About two weeks ago, I went to visit my family for a weekend. And however much I love to do to so, I do not like the journey. Going home requires me to fly across countries and every time it reminds me of why I don’t like flying. The flying itself, I don’t really care about. I am not afraid of heights or flying or anything like that. But many other aspects of flying can really send my stress hormones through the roof and make me not able to relax and enjoy the trip like I should. I figured that there must be many like me. So for those who are like me and get anxious about flying, I have put together a list of tips to reduce stress while flying.
Whether it is the weight of my suitcase (of which I know for certain that it is not too heavy but I can’t help but think “Maybe the scale was broken!”, or “What if the staff opens my suitcase and steals my stuff?!”). Or maybe it is what I have in my hand luggage – “Is that bottle of shower gel really less than 100ml?”or I’ll think that maybe, this time, they are going to weigh my obviously way too heavy hand luggage.
Or perhaps there are too many people with hand luggage and they have to put mine underneath the plane. Even if it is just the stress of packing your bag, not forgetting important – or not so important – things and also having it done on time. And then, when you’re finally on time and waiting at the gate, there is a delay and you don’t like to make the pickup crew at your destination waiting! All kinds of things can make me worry too much. Do you feel that some or all of the above is you? Then by all means, read on.
1. Make a list
I remember that I used to do this when I was young and going away on camp for a week with my sister. I was so excited that I started making a list of all the clothes, toiletries and items that I wanted to bring at least a week before and started packing at least two days before. I had no stress about forgetting any items at all. Somehow, over the years, I have forgotten about the list making.
Maybe it’s because I never traveled a lot when I was young, and so I only made a list out of excitement when I finally did go somewhere. Maybe it’s because when we grow older, we have more responsibility and stress and less time so packing has to be fast, fast, fast. Anyway, list making is crucial, if you’re going away for months, weeks or even only two nights.
List making helps you to prepare everything ahead and prevents you from encountering any surprises on the way. Especially for control freaks among us, it will make us feel more in control. And feeling that we know what’s coming makes it less stressful.
2. Start packing in time
This sounds like such a cliché. But it’s true! Where I am from, we have a saying that goes something like this: ‘A good preparation is half of the work’. This applies in pretty much any situation but is also extremely relevant when it comes to flying. So if you need to, then start preparing at least a week before. Make a list of items and slowly start putting in items that you won’t use up until the day you’re leaving. This way, you will only need to put in the very last items (toothbrush, contact lenses) on the day you leave.
3. Meditate before, during and after the flight
During a time in my life that was extremely stressful for me, and when I just couldn’t seem to find any peace of mind, I started searching for meditation podcasts. It was hard for me to meditate without some meditation music. Meditation is a good way to center your attention inside and rebalance anything that’s off in your life, body and mind.
On your way to the airport, in the metro or taxi for example, you can put on a meditation podcast to relieve yourself of the packing stress. During the flight it’s good to let go of the checking in, going through customs and boarding the airplane. And when you arrive, take some time, even if it’s just ten minutes, to relieve all the stress of the entire journey. We should really all meditate every day, by the way.
I couldn’t have started meditating without having learned during yoga and body balance classes at the gym I used to go to, but a guided meditation can also teach you if you don’t know how to meditate yet. I have found one podcast that I really like, Meditation Oasis. I am still using it today. This podcast has a couple of free meditations available, my favourite one is the Deep Rest Guided Meditation and the Music for Meditation and Relaxation. The last one is music only, with a short intro. This is my most listened episode and helped me to meditate myself to sleep when I was having serious sleep problems. During their meditations, they focus on several different topics, such as connecting with your baby, summer solstice or loneliness. As far as I know, they don’t make any new episodes at the moment but the old ones are well worth repeating.
4. Double, no, triple check the maximum weight of your suitcase
Oh my, this is something that can really freak me out. True story: in the past I have quickly taken out at least half of the contents of my suitcase at the check in desk while waiting to check in. With a lot of effort, I pushed everything into my handbag and a plastic bag. I then gave the plastic bag to my boyfriend to carry as his hand luggage. At first, we thought we could take 23kg. Then at the check in desk (that was fortunately still closed), we saw that on the ticket it said that the maximum weight was only 10 kilos. On our flight back we discovered that at first we were right: it really was 23kg…
The confusion came from the email they send us with the boarding pass and what the website told us while booking the tickets. They both had different information on them. Had we looked online while packing, we would have probably seen that we could take the 23 kilos. We booked our tickets through one (more expensive) airline, but we actually flew with one of their smaller (cheaper) airlines, which didn’t let their passengers take a lot of luggage, which it probably automatically says on the boarding passes.
Here it is again: preparation! Had we double – or triple – checked the maximum weight, I wouldn’t have had to take out half of the clothes that kept all the bottles of wine, cider, and olive oil in their place and I wouldn’t have had to worry about the glass bottles breaking during the flight.
5. Sleep while in the air
Once on board, everything is out of your hands. You cannot change anything. So take this opportunity and spend this time taking care of yourself, like in tip number 3. Or – maybe even better – sleep! I am a big fan of sleeping in general and whenever I am stressed out or upset, I get very tired physically and I just want to sleep. REM sleep helps us reduce stress hormones, so if you have a couple of hours ahead, get comfy and put on some relaxing music or a meditation podcast. But even if your flight is around an hour, a short nap can also help a lot.
6. Travel as light as possible
Are you only going away for a weekend? You don’t need to take as much as you think! I usually wear the comfy sneakers and jeans that I want to take, or maybe if I have space I’ll wear my comfy pants and put my jeans in my backpack. During the trip, I really don’t need anything else except for clean underwear and clean shirts. As an example, if I’m going away for three nights, this is what I bring:
- three clean t-shirts/tops/long sleeves depending on the temperature (or both to wear over each other),
- three sets of underwear and socks,
- preferably no more than one extra bra,
- a warm sweater/hoodie,
- a scarf,
- a jacket,
- my pajamas, and
- my toiletries (I bought the small sized containers in which I put little bits of shampoo/shower gel etc.)
Usually, I can fit all this (and one extra clean set of everything) into one backpack, which I take with me wherever I go during the trip, or I bring a small purse I can hang around my shoulders when I’m out discovering my destination. During the weekend, I basically wear the same jeans and sneakers all the time, which is very convenient.
If I really want to take something extra (such as presents for the fam), I bring an extra handbag in which I put my hoodie or sweater so that I have that on hand quickly in case I get cold, which is pretty much always. My jacket, I usually carry over my arm if it doesn’t fit into my bag. During a weekend trip, I never really go out, so that’s one or two outfits less to worry about. And if I do, I would just go out in whatever I’m wearing that day. But that’s me personally.
These tips are in no way a guarantee that you will actually fly with zero stress. That is completely up to you. Instead, take these tips as a guideline to help you get through the process more smoothly and fly calmer and arrive more relaxed. I hope you find some or all of them useful. Do you have any other tips for flying stress-free? Share them in the comments below!
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