My Biggest Mistakes While Flying

Earlier this year, I made a series of posts about my Top Travel Mistakes. Among them, I counted not taking rest days, being afraid of hostels, and other silly things. But as I switched boarded my plane in Seattle the other day, I suddenly realized that I’ve never written about my flying mistakes. And trust me, there are plenty.

For as many planes as I’ve been on, I’ll admit that I didn’t get a grip on how to travel by air until this past year or so. It’s embarrassing and sad, but we all need to make mistakes until we figure out what works for us.

This is a list of all the major mistakes I’ve made, and how to avoid them.

photo: SimpleSkye


Wearing Complicated Shoes Onto The Plane

This seems like a small thing, but it can completely screw up your time through the airport. First off, going through security is already stressful enough if there’s a lot of people behind you. It’s especially stressful when there’s a lot of people behind you and you’re in a place where you don’t speak the language well or don’t know the layout of the airport.

So don’t add to that stress by standing around security, fiddling with the buckles on your cute strappy sandals or the knotted laces on your tennis shoes. It’ll just make you nervous, sweaty, and loathed by everyone stuck behind your slow butt.

Beyond security, planes are always either way too hot or way too cold. We’ve managed to put a man on the moon, but we can’t regulate temperature on public transportation to save our lives. You don’t want to be the guy hunched over, your face pressed into the back of the seat in front of you, trying desperately to get your shoes off when it gets too hot.

My advice? Some low-key slippers. Ones that just look like regular shoes, if you’re worried about fashionability. They’re comfortable, and slide on and off quickly through airport security. If it’s too cold on the plane, your toes will be toasty warm. If it’s too hot, just kick them off hands-free and cool down.

Not Wearing Layers

This refers to the temperature issue of planes above. One time I was on a flight to Seattle, where the temperature was supposed to be around 45 degrees. I wore a hoodie and sweatpants, thinking that I wanted to be warm when I got off the plane. Unfortunately, the plane decided that it wanted to resemble the temperature of Hell, and I had nothing lighter underneath to change to.

Always, always, always dress in layers.

Pressuring Myself With Work

I always wanted to be one of those people who could do homework, check emails, and write my whole life story during a three hour plane ride. After all, having a few hours to sit and stare at a screen seems ideal for a writer.

However, this rarely works out. I have plenty of fears about flying, and it takes several glasses of wine to calm me down. By the end of those glasses, I’m way too out of it to do much other than sleep or play games on my phone. I used to feel guilty about this. Why couldn’t I just suck it up and work through my nerves? Why couldn’t I use my time wisely?

I finally just had to accept that I will never be one of those people. I’ve thrown all hopes of being productive on planes. A glass of wine and a long nap will have to do.

Not Having A Plan For Sleep

Speaking of naps, one huge mistake I made for a long time involved sleep. When I was a kid, I could sleep just about anywhere. No matter how uncomfortable the position, I could make it work.

Not so much anymore. Now I need alcohol, a blanket, a travel pillow, and a miracle to get any sleep on planes. My biggest mistake was realizing this too late. I spent years on red eye flights, annoyed that I couldn’t fall asleep even though I hadn’t prepared at all for it. Now, I have a plan of attack to get myself some nap time.

Advil PM or Nyquil PM (if you don’t want to pay for wine on the plane)

Thin, easily packed blanket

Neck pillow

Soothing music playlist

Noise canceling headphones

If this seems like overkill, that’s because it probably is. But for us finicky sleepers, overkill is the norm.

photo: SteFou!


Eating A Big Meal Before Your Flight

Here’s my advice on eating before flying: Do exactly what you would do on the other 364 days of the year. If you’re a compulsive top ramen eater, then grab yourself a bowl. If you’re a health nut, start cooking up some quinoa.

Many of us have made the mistake of getting to the airport and panicking that we will be hungry on the flight. Or, for some of us, we get bored waiting for our flight and eat to pass the time (totally me, I’m a bored eater to my soft, squishy core).

Either way, I’ll tell you right now that eating anything out of the ordinary will come back to haunt you. I’m typically a healthy eater at home, so those big, greasy meals that you typically get at the airport leave me bloated and uncomfortable during the flight. Plus, these meals often offer up a textbook definition for the words overpriced and mediocre. 

If you’re nervous about being hungry, grab a light appetizer or a small sandwich. Save the big meal for when you actually reach your destination.

There are plenty of other mistakes that I’ve made in the airport and on planes, but these ones stand out to me the most as being some of the harder-learned lessons. Though I have anxiety around planes, I also find that I really enjoy my time spent in the airport and during the less-bumpy rides. By not making the above mistakes, you can find enjoyment in it, too.

Of course, practice makes perfect. So you should totally jump on and book that ticket. You know, for practice.

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