How To: Keep Your Chill on Airplanes


Photo courtesy of Katherine Johnson

We’ve all seen those posts that say TOP FIVE THINGS I HATE ABOUT AIRPLANES. Normally, the big ticket item is kids. Man, travel bloggers hate kids.

And it’s true that most people are justified in being irritated by flying, simply because there are so many things to be irritated about. Folks who crank their seat back too far, grabby TSA people, screaming babies. Me, I have this thing where my inner ear will start to hurt every time I take a window seat, which sucks, because then I can’t take those clichéd airplane window photos, which is why this post is conspicuously lacking in imagery.

But there’s a better way to work through what I call Flight Fury than passive aggressive blog posts. Here are a few steps to help you find your better, more forgiving self when you’re on a plane.

1. Ear plugs in, face mask on.
The best way to handle overwhelming sensory stimulation is pretty simple: block out whatever’s bothering you. Sure, it’s not a cure-all, but at least the screams of what sounds like a dying five-year-old a few rows back will be muffled.

Most airlines know and understand this, so it’s common for ear plugs/masks to be handed out or sold for a few bucks, although it’s probably better to pick some up in the airport if you have the time, just in case. [This is a great way to fall asleep as well, if you can.]

2. Remind yourself that everyone else is a person too.
It can be easy to forget this, but it’s true. We’re all human, and we all have our ups and downs. The snappish flight attendant was probably having a bad day dealing with screaming children. That annoyed mom two rows down? Also having a bad day because of screaming children. The screaming child will eventually grow into a responsible adult who regrets their mistakes. This doesn’t necessarily excuse rude behavior, but I find that keeping in mind that people have their ups and downs and aren’t necessarily defined by the five seconds in which I see and judge them helps keep things in perspective.

3. Try to be prepared and polite.
Look, most of us have gone through airport security enough times to know to take our shoes off before getting into line. Knowing what papers to have out and when will make things go so much smoother and faster for you and everyone involved, it’s amazing.

Additionally, not being rude and curt with people who are just doing their jobs is also quite helpful.

4. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
If the stranger next to you is edging into your elbow space, it’s perfectly acceptable to politely ask them to keep to their own area, please and thank you. Even if they do take it the wrong way, you’re only going to have to deal with them for a few more hours, and then you’ll likely never see their face again.

Likewise, if you’d like a refill on your drink or a tissue or whatever, don’t be afraid to call up a flight attendant and ask! Don’t let yourself sniffle away in silence, you’re much too good for that.

5. Distract yourself.
Personally, I’ve never been able to fall asleep on an airplane in my life. As a result, I’ve watched a lot of random movies on those teeny little airplane screens.

If all else fails, lose yourself in something you enjoy. Put in your headphones, turn on some music, read, watch a show or movie, whatever. Some people like to draw on airplanes, doing studies of the people sitting around them, and that seems like a great way to pass the time to me, personally. There’s something weirdly enchanting about being the only one awake when everyone else straps their sleeping masks on and tries to doze…

That’s all for tonight! Do you have any good airplane survival tips to share? If so, go ahead and share them in the comments! 🙂

2 thoughts on “How To: Keep Your Chill on Airplanes

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