airline app like it's a freaking slot machine. You will be surprised what seats open up!

2. Use luggage that is convenient for you and is the right size for your trip. I have three luggage sizes - one for a 3 day trip, one for a 5 day trip, and one for a 10-14 day trip. I try to use the size that is most appropriate for the trip so I am not over packing a suitcase or bringing something so huge that they force me to check it in. Also, don't continue using a suitcase that has a broken wheel, is ripped, or the handle doesn't work. I had a suitcase I loved for 6 years and unfortunately the handle broke. Well, I kept using it until I realized how much it was stressing me out every time I tried to get in and out of a Lyft or tried to finagle that handle to go down boarding a plane. Totally not worth it! I went to Marshalls and got a great deal on a suitcase that works and I don't have to stress about it. Also, get a color other than black/grey so you can recognize it!

3. Have a go-to travel uniform. I usually fly in the same thing - I have my black pants, black Adidas sweater, Adidas Ultraboost sneakers (the most comfortable shoes in the world!), purse and raincoat. I usually travel in mostly all black so that if I sit on something or get dirty it's not as noticeable. Having this travel uniform helps me not think about what I will be wearing on the flight or what I additionally need to pack.

4. Have everything packed and ready to go the night before. Finishing packing the morning of is a guaranteed stress trigger. Running around trying to grab last minute things, having a nagging feeling you forgot something. Just avoid all of that by closing the lid of your suitcase the night before. Even if I procrastinate the night before a flight, I always force myself to finish packing. I'd rather go to bed late than have a stressful morning.

5. Have a separate passport or ID holder. Something as simple as having a separate passport holder has been a game changer for me. I used to get super stressed having to dig out my wallet from the bottom of my purse, pull out my Driver's License, hold it in one hand, hold my open wallet in the same hand, hold my purse in another hand. Ugh. Finally I decided to get a passport holder and now I just travel with my passport. I love the passport holder because it's large enough for me to pull it out of my purse easily, but thin enough that it doesn't take up much space.

Getting to the airport

1. Get to the airport early. If you are prone to getting anxiety or travel stresses you out - just do yourself a favor and get to the airport early. I usually arrive at the airport 1 1/2 hours before boarding. Not departure - boarding. That gives me 30 minutes to get through the gate, and an hour to grab something to eat and settle down. I'm one of those people who just can't fly onto a plane. I can't transition that fast from the hassle of going through security to instantly boarding. I need time to prepare for getting on the plane, so that buffer time is perfect for me. If I am traveling with someone and they don't want to go early, I just tell them that I will head out early and meet them there. Would they rather I head out early or have a melt down at home waiting for them to leave?

2. Go straight to the gate. You may be tempted to not get in line and go through security when you arrive. Wrong. Just get it over with and get yourself as close as possible to the gate. You never know what will happen, and all of the sudden the line takes an hour to get through security. It's not worth the stress of being late to the gate, only to find they changed the gate, now you are running to another gate. Grab food in your terminal area. Go to a lounge that is closest to your gate.

3. Do breathing exercises pre-boarding. During the commotion of pre-boarding when the flight attendants are calling people's last names or telling us they need more bags checked, sometimes I start to stress about little things like, will there be enough overhead space, will they make me check my bag. In that moment, I tell myself to listen to my breathing. It's a way I quickly zoom into being present with myself and in order for me to hear my breath I have to be breathing pretty deeply through my nose. It immediately calms me down and centers me. Try it! You'll be surprised how well it works.

On the plane

1. Drink a glass of wine on the flight. Until recently, I never drank wine on flights. Then on my trip to Santa Barbara a few weeks ago, I asked for a glass of white wine. The flight attendant gave me a Game of Thrones sized goblet of white wine. I had no idea how I was going to get it all down before they came back to collect trash, but being more stressed about having trash floating around I drank it down. Oh my god! I was like sedated for the flight. I immediately relaxed and in my near sleepy state enjoyed the two hour flight. That was definitely a first.

2. Bring a book or a magazine on the flight. I love magazines. I am subscribed to so many of them. Luckily, before a recent flight, all of my magazines were delivered to my house at the same time (to the dismay of my partner). So I grabbed three magazines and took them with me. Glad I did because our flight was delayed for an hour with us sitting on the tarmac. Start reading a good book during your flight, you'll see how fast it eats away at the flight time.

Do you have any tips for reducing your pre-flight anxiety?

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