It takes all types

Are you the sort of traveler who always arrives at the airport three hours early and then stews because you can't board the plane until a half-hour before departure?Or maybe you're the type who never bothers with reservations because, hey, space will always be available—and then you freak out when you can't get the seat you want.

Even routine travel situations—waiting for flights, sitting for hours in cramped quarters, enduring delays and uncertainty—can make travelers uptight, whatever their temperament. In 15 years of stress-management work with a clientele whose jobs demand constant travel, therapist Linda Frazee of Positive Imagery in Scottsdale, Arizona, has identified four types of air travelers and developed strategies to help them reduce their vulnerability to travel-related stress.

The Punctilious Passenger
You make specific "to do" lists and have an elaborate internal dialogue before finalizing plans. Change makes you agitated or fearful, but you tend to internalize those feelings.

  • Learn to vent. Call someone you trust and let off steam, or write down your fears and irritations.
  • Create and visualize Plan B so you won't be thrown out of whack when changes occur. Ask a flight attendant to suggest options in case you miss your connecting flight. Forget the cost and use the onboard phone to alter plans when necessary.
  • Bring reading material or office work to distract you from feeling overwhelmed by circumstances out of your control.
  • If dealing with strangers makes you uneasy, fly first-class or take an aisle seat so you won't feel trapped.
  • Imagine yourself already at your destination, relaxing in a comfortable place.

Master of the Universe
If your main goal is to get where you want to go with no surprises, you are similar to the Punctilious Passenger, but rather than internalizing anger, you externalize it: when you lose control of a situation you become annoyed or, at your worst, hostile. To reduce anger, expect the unexpected, and look for ways to avert your frustration. Remember, when you choose to travel by plane, you surrender control to people more experienced at flying than you are.

  • Call before leaving your house or office to see whether your flight has been canceled or delayed.
  • Be prepared to make business calls from the airport
  • Learn deep-breathing exercises or other stress-management techniques—like maintaining a sense of humor.

Anxious in the Air
You're flustered by changes and the need to make quick decisions (and not overly fond of air travel in the first place).

  • Use the most reliable airlines and those with which you have had positive experiences.
  • Pack essentials (toiletries, a change of clothes) in your carry-on. If your luggage is delayed or lost, you can proceed the next day without major upset. Pack light so you have less to worry about.
  • Carry a list of the places you are staying, along with key phone, confirmation, and emergency numbers.
  • If your flight is delayed, try to recall similar situations that worked out well.

Flexible Flier
Your travel style is easygoing: you want to have a good time, meet interesting people, and have adventures. However, because of your carefree attitude, you may leave things behind, run late, or even miss a flight. Also, you may annoy others by talking too much. Organize thyself.

  • Make a list of travel necessities, and double-check it.
  • Reexamine your ticket. Verify that the information matches your itinerary.
  • Carry a daybook. Make a daily agenda that lists specific times and details of your plans.
  • Allow for possible delays in getting to the airport.
  • Realize that some people prefer silence to chitchat.
  • Don't drink too much.