Minimizing Travel Anxiety: Tips for Navigating the Airport

Minimizing Travel Anxiety: Tips for Navigating the Airport

I’m an anxious flyer. Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I am terrified of flying. You read that right. I’m embarrassed to admit that sometimes, I get so anxious that I make myself ill. (But if you ever find yourself sitting next to me during a flight, don’t worry, I have never lost my lunch… or any other meal I’ve eaten.)

I’ve noticed that my level of anxiety while flying is, in part, related to how events leading up to boarding the plane go. When I am rushed, I get frazzled and it’s hard for me to relax and focus on staying calm on the flight. Here are five tips that have helped me minimize my travel anxiety on the many flights I’ve taken.

Check travel arrangements early.

I always double-check my flight arrangements at least the day before I fly to make sure I know exactly when I need to leave for the airport. I can’t depend on my memory from when I booked my flight to remember the correct time it leaves. This may seem like a no-brainer to most but apparently, it’s not for us, as illustrated in the following story from early in our marriage.

D and I were flying from Phuket, Thailand to Bangkok fairly early in the morning. We woke up and started to get our stuff together to leave when I asked D to double-check our flight information. He told me offhandedly what time it was scheduled to depart. I asked him again to double-check, which he did. And it’s a good thing, too. We realized that our flight was scheduled to leave much earlier than he originally thought. We scrambled out the door caught a taxi and arrived at the airport just as they were closing the check-in for our flight. Thankfully, we were able to check in but we had to sprint through the airport and make it just as the door was closing.

Now we make sure we know what time we’re leaving long before the day we fly.

Leave home early to give yourself plenty of time.

I don’t know about you, but I hate running. D sometimes jokes that if a bear were chasing me and I had the choice to either run away to save my life or get eaten, I would choose the latter. Of course, that’s an exaggeration but that’s how much I loathe running. I mention this point to show how much I detest running through airports. I like to arrive at the airport at least two hours before my flight is scheduled to take off. This gives me enough time to check my bags, go through security, and make it to my gate in time to get something to eat or use the restroom before I have to board. And since having kids, it takes a lot longer to get to the gate so sometimes two hours is still pushing it.

On our last trip, we left for the airport four hours before our flight to account for rush hour traffic. And it’s a good thing we did because what is usually a 45-minute drive took us three hours. Three hours! It has never taken us that long. So we were scrambling to get to the gate and arrived just before we started boarding. Let’s just say, my anxiety level was through the roof!

Make sure all luggage is tagged before getting in the check-in line.

It makes it so much easier to move through the line if all our luggage is tagged already, especially when the line is short, but even when the line is long. Between pushing the stroller, the luggage, picking up toys that get thrown out of the stroller and trying to keep my preschooler in, and just generally trying to keep both kids from screaming like a pack of wild animals, it’s just one less thing to worry about if my luggage is all ready to go before I get in line.

Get out all identification/documents before getting up to the check-in counter.

I am the organizer in my family- the keeper of all documents that are needed (or might be needed) while we travel. Similar to the tip above, making sure that all IDs and documentation are out and in my hand makes getting through the line so much easier than if I have to find it in line or when I get up to the counter.

Put all identification/documents away as soon as you don’t need them.

Although I am an organizer, I lose things… a lot. I like to blame it on “mommy brain” or “the newborn fog.” Whatever you like to call it, it’s affected my ability to keep track of things. Just this week I’ve lost my keys, Ladybug’s sunglasses, and Buddy’s hat. I’ve found one of the three and unfortunately, it isn’t my keys. One of the things I worry about most while traveling is losing my identification or Buddy’s birth certificate (we use it to get him on the plane as a lap child.) So the first thing I do when I get through security is put all documents away where they go so that I don’t have to worry about them getting lost.

These five tips may not help everyone minimize their travel anxiety but in my many years of travel, I have learned that when I take my time to be organized and not rush, I feel a lot better on the plane. I still hate flying but by following these five tips, I am on my way to a more peaceful flight.

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