Airports aren't the most fun in place in the world for anyone and even less enjoyable if you're an anxious traveller, like me. I didn't take my first plane trip until I was 22 years old and had only left the country once at that point to go state-side to New York City by bus.
In terms of frequent and now full-time travel, that only started in the past 3 years. So, when it comes to airports and the stress of airline travel, I'm still pretty green.
Given I'm a relative newbie to airline travel, and I'm an anxious person, I have had to scramble to find ways to make airport trips calmer. Here are the essentials I bring with me and little things I do to make navigating airports a little easier.
Use Tech To Your Advantage
Your phone can be your best friend when it comes to combating anxiety and having a smooth, stress-free trip.
Since airport wifi is notoriously unreliable, plan ahead and load content onto your phone you can access without an internet connection.
Apps like Netflix, Headspace, Spotify, Duolingo and more will allow you to download content for offline use. I love to download some shows, movies, playlists of calming music, and some meditations so I have access to them no matter the internet situation.
I also recommend loading your flight documents onto your phone using your airline's app. This is another way to reduce the stress of misplacing or damaging your boarding pass.*
*Note, some countries have a major issue with damaged boarding passes. Mine lost its stub in China and I was nearly separated from Max at security and sent back to another terminal to get a new boarding pass as a result. I literally begged and was allowed through. If possible with your airline, use your phone for boarding passes.
Get To The Airport Early
Nothing really gets the nerves going like running late. Add that on top of an impending flight and it's a recipe for a borderline panic attack. Leave early and give yourself lots of time when navigating travel days. I like to get to the airport right around the 3-hour pre-flight recommended arrival time for international flights and usually 1.5 hours before a domestic flight. I know. I'm THAT person.
How early you need to arrive also heavily depends on the airport you are heading to. If you know the airport well and it's small, then you can probably leave a little less wiggle room when it comes to your arrival time. If, however, the airport is unknown, or on the larger size, give yourself more time to account for getting lost, long walks through terminals etc.
Don't add unnecessary stress on top of stress. Go early and you'll be able to breathe a little easier.
Pack Your Carry on Properly
Airport security is by far the most stressful part of the airport experience for me. There is something about feeling trapped in long lines and examined by security professionals that makes me tense. I am probably not alone here. Not to mention, rushing to get your bag into a bin and items removed for inspection, all the while with a line of equally tense travellers behind you is stressful for me.
Getting through this process smoothly and quickly is the best way to reduce anxiety. A well-packed bag is essential.
Some things to Keep In Mind
- Have your liquids and gels ready in a clear 1L bag and keep them in a pocket or compartment that is easy to access. Make sure none of them exceed 100ml in size or they will be seized. Trust me, it happens.
- Keep your computer, tablet, and any large batteries easily accessible also as these will need to be removed from your bag. Some countries will ask you to remove batteries and some don't, so best to just have them handy.
- Be ready to remove your jacket, sweater, hat, watch, and shoes (though shoes need to be removed less frequently these days). Again, what you will be asked to remove really varies from country to country. I tend to just remove my jacket before I am even asked so there is no hold up later on.
Having my bag organized makes me feel prepared and ready to go through security quickly and easily. This is a part of the airport experience that has gotten a lot better for me. I used to be an absolute nervous wreck at security. Now, I take some deep breaths and disassemble my bag with ease.
Bring Some Comforts With You
No one wants to be at the airport feeling more uncomfortable than needed. I used to overpack my personal item with all kinds of stuff, just in case I needed it. This lead to a packed personal item overflowing with things I ended up never using. I thought bringing all these things along would reduce stress, but in reality, it left me feeling overwhelmed when trying to find things.
Bringing comforting items with you will make you feel at ease, but don't overload your personal item. Keep it organized, so you know where things are at all times. This will eliminate any "Where is my passport?!" or "Where are my headphones?!" panic moments.
Items I Bring With Me for Stress Reduction:
- I have posted about this kit before, but it is something I always have with me. My Essential Oil Pocket Farmacy from Saje is absolutely amazing. There is something for every ailment in there and the scents are natural and comforting. I use in moderation on the actual flight to be mindful of those who are sensitive to smells (my husband included).
- One item of jewelry I love to wear when we travel is a necklace from my husband showing coordinates of our home in Canada. I guess it feels safest on my body, so I always wear it. I also love to nervously fiddle with it when I'm tense, so there is that added bonus. Try wearing a piece you can play with or that has special meaning. See the necklace from Made by Mary here.
- On Guard from doTERRA is another oil blend I bring with me on trips and use frequently in the airport. I used to get sick after flights every single time and it was a huge source of stress, but I have started taking health precautions, like using On Guard, to mitigate the spread of germs and boost my immunity. I have the roller ball and the concentrated formula and use both before, during, and after flying.
- My default travel sweater or jacket is one from Lululemon. This black jacket is the ultimate security blanket. It has a funnel neck so you can snuggle right into it. It has zippered pockets for storing my phone and other essentials I want handy but secure. It also has thumb holes and really long sleeves, so you can really get right into it and feel cozy. They don't make the exact model I own anymore, but Lululemon Stride Jacket is pretty similar, minus the hood.
For Me, It's Getting Better
After 3 years and a LOT of flights, I am finding the whole airport/flying thing much easier. From navigating the airport to getting through security smoothly, it seems to be getting easier every time we fly, which is amazing.
Do you get anxious at airports and during flights? I would love to hear your tips for staying cool and calm when in these stressful situations. Share them with me in the comments or send me a message!
Wishing you calm travels.