How to relieve travel stress when flying

by Nov 29, 2017Health

No matter if you are traveling for business or pleasure, travel stress can take a physical and mental toll. Here are top tips to relieve travel stress whenever you are flying.

No matter if you are traveling for business, to visit friends or family, or on a dream holiday, travel stress can take a physical and mental toll. Simply finding the time to pack, make sure you have the right toiletries, tie down things at work or home prior to departure, or help family members prepare can create stress in your life. Add the pressure of dealing with the unexpected in unfamiliar surroundings – delays, cancelations, airplane food, finding bathrooms, coping with crowds, getting sick worries, schlepping luggage, and lack of sleep, to name a few – and the body’s stress reaction can multiply. There are a number of things you can do to relieve and manage travel stress to ensure your travels are as enjoyable and as healthy as possible.

Inhale, exhale, and take a skim down our list of things we try to do to relieve any stresses that could otherwise dampen our traveling spirits.

Planning and preparation to relieve travel stress

  1. Book your trip early. Experienced frequent travelers or business travelers with assistants (and an unending budget) may be able to wait until the last minute to purchase a flight, lock down hotels, or finalize a rental car or train tickets, but most of us real humans can’t do that. Don’t leave yourself tossing and turning at night worrying about your travel plans. Get it done reasonably in advance and move on.
  2. Consider travel insurance. If your baggage gets lost or delayed, your flights get canceled, you get sick and can’t travel, weather forces changes, or any other unexpected thing happens, stress will be the result. Travel insurance can’t prevent the unfortunate things that can happen to your best-laid plans for fun and bliss, but it can protect you from the unexpected and from often significant costs as a result. Read our primer, Travel Insurance 101 – Learn what you need and what you don’t to learn more. 

HITT Tip: Be organized with your paperwork and documents. If you are paper person, keep one folder in one place to stash them all; otherwise (or also) put them in an electronic folder on your device, in the cloud, or one of many travel organization apps. 

  1. Shop for necessities in advance. Avoid waiting until the last minute to glance through your wardrobe and toiletries and other travel essentials to see what you might need. Who wants the stress of remembering two days prior to departure that the zipper on your suitcase is broken? Or your former fave pants or swimsuit doesn’t fit any longer? Or you are out of your shampoo?
  2. Fill/refill small travel toiletries in advance. Of course, we assume you don’t pack large bottles even if you are checking a bag. Do not wait until the night before departure to fill, refill, or sort out these items, from shampoo to sunscreen to face lotion. In fact, if you travel frequently, keep a travel toiletry kit ready to go, and refill/restock items in it before you pack it away from your last trip. Then all you have to do is just pull it out, check it to be sure you don’t need something more, and you’re ready! No stress here.
  3. Start packing early. At HI Travel Tales HQ, we do what we call “stack packing” several days in advance to relieve travel stress that can accumulate with last-minute preparation. That means starting to pull items that are going to go along on the trip and “stacking” them in a corner (know this is a preliminary pack and some items will be sent back to the closet). Frankly, we would suggest that anybody who is not a frequent traveler start this process up to about two weeks in advance. That includes putting out unusual items you may forget such as an umbrella, a sweater, a stuffable tote bag or whatever those things are you often forget or simply don’t want to overlook in a last-minute rush. Learn more packing tips in our article, Pack Smart For Travel: 10 steps to list, asssess, pack!

HITT Tip: Therese has a habit of forgetting, for example, a nightshirt and her orthotics (which she often wears for a run the morning prior to departure). So she writes the names of these “do-not-forget” items on a piece of paper and puts that on her stack or on top of her suitcase so they cannot be overlooked. 

  1. Deploy the suitcase on the floor a few days in advance. Now that your stacks are out and at least partly pared down, deploy your suitcase and then start affirming that everything you want to take will fit (and you have a little room to spare please). With a little time before departure day, you can still think about what may have to stay home, or to check the weather and change your mind about a sweater or jacket.

Waiting can bring on travel stress.

