Traveling by air for business or personal reasons can be an incredibly stressful endeavor where using alcohol and drugs to cope becomes powerfully tempting.

Whether you are in long-term recovery or new to sobriety, sober travel can get difficult.

However, with proper planning and the right measures in place, it is entirely possible to stay on the path of recovery and even enjoy yourself while on a flight.

This article is designed to equip you with everything you need to know about flying sober. It will provide an insightful exploration, explore key insights, and share valuable tools on the following topics:

  • Ways to prepare for your flight
  • Identifying and managing airport triggers
  • How to stay sober on the plane

Let’s get started!

How To Prepare For Your Trip

When booking your trip, pick the best possible flight time when you are least likely to engage in addictive behavior. Try to upgrade to the best seat if you can to feel relaxed and comfortable on your flight.

To decrease travel stress, put an effort into getting more organized for your trip. Make sure to pack at least a day before your flight and make a list to stay on top of time management.

You can also bring a sober travel kit with snacks and activities to keep you occupied and entertained on the plane.

Travel with a supportive and trusted companion if you can. This person should be somebody who you are unlikely to relapse around and ideally also has a calming presence.

Lastly, consider working with a specialized therapist before your flight if you have a severe fear of flying.

Avoid Airport Triggers and How To Manage Them

One of the biggest obstacles in maintaining your freedom from alcohol while traveling is the airport itself because it can be full of triggers that can compromise your recovery process.

It’s crucial to learn how to identify these triggers and apply effective measures that will ensure you avoid any potential relapse.

Bars and lounges

The first thing you need to do to prevent a possible relapse is to steer clear of the drinking establishments at the airport, especially if you are traveling without a sober companion.

Decide to instead opt for a cup of coffee or any other alcohol-free beverage at one of the airport cafes.

Duty-free shops

The Duty-free shops at the airport are commonly plastered with several brightly colored advertisements for cheap alcohol.

You can instead browse through the airport souvenir shop or spoil yourself in one of the massage chairs available.

In-flight alcohol service

In-flight alcohol service including those tiny liquor bottles that are specifically produced for flying can be a dangerous opportunity to drink.

Keeping your own snacks to munch on and a water bottle to sip on can be a helpful tool to avoid these temptations and also prevent dehydration and hunger.

Fellow passengers drinking

If you feel particularly stressed, distracted, and triggered by nearby passengers who are heavily indulging in alcoholic drinks, you can always communicate with the cabin crew.

Speak to the flight attendant, explain your situation, and ask to relocate your seat; they should be able to accommodate you.

Airport announcements about alcohol

Airport announcements on various alcohol protocols can trigger a strong mental and emotional response in recovering addicts.

You can overcome these by finding a spot near your gate and getting settled in with your book or laptop so that you’ll be less tempted to wander.

Stressful or delayed flights

Delayed flights can drastically increase your stress levels, which can be a major trigger for many individuals seeking rehabilitation from substance abuse.

Try to stay as relaxed as possible and keep in mind that this can be a good opportunity to stretch, have a nice meal, and even call a friend.

Social pressure to drink

Airports are one of the few places wherein it is more socially acceptable to drink regardless of the time of day. You can respond to this trigger by using sensory deprivation such as putting on headphones and a sleeping mask.

What To Do On the Plane

Set your intention to stay sober before you even get your boarding pass. Visualize what you want to happen instead of worrying about what could go wrong in your flight.

Have a non-alcoholic drink order ready

Exhaustion and thirst at the airport can be powerful stressors for people who are recovering from addiction. Be prepared by ordering a seltzer or water straight away before boarding the plane.

Notify flight attendants of sobriety

You may be asked if you want a cocktail once you are on board. For added safety, you can discreetly inform the flight attendant to not offer you a drink due to your sobriety so that you are less likely to act on a craving.

Engage in in-flight entertainment

Fortunately, there are tons of readily available in-flight entertainment options that you can choose from. You can immerse yourself in a movie, game, music, or a wide array of reading materials to keep you occupied on the flight

Talking to a supportive travel companion

If you are feeling stressed out or anxious, do not hesitate to communicate with a trusted companion to whom you can express your feelings and concerns.

Listening to calming music or podcasts

Putting on your headset and listening to sober podcasts and music can also be a huge help that you can easily access to calm your nerves while on the plane.

Mindfulness meditation

There are plenty of meditation apps that you can use on your phone that are specifically meant to keep you at ease in overcoming your fears. Aside from that, you can also opt for essential oils or breathing exercises.

Aerobic exercises before the flight

Try to do basic aerobic exercises such as stretching to loosen up any tightness in your body before you hop on your flight. This can play a significant role in maintaining a calm state of mind.

Self-help books or apps

Check out the airport bookstore and newsstand for any motivational reading materials that offer mental growth to keep you engaged while on your flight. You can also look online for any apps that fall under this category.

Final Thoughts

Turbulence, fear of flying, claustrophobia, crying children, long lines, lightheadedness, and stressful security checks are just some of the anxiety-inducing occurrences that need to be endured when traveling.

In addition to the many temptations you’ll find at the airport, these encounters can make you feel overwhelmed and potentially risk your recovery.

Remember that the key to flying sober is to prepare for your flight, stay positive, and prioritize self-care in all aspects.


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