Airport anxiety is not a good start to your holiday. Whether you only need to brave the airport once or twice a year for your annual getaways, or you’re there all the blummin time, how is it that a building can put you so edge? Turn you into an anxious wreck? And turn everyone else into even worse?
Airports can bring out the very worst in people, including you. Here are a few tricks I use to beat my ever increasing airport anxiety.
12 Ways to Beat Airport Anxiety
Imagine breezing through the airport with a smile on your face and a spring in your step. Or are you more stressed, harassed, wondering if it’s all worth it, remembering how nice your sofa is?
Start your holiday as you want it to be – relaxed, easy and all part of the adventure.
1. Stay at an airport hotel
I LOVE an airport hotel. Starting at around £40 if I have an early flight I just book one right away. It makes me feel a lot more relaxed about the whole adventure and so £40, especially if split between two, is a great investment. You get a better sleep as you’re not worrying about waking up, you don’t have to worry about going long distances on public transport, and the time between you showering and getting to your destination is even less.
I’m all about the airport hotel.
2. Arrive early
Running late is absolutely a top cause of airport anxiety. Allow yourself the 2 hours for local flights and 3 for long haul, minimum.
Airports are not horrible places (feel free to repeat that mantra if you need). Many big city western airports have shops, bars and restaurants a plenty. Arrive in good time and relax with a book, a tv show on your phone or just to people watch.
I can’t believe people who rock up 30 minutes before their flight takes off and then get angry at the queues and the staff. Absolutely no need to leave it to the last minute, and then get stressy at others.
Being on time will ensure your airport anxiety is kept to an absolute minimum.
3. Print your boarding pass
I hate having to use my phone as a boarding pass. It fails me at key points, either the Wi-Fi won’t work, or the screen won’t scan – I like to go retro and have a piece of paper to scan or show. Saves on the faffing too.
4. Take a bumbag or little bag
One of the things that makes me feel most anxious at the airport is all the putting away and getting out of passports and documents. Generally, my bag is a mess, and that pesky little thing hides from me. I’ve overcome this by having a separate bum bag for the airport essentials – passport, purse, phone and boarding pass – that will fit in your bag just in case they are being tight on the gate.
This way you have easy access to the essentials and can produce it quickly, without stressing and worrying about holding up the line (which is what I do).
How about doing this airport quiz? See how many funny airport codes you can name, and do you know the busiest airport in the world? Test your airport knowledge here!
5. Decant your liquids beforehand
The whole ‘nothing over 100ml’ rule does my head in. Reeeeeally does my head in. But safety first, safety second, when it comes to airlines hey?
Organise your liquids at home, into a sandwich bag. That way it’s much easier for you to be organised at the airport. Just lift it out and put in one of the free bags and you’re good to go.
Any sign of liquid and they’ll take your bag for further checks, causing even more pressure on your nerves. Avoid it.
Don’t get all stressy when it comes to your turn to go through security. My mum gets so worked up – even though I’m 99.9% sure she’s never touched any kinda contraband in her life, let alone attempted to smuggle it over a border. Just follow the rules and do what they say and you’ll be through ASAP.
6. Know the baggage rules
Baggage rules have changed. It doesn’t help that some airports seem to obey while others don’t. On my recent Norwegian airlines flight back from Oslo I had to pay £60 for overweight luggage. I was livid. But, they had emailed and texted the rules and I’d thought I could get round them, as I normally do. Kinda serves me right I guess. Still annoyed at them for pushing through my main luggage though, so there was no chance of decanting any of it in.
It really helps your peace of mind not to have too much stuff. It’s easier to carry and doesn’t get you in a flap when you need to find something. Pack light and know your airline’s rules to reduce your airport anxiety at security, and at the gate.
7. Don’t buy more than you can carry
It’s tempting to go nuts in duty free with all that cheapo booze and perfume but remember you’ll need to carry it on and off the flight. I’d recommend you taking one of those canvas bags with you in your handbag so you can take your Duty Free purchases on board in that.
Remember the airlines’ baggage rules still count for Duty Free though – if it doesn’t fit in your allowance, you’ll have to pay excess.
8. Upgrade where you can
Obviously First Class and Business is beyond most of our realms and budgets but you could upgrade to priority boarding, speedy security queues, or to the airport lounges to reduce your airport anxiety. Whatever makes you feel happier about the airport experience, within your budget… go for it.
Anxious about travel?
Are you anxious about travel in general? My friends over at Twin Perspectives have created a course on overcoming travel anxiety.
“We know travel anxiety can feel very real – it’s something we’ve lived with for over a decade. Here you’ll find a safe space to learn to manage your anxiety and enjoy travel again.”
9. Let the stressy ones go first
Now that you’re nicely chilled out you can relax and hang back and let the stress heads go in front. The most stressful thing at airports is other people. Anyone with kids, or old, or immobile – just let them go in front, obviously. I’ve travelled with disabled people, and with children, and gawd, it’s waaaay more stressful. Just let them hop ahead if it helps them – could be you one day.
Also, if anyone is being all stressy and annoying, let them in too. Anything for an easy life at the airport.
If your flight is delayed there’s literally nothing you can do about it, so just chill. I recently had a 6-hour delay in Milan – so annoyed as the gate we were in barely had anything in it. You just gotta throw money at that kinda situation though and eat and drink through it.
We got vouchers, and then I got a €250 compensation claim through from easyJet, so it actually worked out pretty well.
Claiming compensation on your own is not always straightforward. Airlines often try to hide the real reason behind a delay in order to avoid paying reimbursement. This should not discourage you from getting what’s rightfully yours, here’s all the information you need about flight delay compensation.
People get SO stressed travelling. One of my friends used to work on the Ryanair customer services desk and she said it was like people just turned into these monsters when they travel. She’d get shouted at all the time, and even spat at once too.
I swear travelling would be more pleasurable if most people turned down the stress and chip on their shoulder before they even entered the terminal.
11. Meditate, breathe or do yoga
I get overly stressed out in queues – I’m not proud of it. One of the things that helps me cope, and not walk off in anger, is counting and deep breathing.
Visualise yourself in a time period in the future.
Usually in queues it only has to be 10 minutes, but at the airport picture yourself in 3 hours – all relaxed and at your destination. Use the time to meditate, relax and visualise how lucky you are to be able to travel, and what’s waiting for you at the other end.
Also, have something on you to help you chill out – a book, a podcast etc – or just go for a glass of wine. Done.
12. Make the most of it!
Sounds crazy but if you’re at one of the decent city airports you literally have everything you could possibly need, and, I assume by the fact you’re travelling, you have the money to enjoy it. With all the restaurants, shops, seated areas, and sometimes fish tanks, gardens, cinemas, showers and beauty facilities, airports are basically entertainment centres nowadays.
Make the most of the fact there’s nothing you can do but enjoy the terminal, and the company of the people you’re with.
Airports can be a means to an end, or they can be part of the journey. It’s all in your attitude!