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Planes, Rideshares, and Travel


Last weekend, I attended an annual conference out of state. This conference happened to be one of my last travel moments of 2020 before we all were relegated to our homes for what seemed like an infinity. In the past two years, I've traveled by my personal vehicle but have not taken public transportation. 

Not only was I anxious about being in a room full of people once again, I was also anxious about traveling to get to that room full of people. 

Growing up, I loved the "idea" of flying. My first flight was to a Girl Scout Convention held in Kansas City when I was 16. (Pre 9/11). Of course, flying restrictions, TSA, and all things security have changed dramatically over the past 20+ years. Add covid changes in, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. 

Luckily enough, I managed to get a flight from my local airport. It's smaller and a lot less intense to deal with regarding TSA and security. 

In case you are not a frequent flier the norm for regular (not CLEAR or pre-check travelers) is to remove shoes, remove your laptops/ tablets/ readers and have them laid separately in bins, have nothing in your pockets, and continue to have a quart sized bag with your 3 oz liquids. I heard from some of my colleagues that some places don't make you remove shoes anymore, so that is going to be hit or miss. 

Our current federal mandate is that masks must be worn inside the airport and on all flights unless you are actively eating or drinking. I was nervous about this as I usually take my mask off once I'm away from folks and in my office. The idea of having it on from 11 am til 5 pm (or later) was not thrilling. I took advance of the drink/ eating breaks so that was a respite. I also recognized that masks were drying out my throat/ voice, so I needed to drink more water than normal. 

I was slightly nervous about being around all the people again too. If you are moderate to progressive in the way you approach your lifestyle regarding covid these days, then flying will not be too bad. If you are still very concerned for health reasons or other, I'd avoid the airports and planes for a bit longer. It's hard to distance and not be on top of each other. 

The Charlotte Douglas airport was incredibly packed for a Thursday mid afternoon. In fact, my gate area was almost standing room/ floor seating only. Little to no social distancing took place, so if that's something you are still looking for, the larger busier airports will be difficult. I found most people respectful of space, but it's hard when your neighbor is chowing down on their Chick Fil A in a packed gate area. 

I flew on American Airlines. Luckily, no one on either of my flights to or from my destination put up a fuss. I heard from some others that experienced unruly folks and y'all- just be nice to your flight attendants and pilots. They don't make the rules, they just follow them. 

American states in their announcements that the plane has been sanitized. Their website states "We clean and sanitize high-touch surfaces in the airport, like kiosks, ticket counters and seating areas. On our planes, we deep clean tray tables, seatbelt buckles, armrests, window shades, seatback screens, doors and overhead bin handles. " To be honest, I don't know whether they did or didn't do such things because I wasn't on the plane when they would have done so. In the airport, I did not more cleaning than may have existed in the past- especially wiping down surfaces. 

My going flights were basically full, back to normal flying with not much space in between. I had upgraded my seats using airline points, so I had more room than the ones in the regular sections, which made me not feel as claustrophobic. I also decided to choose aisle seats so that I didn't feel cramped in (when anxious, claustrophobia can hit harder for me). 

My return flights were almost deserted, but granted my return was on a Monday evening of Valentine's Day. 

Things I noticed:

The airline attendants wore gloves when passing out drinks/ snacks. They did not go up and down the aisle as much either. 

Some airline attendants were more strict about the length your mask remained off to eat/ drink than others. Most likely their past experiences (dealing with unruly passengers) affects their reaction. 

There were a LOT of hand sanitizer stations in the 3 airports (Charlotte Douglas, Minneapolis Minnesota and La Guardia New York). I carried my own, but these were definitely helpful (especially before touching kiosks and eating food). 


Minneapolis is friggin cold right now, so we opted not to take the light rail into downtown, which would then require walking to the hotel with our luggage. Instead, we used rideshare services like Lyft and Uber to get to our destinations throughout the weekend. 

Both services require wearing masks and asks you a myriad of questions to verify you are symptom free. The drivers were respectful and didn't get too close to us, but of course, with luggage handling, trunks and doors, we did get near them. 

The conference itself was held at a large hotel, with the main events in the hotel's ballroom. The leaders did a great job at asking us to be vaccinated or negative test and wear N95's or KN95's. It helps that Minneapolis has a mask mandate in it's city and the hotel was strict in following it. Yet, I do have to admit, the first couple of times I walked into the room with 500 other folks, it was slightly weird. 

All in all, travel wasn't that bad and my anxiety was kept in check pretty well.  I do recognize that flying is just more stressful now though. Also, my body didn't like flying this go around. I'm not sure if it's because I haven't been in the air in so long, or we hit a lot of turbulence, but whatever the impact, my stomach and sinuses did not like it. 

A few tricks to deal if you are on a plane/ public transportation:

- Have water/ drink (probably non alcohol) to sip on is helpful. Even if you don't take the mask off all the way, you can get hydrated. 

- Check your bags. Sure, it costs money, and you will already have all the stuff your family needs for the plane ride, but its SOOO worth it to not have to deal with that hassle in the crowded airports. Plus, it gives you room at your feet. 

- Have something to do.. whether it's watching the free entertainment on your phone (oh yea- that's a new feature for American now), reading a book, doing something to occupy your mind will alleviate anxiety. I've found holding something with my hands and being able to stretch my feet/ legs helps a lot. 

- If you need it, have your meds accessible. Dramamine, Acid Reflux Pills, Pain Relivers.. know where they are in case you need them. Some of my anxiety kicks up my acid reflux, which can be a vicious cycle, so I try to keep that around. 

- Get up and move at least once. Right now, the airlines don't want crowding near the lavatories so that is difficult, but at least going to the lavatory once will help get the blood pumping and get you moving.. 

- Wear and/or bring layers. Getting too hot or too cold isn't helpful at all. It will cause your system to go berserk and won't help anxiety at all! I have a tendency to be hot natured, so I usually go with a blouse/ short sleeved shirt and a fleece. Even in our warmer months, we know airports and planes in the south will be freezing. 

- I didn't this time, but if you plan on sleeping- take your travel pillows and blankets. Domestic flights havent offered these in a while, but even international flights aren't using them right now. 

- Bring your snacks. Your airline most likely will have a limited menu with prepackaged items and probably won't serve a hot meal at all. 

Do you have tips for traveling when your anxiety kicks up? 

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