6 tips for keeping your cool this summer as air travel melts down

Jun 25, 2022

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In case you haven’t heard, it’s the summer of hellish delays at the airport.

Keeping your cool during this airline Armageddon with delayed and canceled flights and missing luggage may be the most important thing you do to prepare when you’re traveling this summer.

In addition to packing some patience, as has become my mantra of late, I began looking into actual mantras to help me navigate what have become increasingly worrying scenarios. As we approach the July 4 holiday, some Zen in the clouds could be especially helpful.

Related: Your flight is canceled or delayed – here’s what you should do next

I turned to a number of travel, health and wellness experts for recommendations on dealing with airport stress.

Related: Even more reasons to download your airline’s mobile app — summer flight delays and cancellations

From airport mediation rooms (they’re really a thing) and breathing exercises to apps and sweet treats, here are ways to stay calm, cool and collected when your plans suddenly seem to veer out of your control.

Added bonus: If you’re the clearest-headed person at the gate, it’s possible you’ll also be the one to think fastest on your feet and get the next seat to your destination.

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In This Post

Quiet airport spaces

“These days, you need to bring your best Zen self to the airport, because you never know what’s waiting there for you,” said Rona Berg, editorial director of Organic Spa Magazine. “The good news is that you can usually find a quiet corner to rebalance yourself.”

Berg says that virtually every airport — even the busiest — has a chapel that’s open to travelers, and some even have a yoga or meditation room. Any of these options are great places to close your eyes, take deep breaths, restore and recalibrate.

These relatively secret spots are sanctuaries from the bustling airport, where even lounges can be packed to bursting. Another tip from TPG staffers: Find an unused gate and perch there; you may get more space and silence to get work done than in the lounge.

Aromatherapy

Berg is a fan of essential oil roller balls, as am I. These small vials meet Transportation Security Administration requirements and are leakproof (unlike essential oils with removable tops), and the scents can help calm and soothe frayed nerves.

“I always travel with H. Gillerman Organics’ Stress Remedy, or an organic lavender essential oil, which is relaxing. Apply the roller ball — or dab essential oils — on the temples and pulse points on the inside wrists. Lift wrists to the nose and inhale. Repeat,” advised Berg.

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

Breathe

Once you apply your scent, it’s time to take a few deep, guided breaths. The beauty of guided breathing is that you can literally do it anywhere. Berg said she’s even tried it on the New York City subway (but with her eyes open in that case).

For this one, sit if possible and close your eyes, according to John Stewart, the founder of the Kamalaya wellness resort in Koh Samui, Thailand. Breathe in through the nose, focusing on the inhale and then the exhale.

To help you focus on breathing, and drown out the chatter around you, try counting 10 breaths (one, and then breathe in and out, and so on). Berg also recommends holding the breath and counting to five for each inhale and exhale. (Focusing on both counting and breathing creates a complementary mind and body relaxation state). For added guidance, check out the resort’s podcast series.

Note: If you close your eyes in a busy airport, make sure to keep a hand on your possessions.

Meditate

There are a number of paid apps for keeping your cool during turbulent moments at the airport — the Calm app is a favorite at TPG.

The Art of Living Retreat Center’s Poornima Sharma recommends making a playlist with soothing music to use with noise-canceling headphones.

“Some soothing soulful music like string instruments, flute and piano is very helpful and can bring the mind into the meditative space,” shared Sharma. “Even if someone has not done any meditation, soothing soulful music does its job and brings one to the meditative state naturally.”

You can also try quieting your mind with guided videos. I’m especially fond of one from Le Monastere des Augustines, a wellness retreat housed in a historic abbey in Quebec City. The video is a moving tour of the quiet spaces around the nearly 400-year-old building. I find it perfect for a virtual travel moment when I feel like I’m going to be trapped in the airport forever.

Take a tea break

Packing a few herbal tea bags in your carry-on can provide a civilized respite in the midst of airport chaos. I usually bring peppermint and chamomile for travel. They smell and taste good, and both work to calm my nerves and my stomach. (I can’t lie, I’ve brought more potent-smelling herbal mixes that garnered looks from other passengers that I now leave at home.)

Sharma also recommends herbal teas like rose hip, lemon balm and elderflower.

“These herbal teas are helpful resources in providing potent immune support and combat oxidative stress as they carry polyphenols, antibacterial and antioxidant properties. My favorite brands are Organic India, Yogi Tea. You can find some loose tea in the bulk section at a health food store,” said Sharma.

The Augustinian sisters who founded Le Monastere Le des Augustines were nurses and pharmacists (in the 17th century no less!). They created a number of herbal tea blends to help patients. You can still order them today. I’m a fan of both Serenity and Hope to combat anxiety on travel days.

Dark chocolate from Sirenian Bay Resort
(Photo courtesy of Sirenian Bay Resort & Villas)

Chocolate and chill

I always tuck a few dark chocolate treats (OK, and M&M’s, too) in my bag. It turns out that taking a chocolate break is actually a good way to chill, according to Brian Montgomery, owner of Sirenian Bay Resort & Villas in Belize.

“While Sirenian Bay Resort & Villas is, by definition, quite a serene place, travelers can be harried when they first arrive — it can take a few days for people to truly unwind and get into vacation mode after all the stresses of tying up loose ends at work, packing and battling crowds at the airport, so we always recommend that guests start off their vacation here with a chocolate spa treatment for its relaxation properties,” said Montgomery. “It concludes with delicious artisanal Belizian chocolate. And that’s the part you can try on your own while you’re waiting at the airport.”

Montgomery explained that the flavonoids in chocolate help protect your cells. Flavonoids are an antioxidant that can help lower blood pressure and boost the blood flow to your brain and heart. Its effects are similar to those of mild painkillers like aspirin, and may make you less anxious.

Additionally, chocolate includes compounds like tryptophan, serotonin, phenylethylamine and anandamide which can help support feelings of relaxation and well-being.

Featured photo by Getty Images.

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