Tales of a Nervous Traveler: My 4 Best Tips for Making Flying Suck Less

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Ekaterina Pokrovsky)

I consider myself a nervous person in general, but I’m never more aware of my anxious tendencies than when I’m traveling. Whether I’m on a plane, train, or automobile, the act of getting from one place to another always makes me a little tense. As I’m about to embark on a cross-country flight, I thought I’d share some of my tried-and-true tips for making travel a tiny bit less stressful.

1. Embrace hand sanitizer wipes.

For me, one of the most stressful things about travel is the close proximity to other human beings and their germs. Sitting on a plane for six hours next to someone with flu-like symptoms is basically my worst nightmare — and also completely out of my control.

The one thing I can control is having some sanitizing wipes in my carry-on luggage. After storing my suitcase in the overhead bin, I always have a smaller bag with me that holds the necessities: my iPad, a good book, some snacks, and the aforementioned wipes. I always quickly wipe down my seat, arm rests, and tray table before sitting down. This has elicited some strange stares from fellow passengers on occasion, but the peace of mind I get from the ritual is worth it. Instead of waiting in the line for the bathroom, I also always use a wipe to “wash” my hands before eating any snacks on the plane.

I often use these wipes. They don’t have any harsh chemicals, and the subtle scent of lavender essential oil is calming and relatively inoffensive to my seatmates.

2. Try a little breathing exercise.

I first tried pranayama (Sanskrit for breath conrol) in yoga class, and since then, I turn to it in particularly stressful situations. There are many different breathing exercises you can do — some more complicated than others — but the one I find the most unassuming and easiest to pull off in a close-quarters situation (like an airplane) is simply this method:

  • Inhale on a count of four; exhale on a count of four.

I do this breathing technique through my nose, eventually bringing the count up to five or six as I get more comfortable doing it. Just make sure you’re inhaling and exhaling for the same number of seconds.

When I hear a strange noise or we hit a turbulent patch during a flight, pranayama helps calm me down and puts me back into a good headspace (instead of running worst-case scenarios through my brain while I sweat profusely).

3. Pack a feel-good kit.

I always have a “feel-good kit” when I travel. This kit includes everything from ginger chews and peppermint tea bags to my eye mask and ear plugs. I also usually buy myself one new little luxury before I travel to take the sting off my impending anxiety. For this trip, I grabbed one of these TSA-friendly bottles of in-flight refreshing facial mist to help combat dry, dehydrated skin. Also, never underestimate the power of a really good chocolate bar to cheer you up.

Just the act of packing this kit makes me feel better before a trip. The self-care aspect really goes a long way when you know you’re about to be under stress.

4. Focus on your destination.

If all else fails, I try to visualize where I’m heading. While I don’t always love the journey, the best part of travel is getting to visit new destinations! A few minutes meditating on my upcoming trip always helps me feel excited rather than nervous.

Do you have travel anxiety? What tips or tricks do you do to calm your nerves?