14 Things Every Anxious-Type Needs To Know About Surviving Holiday Air Travel


Holiday madness is officially here. Cue: Stress. If the mere idea of this season makes your blood pressure rise and you’re getting on a plane to go somewhere, you might feel like you’re in survival mode. Here are some tips to cut down on anxiety-inducing unknowns and get you semi-comfortably from Point A to Point B:

Spring for a nonstop flight.

Yeah, it will cost more money, but it will save you tons of stress. (Layovers = a million unknowns.)

Apply for TSA Pre-Check.

For $85 (good for 5 years), you can avoid the insanity of security lines and keep your shoes on. Do that here.

Talk to a medical professional.

If you suffer from anxiety while flying, you are not alone. Instead of gritting your teeth and struggling through it, give your doctor or naturopath a call. From melatonin to prescription drugs, there are options you can explore.

Get into the right head space.

If you’re at least semi-relaxed before flying, everything will go more smoothly. Schedule an hour just for you, and try a short meditation, a yoga class, or go to the gym.

Pack smart.

Ideally, figure out how to get everything into a carry-on bag. These packing cubes can help keep you organized, and save space. Make sure to check the size limits for carry-ons on your airline’s website beforehand, to avoid surprises at check-in (or at the gate).

Keep overnight necessities nearby.

If you need to check bags, keep a few incidentals close by. In your under-seat bag, pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, change of clothes, prescriptions, washcloth, and hairbrush. That way, if your checked bags get lost, you won’t need to panic.

Take your time.

Especially if you have an early flight, it can be tempting to cut things close (just 30 more minutes of sleep, right?). But, resist. You’ll breathe so much easier.

Use the airport’s resources.

Airports have a come a long way. San Francisco International has a yoga room. Some have kids play areas. Or, get a 10-minute table massage at the airport spa. If you’re not familiar with the airport you’ll be traveling through, look it up in advance to see what’s available.

Take one leg at a time.

Think of the trip in “legs,” to make it seem more do-able. First there’s the ride to the airport. Then there’s flight check-in. Next, walking through security. Take a deep breath (and give yourself a silent high-five) each time you accomplish a new milestone.

Avoid unhealthy food.

It’s so tempting. Greasy, sugary meals are widely available at airports, but they can really mess with your blood sugar, and this is the last thing you need. There are healthy options. Summon your willpower and opt for a yogurt parfait, water bottle, of piece of fruit.

Stock up on snacks.

While you’re at it, grab a few take-along snacks for the plane. You never know what you’ll be able to get on board, if anything. (And no, a King Size bag of M&M’s purchased in-flight, isn’t a meal.)

Be resourceful. 

Think ahead about what would make your trip more comfortable. A travel pillow? Blanket? A magazine you only read when you travel? A few downloaded books or movies? Prepare in advance, and if you forget, take a few minutes to pick something up at an airport store.

Get creative.

If you happen to be a parent traveling with kids, this amps up the stress.  Some parents use savvy techniques to ease their minds, like handing out small gift packs to the passengers around them, which include a funny apology poem and chocolate.

Reward yourself after the flight.

Do whatever works for you. Maybe it’s a massage, drink, walk on the beach, or an hour in front of the TV. Be proud. Celebrate.

Check out Carrie’s memoir WILD MAMA here.