MHAP Holiday Series: Surviving Holiday Travel


This post is a part of Nicole Carman’s mental health-related holiday post series, “Taking Care of your Mental Health during the Holiday Season.” To see the post line-up for the previous and remaining posts in this series, please visit…this page on Nicole’s blog, Navigating Darkness. If you enjoy this post, please comment and consider sharing it on social media!

Ah, the holidays. Some of the most stressful times for most people, but especially for those who have a mental health issue.

Since we now live in Georgia, I end up traveling for the holidays to visit my family in Massachusetts. It really kicks up my anxiety, but I have found being prepared really helps with that.

I start preparing for my trip at least 3 days beforehand. I like to take it in steps:

1) Write a list of everything I need to pack. I plan out all the outfits I am going to need, including shoes, jewelry, etc. I also include all the little toiletries I will need, but are so easy to forget. I even list the gifts I am going to take. If it needs to be packed, it goes on the list. I also plan on what I’m going to take for my carry on.

2) Bring your meds in your carry on. This is incredibly important! We all know that periodically checked luggage goes AWOL. The worst thing is to have your meds go AWOL too, and you are stuck in another state scrambling to get emergency scripts. Especially when trying to deal with insurance companies during the holidays. Keeping them with you will eliminate that stress

3) Google the airport and find out how busy it is around the time of the flight, including how long it takes to get through security. Google has this great feature where it tells you peak times. I use that to plan out how early I should actually arrive at the airport. There is nothing more stressful than standing in line either for the ticket counter or security and worrying if you are actually going to make your flight. You can even go there yourself beforehand and see how busy it is in person. Remember, it is much better to be early than late! For those of you who have children with ASD, you can call the airport and see if they offer special walkthroughs to help alleviate stress on the day.

4) Bring extra chargers. I also recommend bringing a fully charged battery pack. There is nothing worse than waiting around for your flight and running out of battery power!

5) Bring lots of things to keep you occupied. Especially when you plan on arriving early, or you have a long layover. Bring books, colouring books and pencils, maybe even a worry stone or fidget toys.

6) Wear comfortable clothes. Throw on those yoga pants! Wear your favourite well worn hoodie! Be comfy! Surprisingly, it goes a long way to alleviating stress. The waiting chairs are already uncomfortable enough without adding an uncomfortable wardrobe in the mix.

Ok. You are at the airport, and it is time to go through security.

1) If possible, wear slip on shoes. I know it’s cliche, but it really is good advice.

2) If you are bringing a pet, you will have to take it out of the carrier. I didn’t know this the first time I brought a pet through. It was nervewracking! So long as you are prepared beforehand it goes more smoothly.

3) Distract yourself. Being in a line crammed with people can be so anxiety producing. Now is a good time to use a fidget toy or a worry stone. I usually take out a book. Taking your mind off of the line helps keep anxiety down.

Ok. You’ve made it on time, and you are through security, and are waiting for your flight.

1) Remember to breathe. That can be hard to remember as the waiting area starts to fill up. I know I get super uncomfortable around crowds. It can be good to also remember that everyone just wants to keep themselves to themselves. Here is another great opportunity to get lost in a book!

2) Listen to soothing music. It helps to be able to drown out the noise of a terminal. Just don’t put it up too loud! You still want to be able to hear when your flight is going to board.

3) Watch your favourite show. Don’t like music? Got a Hulu or Netflix subscription? Put on your favourite comfort show. I’m a fan of Quantum Leap myself. Relaxes me every time.

Ok. On the plane, ready to go! Keep. Breathing. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, sing your favourite song in your head, if you have a worry stone or fidget toy, use it. And remember, everything will be fine!

I hope this has helped reduce the anxiety surrounding holiday travel. Don’t forget to check out the other posts in this series. Be safe, and have a great holiday!


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