I flew six times last year. I’ll be flying four more times between now and May.
To say, “I do not fly well” would be like saying, “I do not fall off cliffs well.” It’s not so much that I’m not good at it or that I don’t enjoy it, as it is that everything about it is inherently painful, designed to leave me lying, broken and helpless, in a heap.
But over the course of last year, I learned a lot about how to get through it, and I will gladly share you my hard-gleaned wisdom, such as it is. Here, in no particular order, are my top 10 things to have with you when you fly, if you’re an author on a book tour:
- Medication, obviously. I have vestibular migraines, which make me prone not just to headaches but to overwhelming motion sickness – like, I can’t go 15 feet as a passenger in a car without wanting to die. I’ve found that the only solution to this a well-timed blend of low-dose benzodiazepines and high-dose hyoscine hydrobromide. I only need to re-medicate mid-flight if it’s more than four or five hours or if I have to take a shuttle from the airport to wherever. (Usually I rent cars, to avoid said shuttle.)
- Sunglasses. These serve two purposes: (1) The vestibular migraines mentioned above make me sensitive to light, so sunglasses help me avoid light-triggered headaches/dizziness in a sunny airport or plane; and (2) People leave you the fuck alone when you’re wearing sunglasses. #introvert
- A huge, soft scarf. Mine is 30″ x 80″ and cashmere. I can wear it untied around my neck and it’s long and drapey. I can wrap it around my head and shoulders and it is warmer than a tauntaun. I can bunch it up and use it as a pillow, resting my head against the wall of the plane.
- Jeggings. Honestly. Knit denim that looks vaguely like jeans but feels exactly like leggings. A body swells during a flight, so stretchiness is a necessity, but wearing clothes that look like clothes, rather than like pajamas, both helps me to feel (and thus behave) more like a responsible adult, and results in people treating me a little more like I’m a human being and a little less like I’m cargo.
- Wool socks. My feet always get cold, so.
- Tall zip-up boots. Most places, I need tall boots with me, and of course it makes more sense to wear them than pack them, but also it turns out to be no more of a hassle of to take them off and put them back on at security than would a pair of sneakers or Merrells. Plus they help make the jeggings look more like actual pants.
- A soft bra. No underwires. Fuck shapeliness – my boobs are covered by the scarf anyway – I just want enough support to stop the girls bouncing painfully if I have to run somewhere.
- Layers. Everyone knows this. The temperatures in your departure city, in the airport, on the plane, and at your destination city probably have nothing in common. So: layers. Bra, base layer, midlayer, outer layer, just like if you were going hiking.
- Headphones and audiobooks. When I fly, I listen to (mostly romance) novels that I’ve already read and, indeed, have already listened to. This is comfort noise, as well as a barrier that says, “Don’t talk to me.” (#introvert) May I recommend Juliet Stevenson reading Jane Austen? Winner every time. Also Nicholas Boulton reading literally anything. If Audible sold 500 hours of Nicholas Boulton reading the Library of Congress card catalog, I would buy it. And if you haven’t heard Richard Armitage reading Georgette Heyer… you really should. You really, really should.
- Surrender. Be a docile member of the herd. When shit goes wrong, stand in line patiently, wait your turn, don’t try to jostle for a better position or flight or anything. Just. Do. As. You’re told. You are cargo. You can be a person again when you’re in your hotel.
With these defenses in place, no one makes small talk with me, no one gives me the stinkeye, and no one even notices me. And for a woman with blue hair, that is a remarkable accomplishment.
It doesn’t make flying a joy. But it does make flying totally bearable.