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Reduce Airport Stress & Anxiety: Useful Tips

reduce airport stress and anxiety
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Easy Ways To Reduce Airport Stress & Anxiety

Airports are stressful, period. Even for seasoned travelers, airports cause some sort of stress response. As someone who always gets through the airport quickly and easily, I’ll share some quick tips on how to reduce airport stress and anxiety.

reduce airport stress and anxiety

Double Check Your Travel Documents To Avoid Airport Anxiety

Especially with all the packing and making sure everything will be alright at home while you’re gone, it can be easy to forget the most essential documents.

Mistakes happen all the time. It’s so easy to grab your old passport instead of your current one or forget your printed boarding pass.

reduce airport stress with list

Before you go, get a visual of all of these documents. Take a mental snapshot of where you’re putting them, too. This way, you will reduce airport anxiety during check-in, as well as on the way to the airport.

Check The Airport Map

Another way to stay calmer in the airport is to be sure of your departure terminal. At bigger airports, mistaking your terminal can be a disaster. Before you go, check the terminal maps. If you have to take a shuttle train, identify which stop is yours.

reduce airport stress with preparation

Another common problem is just barely making it to the gate on time. For example, I spend almost half an hour getting from security to my gate when departing a flight in Shanghai.

Check out walking times for your departure city’s airport and plan ahead. A huge way to mitigate airport stress is not having to run from security to the gate!

Don't Check Your Bags

If you can afford to travel lightly, I can’t recommend this tip enough. I’ve traveled for months at a time and I’ve never needed to check a bag on a flight.

Yes, I lug my belongings onto and off of the plane, but I save myself the stress of standing in check-in and baggage claim crowds.

bag carousel

The most important reason not to check luggage is the time you’ll save. Simply eliminating the wait of checking and retrieving your baggage will reduce airport stress. Pack only what you need. If you need some help, check out my tips for packing light.

Make sure to check your airline’s carry-on rules. Some airlines are very strict and will resort to measuring your bag. Some budget airlines are extremely and unnecessarily strict about carry-on sizes and weights.

For instance, news in 2017 mentioned that Air Asia brought luggage scales right to the gate to weigh every passenger’s belongings to the ounce.

reduce airport anxiety at gate

Others will allow overhead bins to fill with whatever passengers bring and just check the rest. To be safe, get one of these handy luggage scales to check your bag’s weight before you go to the terminal.

Use Mobile Boarding Passes

Check in online from your cell phone and save the stress of waiting in line for boarding documents. You can opt for a mobile boarding pass when prompted with the option while booking your tickets.

Once your airline emails you the mobile ticket, you can simply add it to your Apple Wallet or other app used for storing mobile passes. As a result of using this technology, you won’t even need to stop at a kiosk before heading straight for security checks.

relaxed boarding with mobile boarding pass

No matter whether you’re a novice or a frequent traveler, always make sure you have a backup power bank. It’s always a good idea to keep an extra battery around for emergency situations. For example, you’ll be able to charge your phone in the taxi if it didn’t charge the night before your flight!

Dealing With The Stressful 3.4 Oz (100 ml) Rule

Many of us have products in containers that are over the 3.4 oz or 100 ml limit. This is personally one of my sources of airport stress.

Most of the time I transfer these products into my flexible travel-size containers. Other times, I try to sneak products that are just barely over the limit through security.

stressful 3.4 oz rule

We all know your organic cane sugar facial scrub isn’t hazardous, and sometimes it’s not easy to find travel containers once you’re on your trip. So, here’s a quick tip on how to get oversized items through, if you’re in a pinch.

First, bury that over-3.4-ounce item deep in your largest bag. Make sure to surround it with other oddly-shaped objects, and not with clothes. Keep it away from your other toiletries. People normally don’t pack tanning oil alongside their cameras, for example.

If you pack the items in this way, there’s little chance they will be flagged. Also, security would prefer not to undo your entire bag all the way to the bottom unless there is actually something of concern.
reduce airport anxiety at security

Next, keep your allowable toiletries grouped together near the top of your bag. If security does shift your stuff to the inspection area, they will open the top, check the small toiletries, close it up, and tell you that you’re good. 

At least, this is my impression of what happens. I’m not a TSA agent, so I could be wrong.

Note: this tip is intended for substances you know aren’t non-hazardous. Please travel at your own risk and be safe.

Reduce Airport Stress With Global Entry

International travelers will benefit hugely from enrolling in Global Entry. Sign up now and you’ll thank yourself a thousand times later.

For US citizens who travel more so domestically, the alternative option is enrolling in TSA Pre-Check. My personal credit card gives me the option of choosing which to get.

staying calm in airport

Arriving in some American airports can feel like absolute hell. Even for American citizens, lines can be extreme to check your passport. The last thing we want is to wait in line for two hours after a long flight.

Global Entry allows you to speed right through using a specialized screening machine. All you have to do to sign up is do a one-time interview upon arrival from an international flight.

TSA Pre-check will mainly save you time on the departure side of your trip by allowing you to jet quickly through security lines.

Get Comfortable With Lounge Access

I get free access to lounges in airports around the world with Priority Pass, which is a benefit of my personal credit card. 

Fast WiFi, free meals all day long, alcohol, and cozy seating can’t be beaten. Some even have showers and massage chairs!

It’s the perfect environment for stressed travelers to relax and shift focus away from the stress of air travel.

avoid airport stress with lounge access

Depending on what country you reside in, there will be different ways to gain access to a lounge program. Some travelers gain access from airline status gained via work-related travel, while others subscribe to programs like

Organize Carry-On Items Before Boarding

We’ve all seen those travelers who get on the plane and immediately start shuffling through their luggage. Not only is it painful to watch, but it’s stressful to be that person, too!

To avoid the stress that comes along with rifling through bags in a tight space, prepare everything you’ll need ahead of time.

reduce anxiety by preparing carry on

Before you get on the plane, know which bag you will keep with you under the seat in front of you. Keep all your travel essentials here. This way you’ll have easy access to your laptop, book, headphones, snacks, and other commonly needed comforts.

Once you’re in your seat, I recommend everyone have a pair of noise-canceling headphones to block out the glamour of announcements and passenger conversations.

I can’t go anywhere without my wireless Bose noise-canceling earbuds. They literally make me feel like I’m in a quiet library in the noisiest places.

Arrange Arrival Transport In Advance

This stress-reduction tip depends on the nature of your trip. The last thing we look forward to is waiting in line for literally anything once we land and begin our journey.

rental car lot

So, it’s best to reserve a rental car in advance to avoid the tasking decision-making that comes with choosing a vehicle and its related insurance options.

If you rely on ride-sharing apps, then this tip probably won’t apply to you, since those are best requested on the spot.

However, if you’re booking transportation for someone else, it’s quite common to hire a private car in advance. These services will find the passenger upon exit of the terminal.

Bonus Tip to Reduce Airport Stress: Don’t Bring This

Fitness is important to many of us, and you may be tempted to bring along some pretty standard workout supplements. Take note, however, that airport security’s worst nightmare is pre-workout powder.

banned items at security check

If security sees these powders, you might just find yourself undergoing a thorough screening. Many of these products contain ingredients that set off preliminary tests when swabbed.

Instead, I recommend bringing pre-workout capsules. This way, you won’t risk missing your flight!

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