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  • Writer's pictureGreg Graber

Tips for Mindful Air Travel

I travel quite a bit for work. Typically I'm on a plane at least once a week. While the travel runs me a down from time to time, I still enjoy it on most days. Don't get me wrong: there is nothing glamorous about flying commercially. However, I try to see air travel as an opportunity to get me where I'm going to do the work that I love. Sometimes in the process, see I get to see new places and meet new people.

Spending a considerable amount of time in airports and in places also makes me somewhat of an amateur anthropologist, as I have learned quite a bit about human behavior in general from these experiences. In this regard, my platinum frequent flyer status is the equivalent to an honorary PhD in the study and observation of air travel behavior. :)

With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, I offer these tips, insights, and suggestions on mindful air travel. Not only will these suggestions make the traveling experience better for you and your fellow travelers, but practicing some of them will also increase overall self-awareness. When we are more self-aware of our thoughts, actions, and emotions, we increase our sense of well-being for ourselves and others.

  1. After the initial "Big Shutdown" from the pandemic, people are starting to resocialize again after being isolated. Even under the best of circumstances, people get uptight during air travel. Patience with others and ourselves is key. Being mindful and self-aware of our surroundings is the first step to mindful air travel.

  2. It's never helpful to crowd around the ticket counter and entrance ramp before the flight. Try to wait until your boarding number group is called, instead of making others nervous by getting into their space and blocking pathways. If you have a ticket, and you are on time, you'll get on the plane.

  3. Don't hold up the take off of the flight by bringing aboard carry-on bags you know will not fit into the overhead bins.

  4. It is always a good idea to ask another traveler to move his or her bag before moving it over to put yours in the overhead bin.

  5. If at all possible, allow yourself enough time before your flight where you don't have to rush. When we are in a hurry, we act of our nervous energy, and typically this causes us to lose all regard for our surroundings and others around us.

  6. Expect things to go wrong. This is the nature of air travel. There are so many variables that can go the wrong way. By not expecting things to go perfectly, we are pleasantly surprised when there are no mishaps. On the flip side, when we are expecting things to be perfect, we are setting ourselves up for emotional angst.

  7. Treat airline employees the way you want to be treated. Not only is it the right to do, but I have never seen anyone get what they wanted interacting in a jerk-like manner in an airport.

  8. Don't play your electronic devices on the plane without earbuds or earphones. No one wants to hear your movie or music playlist. It's annoying. Doing this displays either a lack of self -awareness or just bad manners. Be considerate.

  9. Pull that mask up over your nose. If I have to wear one of these things, then you do, too. No one likes it, but at the end of the day, wearing one is just a minor inconvenience. If having to wear one properly is that big of a deal to you, just drive instead of flying.

  10. No one wants to hear your phone conversation while sitting on the runway. If it is a call you must answer, make it quick and to the point. There is nothing worse that hearing a Jerry Springer level domestic dispute phone conversation from a fellow traveler. And the individuals making the big business deals on their phones aren't much better. No one is impressed. How about waiting ten minutes after departing the plane to make your "art of the deal?"

  11. Saying "please" and "thank you" goes a long way. For instance, when getting on the plane and your seat is a window seat, instead of just pointing to the person in the aisle seat and saying "that's my seat," expecting them to get up for you, try saying, "Excuse me. My seat is by the window."

  12. It seems that I always end up sitting by the guy who brings an entire fried chicken or a slab of smelly ribs to eat mid-flight. It usually smells up the entire cabin. It's also weird when I am basically sharing an armrest with a guy who's licking his fingers for ten minutes after chowing down. I often wonder why people just don't leave a few minutes earlier and grab something to eat in the airport or just eat it in the waiting area before boarding.

  13. Getting hammered before a flight is never a good thing. People who do this often are loud and obnoxious on flights. By no means am I teetotaler. Anyone who knows me will attest to this.... Have a good time. You do you, but just know "when to say when."

  14. Why even bother reclining your seat back? It gives you maybe a negligible amount of additional space at most. All it really does is make the person behind you more uncomfortable.

  15. When the plane lands, is there any real need to stand up immediately in the aisle in someone else's personal space? How about waiting in your seat until it is your row's turn to depart the plane? There's nothing worse than those who break line when deplaning. There's a system to this that makes it more efficient than a free-for- all that resembles a rugby scrum.

Can you think of anymore? Email them to me at We are all in this together! As Ram Dass said, we are just all just walking each other home." (and flying!)

Greg Graber, the author of Slow Your Roll- Mindfulness for Fast Times, teaches mindfulness and Social & Emotional (SEL) skills to schools, top sports teams, and various organizations around the world. Graber, a frequent keynote speaker, currently serves as the Director of SEL at Lausanne Collegiate School. He may be contacted through his website:

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