Flying and preparing to fly

  1. Do not wait to confirm how and when you will get to the airport. Whether you are taking a shuttle, taxi, your own vehicle, having a friend drop you, or taking public transportation, verify the plan and details several days in advance. Make sure there is no special event in town that will clog city streets, no construction that is shutting down roads or train lines, no last-minute issues with your friend’s availability. Most alerts you will need about roads or public transportation should be easily found on the web, from local paper announcements and news reports, to the airport website or public transportation sites.
  2. Decide when you will leave for the airport – a little early is best. Yes, this will invariably be a debate in a family, how early is too early, how late is too late?… Everybody has his or her definition of what buffer is or is not a travel stress. Our suggestion is not to cut it too close. Find your comfort level, and then perhaps add a little cushion for those unexpected delays. Especially around holiday periods or high travel seasons, allow extra time for traffic, security lines, and other jams. Airports are a lot more pleasant these days in general, so look at your airport’s website and see if you can just go early and have a meal there, settle in for a warm coffee or tea, or do a little wine-tasting while you wait (Yes, wine tasting. Vino Volo is a national chain of small tasting rooms with light food items. Very civilized, we must add!

HITT Tip: Not sure where to find more information about the airport you are using? Try this website that has a list of links for both airports and airlines, including each airports three-letter code. Or try a quick Internet search.

  1. Verify your departure time. You bought your ticket so you should know when your plane is leaving, right? Humor us. Check your departure time and date carefully one more time. (In fact, sometimes a flight departure will get moved UP!) We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard stories of travelers arriving a day early or a day late for a flight because they misread or misremembered the date. Happened to Therese once too: Many years ago when she was traveling for business, she didn’t check a ticket booked by a travel agent. Turns out the agent booked her departure for the day she was supposed to be AT a meeting, not the day before. She kept her cool and things worked out fine. No travel stress here.

Leave plenty of time to manage security lines.

In transit – let the stress go

  1. Keep calm and … wait calmly. Waiting is part of travel. Sometimes, lots of waiting. Since there is nothing you can do about it (and since you have left plenty of time, right?), just breathe please. It’s a difficult task perhaps. But there are things you can do instead of pacing and fretting: Read a book (electronic versions on your tablet are good for travel), buy a newspaper or magazine, watch a movie (again, with that tablet). Just watch people. Take a walk around the airport. In fact, some larger airports these days have walking routes laid out (such as Dallas Fort Worth). Since so much of travel to and from a destination is spent sitting, why not spend your waiting time walking a little – exercise relieves stress.
  2. Be nice. Granted, air travel these days can feel very stressful if you let it. Lines are long and there are a lot of them. Everything feels rushed. Your senses are overloaded from the din. On the plane, you are jammed into a small space that isn’t overly comfortable and may feel too hot or too cold. And, sometimes, there are gate staff, flight attendants, and fellow travelers who might seem more than a bit grumpy. Do yourself and others a favor and just be nice. Smile at people. You will find yourself feeling better, and, we’re pretty sure those around you will start to feel happier too.
No travel stress here as Therese smiles from her airplane seat.

Yes, we are jammed into the plane like proverbial sardines. And, no, we were not sitting together since the plane was oversold. But, Therese is still smiling.

HITT Tip: Remember always that flight attendants and gate agents have the power to change your day. We’ve been upgraded, given free drinks, moved onto oversold flights and had flight dates changed at no charge when others who were fuming were simply left to fume. Why? Simply because we smiled, were nice, stayed calm, and showed appreciation for even the smallest kindness. 


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In sum? Start early, pack early, plan early and be nice – to yourself and others. That alone will go far to relieve any travel stress from the physical and mental demands of traveling.

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  1. Allyson Spieler

    Great post! Love the tips. Especially the staying calm. I always seem the be stressing out ????

  2. Meaghan Carey

    This is a great post to read just before the busy holiday travel season! I find making a packing list is a good way to reduce stress, it keeps me organized and adds structure to packing.

  3. Siena Neal

    I agree that it is very important to plan/pack ahead, especially for a big trip. I’m about to leave for a trip of my own so I will look over these tips again before packing!

  4. Taryn White

    And I thought I was weird to put the suitcase on the floor to pack a week in advance. I would forget lots if I only packed last minute, so I think that’s great advice!

  5. EvaSturm of TravelResponsibly

    Thanks for the great post. The importance and power of planning ahead is often underestimated. One can save up on so much stress and hassle by doing it and it helps to follow your final advice: be calm, friendly and with a smile on your face 🙂


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