The Friendly Sober Skies: 10 Tips for Sober Air Travel This Season
Fact Checked and Peer Reviewed
January 07, 2020
Tips for staying sober when flying, during the holidays, and year round.
Even those of us who “love traveling” would be hard-pressed to say that we love commercial air-transit, with its recycled air, tarmac wait times, and the TSA (with all due respect TSA, but c’mon). No worries though, your trip needn’t compromise your sobriety. We’ve rounded up some tried and true tips from our Workit team.
When Booking Your Trip
1. Pick the best flight time possible.
For most people, this will be early enough in the time of day to not fall into when you are likely to engage in an addictive behavior, but late enough to give you an adequate night’s sleep before, and fall into hours where reaching out to others will be possible. In a nutshell, you want to avoid extremes.
2. Pay or upgrade for the best seat, if you can.
It’s easy to underestimate the power of a decent airline seat when you’re booking from the comfy confines of your living room, but best to err on the side of overindulging than under-indulging with this one.
3. Have a supportive travel companion.
If you can, travel with a trusted, supportive person who you are very unlikely to drink or use around (and ideally who is also a calming presence).
4. If you have a severe fear of flying, consider specialized therapy to help.
In the last decade, the mental health field has come a long way in developing effective therapies for phobias such as flying. Your Workit counselor or coach can tell you about more options and even provide some of them.
24-48 Hours Before Your Trip
5. Check-in with someone trusted and supportive.
This might be your Workit counselor, a support group, or a loved one. Go over how you’re feeling, what your concerns might be if you have them, and your game plan.
Packing the day before will keep you from forgetting any essentials.
6. Pack the day before. Use a list.
Many of us find that when we’re stressed we tend to throw the very things that decrease stress to the wind, such as organization and time-management. Pay extra attention to getting organized for your trip; little things like packing in advance with a list and giving yourself ample time to go to the airport will go a long way in helping you keep your sanity and sobriety this season.
7. Stick to at least one part of your usual self-care routine.
Another self-defeating response to stress and routine change is to abandon all or some of your normal self-care staples (think eating, sleeping, moving, seeing a doctor when you’re sick). Now is not the time to find out what your mood is like after eating a giant bag of Cheetos for dinner and going to bed too late. Take extra care of fitting in the basics in the days leaving up to your travel day.
Sensory Deprivation Demo: This Workiter is tuning out the world around her, and someway way better in her head.
On Your Trip
8. Use Sensory Deprivation.
Think of it this way. When in life is it socially appropriate to respond to triggers by literally putting on a giant sleep mask to block them from your view, and popping on headphones to drown their sound? Only on the airplane!
Bring these items to have ready to whip out if your seat-mates are cheersing over your head, or otherwise irritating. Soothing podcasts and music can also be a huge help.
9. Enjoy Guilty Pleasures.
Is it an airplane, or just a heavenly opportunity to indulge in guilty pleasures like Netflix, the Sims, and candy crush uninterrupted for hours at a time? The choice is yours. Many a Workit member has successfully sustained serenity in-flight by indulging in safe alternatives to what they are trying to quit.
10. Plan for layovers and delays.
Layovers are the perfect time to take care of needs that are uncomfortable on the plane. Stretch, fit a walk in, sit down to a nice normal meal, call a friend. Mill around souvenir shops if that’s your thing. Intentionally planning activities will make it pass by all the more smoothly. As for delays, never underestimate the amount of entertainment to bring as back-up for your travel day! New music, podcasts, books, TV shows/movies, and Workit activities have smoothed many a travel day for us at Workit.
Cassandra McIntosh is the Head of Content at Workit Health. She brings a unique mix of expertise drawn from her background in counseling psychology, socio-organizational psychology and consumer insights.