Please tell me I’m not the only one.
It doesn’t matter how much I travel, I can never get over the anxiety that comes over me the day(s) before. It’s a mix of excitement and dread. I feel light-headed, with butterflies in my stomach. Typically I never sleep too well and my heartbeat seems to be a little too fast.
Of course, I’m excited to travel – hence why I do it as often as I can. The dread comes from wondering what if something goes wrong and the uncertainty that comes attached to knowing that in a few days or hours you will be landing in a new place and will have to deal with the unknown. This nervousness I get is definitely not about flying – thankfully, I’ve always faced the prospect of flying as if it was very natural to us – which is not and if the flight does go wrong, the consequences are a lot more serious than what I’m about to describe. Yet, I never think about that!
It’s the before and the after the flight that makes me uneasy.
– The before
What if I miss the flight for some reason. Let’s say on the way the car gets stuck in traffic because there was an accident or, if I’m taking a bus if it doesn’t show up, or I miss the train, or something gets on the tracks and we have to be held. What if I forget something crucial, like my passport? I even freak out when going through security, even though I know I’m not carrying anything illegal. And now, for some destinations, there is also the added covid test, with 50% chances of making you cancel the trip if it comes back positive.
And what if the flight gets cancelled, or is delayed forever. I am that person who is always at the airport more than 2 hours before the flight, even if it’s a short haul. I guess it’s because I’m trying to get some sense of control.
I get onto the plane, and once it takes off, I feel relieved – again because it never occurs to me that I shouldn’t. So I relax for a bit… until…
– the after
Will I be able to find my checked-in suitcase, if that was something I did? I always have the irrational fear that will get lost and end up somewhere else in the world, even though it never happened to me. What about crossing the borders, will I have any issues? How long will the queue be? What about the transport from the airport to my hotel – will I be able to find it easily, will I get lost, take the wrong direction? Will the hotel or any kind of accommodation I booked actually exist?
It is only when I’m at the hotel that I feel I can, once again relax. And everything else comes easy to me.
I thought that maybe after taking so many flights in my life this feeling would at some point subside, but even when I’m flying back to Portugal or even back home to London, I’m always anxious. And again, it’s never about the flight. It’s about the understanding that there is a huge part of this that I cannot control. Taking a flight is not like taking any other transport – if something goes wrong, it’s not like there is another flight you can easily squeeze in in the next hour. It’s costly, it’s stressful, and it completely disrupts your plans.
While I am going currently through these jitters, I thought I would give you some tips on how to deal with them!
1- Preparation is KEY. Travel jitters can actually be beneficial – because they will hopefully make you prepare better for the trip. Check what is it that you want to do, and try to roughly plan your days. But, most importantly, prepare your arrival in advance – with the Internet and Google Maps available, there is no excuse to skip this essential step. Check the options to get to the accommodation you booked, so when you get to the airport you’re not wasting time trying to figure it out. This pre-planning will also help you to get the most cost-efficient way of transportation – after a flight, you’ll be tired, and if you haven’t planned anything, you’ll probably go for the quick and easiest option – hauling a cab or a Uber, which will be a lot more expensive when usually there are other options!
2 – Protect yourself from the media negativity. This one is tricky – you need to be informed about the destination you’re travelling to, but I personally can get myself into a very dark place when I find negative news. It’s a downwards spiral – the more you investigate that negative thing you found, the more it will be shoved on your face because the media loves drama. For instance, it is important to know that currently there are lots of flight cancellations going on as airlines are facing staff shortages due to the pandemic – but this has only made me nervous about a potential cancellation of my flight, to the point that I had to completely shut this one-off. You can’t control it, so why even bother going down that rabbit hole?
3 – Plan for the unpredictable. If it normally takes me one hour to get to the airport, I will add half an hour and leave the house one hour and a half before. This is precisely to ensure if anything happens causing a delay, I will have a little bit more time to play around with.
4 – Be the person that waits, not the one that runs. Listen to what they say and be at the airport at least 2 hours in advance for short-haul and 3 hours for the long haul. I’d rather be at the airport with plenty of time waiting for the flight than have to run in a panic about missing it.
5 – Be strategic about hand luggage organisation. Organise your things in a way that’s easy to go through security – I always have my liquids on the little plastic bag and strategically placed at the top of everything, so it’s the first thing I can reach out to, and if I’m carrying a laptop, it will be on my hands as well. This will make security checks quicker and will help everyone else. Some people are not prepared at all and have to take everything out of their bags to find the things that need to come out, delaying the whole process for everyone.
6 – The passport should be the first thing to go inside the bag. One of the first things I do when I start packing is putting my passport inside the bag I’ll take with me to the plane. If it’s already there, the danger of leaving it on top of a table when you’re rushing out is much smaller. Also don’t leave the packing for the night or the hour before the flight. If you’re a last-minute packer, I wonder how you do it, I could not deal with the stress!
Now, you have everything prepared. You know how to get to the airport on time, and you know how to get to the hotel when arriving at your destination. You have your passport and all the important documents. Everything you could control has been ticked off the list and you can rest assured if anything goes wrong, it won’t be your fault. But if you are anything like me, this won’t suffice to calm you down just the day before your trip. So this is what I do.
I keep myself busy with things not related to my trip. When I’m working, this is easy. But when I’m not – like today, Sunday, my flight to New York being tomorrow – it’s quite difficult! So I decided to work on this post 🙂 Writing is therapeutical to me and helps me see things more clearly. I also deep cleaned my flat this morning. Cleaning is can be therapeutical too, and it got me distracted with the additional benefit that when I come back, the flat will be pristine to receive me!
I also try to do something that involves getting out of the house. Go for a walk, or meet up with someone. I had to go get my covid test done and took advantage to go for a walk and spend some time browsing books at the bookshop. And tonight I’ll probably watch a movie – an easy one, something that I may have seen before but always calms me down!
So, I know my sleep won’t be perfect. It never is before any trip! But once again, I am just controlling what I can control, and that helps me to keep my sanity.
That’s all for today folks! Do you also suffer from the jitters? If so, any other tips?