5 Surefire Ways to Fight Adultitis While Flying

photo by wouter walmink

Looking for a surefire way to acquire a “Full-Blown” case of Adultitis?

Two words: air travel

The experience of flying is guaranteed to morph even the most “glass half full” type of person into a cynical scrooge – or your money back. (Ha!) Who knew a hefty case of Adultitis was free with the price of a plane ticket? And being the contagious disease that it is, it’s quite tricky to escape the spread when you’re quarantined in small planes and stuffy airports.

I’ve been noticing more and more complaints on Facebook from my road warrior speaker friends. The stressors are obvious: uncommunicated delays, extra fees, overcrowded planes, kicking toddlers (aka Lucy), smelly food, overly talkative seatmates, edgy flight attendants, oversized bags in overhead bins, and we haven’t even started to talk about security screening. I call it the Super Security Shuffle, as you wiggle your shoes and belt off and shimmy all of your electronics out of your bags. Fun stuff!

“The flying experience is terrible,” says Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com. “You’re getting less legroom. People fight over things like capacity in overhead bins. Airlines are charging bag fees. … Airlines are doing things that are making it more difficult and uncomfortable for the passenger, and the customer service isn’t getting that much better. You compound those factors, and you have a lot of frustration in the air.” Frustration can lead to bad manners. (Source: USA Today)

And that it does. It’s almost as if manners and common courtesy are checked at the curb with your luggage.

“People ask us all the time how do you combat the rudeness,” Lizzie Post says. “I go out there, and I’m one less rude person. You consider things. I’m not going to bring my really smelly fish leftovers on the plane. I’m going to bring a turkey sandwich. Bring along headphones to block out noise, and it’s fine to politely inform a seatmate that you’re not in the mood to chat.” (Source: USA Today)

I agree with Lizzie. In fact, I think you can even take this a step further. Instead of the “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mentality – why not try to fight Adultitis head-on with some proactive fun? Here’s a list of 5 ways to combat Adultitis as you fly. You’ll notice this list is not your average ho-hum list of ways to stay positive and let things go — it’s an aggressive approach to fighting the frustrations that lead to Adultitis in the skies. Hope this helps your next trip go more smoothly…with a LOT more fun.

1. Chocolatey Happiness
Pack a bag of bite-sized Snickers in your carry-on and give them out as needed. “But when?” you might be asking. You’ll know. For example, you might share a few as a thank you to the airline employee helping you reschedule a delayed flight or to the guy who was willing to change seats with you so that you could sit next to your hubby. My favorite idea, though, is to share some with the kid behind you with the kicking problem. And if nothing else, you can eat them for dinner when you’re stuck at your gate with no plane. Chocolate is a good quick cure for pending Adultitis. Guaranteed.

2. Instant Smile Factory
Wear something that will automatically generate smiles from complete strangers. What you pick is based on YOU and what fits your personality. Here are some ideas: A goofy hat with fake hair attached (here and here), fun t-shirts (here, here or here), a clown nose (have extra to pass out to enthused fans), a cupcake beanie, a mullet, funny glasses, or Billy Bob teeth. The grumpy seasoned traveler behind you in line might actually crack a smile when he sees someone not taking themselves too seriously, which might actually challenge him to do the same. Ya never know… pigs may fly.

3. Planning for Prevention
Everyone is freaked out about getting through security. As long as you leave your shotgun at home, security is not as scary as it’s made out to be. Jason and I have found a number of very simple things you can do ahead of time to help things go smoother. It’s amazing what shortcuts you learn when you log 34 flights with a baby. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • wear pants without a belt
  • get some slip-on shoes
  • leave your watch in your carry-on
  • pack all of your liquids in the bag you are checking
  • pack an empty water bottle in your carry-on to fill at a water fountain once you’re past security
  • make sure you have a few healthy snacks in your carry-on for delays
  • pack earplugs and/or an iPod.

Those poor TSA folks are at the highest risk for Adultitis (being surrounded by anxious and frustrated people all day), so be sure to share a smile and a hello. They are people too, even if they may look like robots.

4. BYOF (Bring Your Own Fun)
Delays and cancellations: inevitably the quickest way to Full Blown Adultitis. It’s almost unavoidable, unless you plan ahead for an alternative fix amidst the frustration. Bring your own fun to pass the time in case your trip is extended longer than you had thought. You’ll be surprised how many people around you instantly make eye-contact and initiate interaction when they see you’re actually willing to let yourself have fun, especially in a time when you should not be (according to the Adultitis-sufferers). Pack things like 3D drawing pads, a light-up disco bouncing ball, colored bubbles (be sure to transfer to a 3 oz. container), a friendship bracelet kit, a yodelling pickle, gnome bowling, or even desktop cornhole. Who says you HAVE to sit and mope while you wait and wait and wait?

5. Share and Share Alike
You know THAT moment, when the flight has been delayed a third time and the reality is setting in that people will definitely NOT be making their connecting flights. Ouch. Shortly after the news sets in, you can cut the Adultitis with a knife. It would be nice to lighten the mood. Be the bearer of gifts. Provide your neighboring passengers with something fun to lighten things up. Your carry-on can fit a few tchotchkes that will get your fellow flight-mates smiling again. How about packing a bunch of tiny umbrellas for their drinks, temporary tattoos, tiny rubber duckies, leis, pirate eye patches, or sticky hands. People LOVE to receive something free – no matter how small or meaningless it might be. And in the end, seeing all of their surprised smiles will really cheer YOU up too.

What other ideas do YOU have for fighting Adultitis while flying?

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  1. My husband is king of making people smile. It used to embarrass me, “oh my goodness, he’s messing with strangers again!” but after a while I realized that most of those strangers smile – completely changed attitudes.
    Like, when the grumpy beverage gal with the plastic smile comes by and asks what he would like to drink he’ll paste a serious face on and ask for something completely ridiculous, like a mix of everything she has in the cart, “8 parts bottled water, 2 parts coke, 1 part each of rum, sprite, and lemonade please. Oh, and four slivers of shaved ice.”. The look of confusion on the attendants face is quickly followed by a genuine laugh when she realizes he’s just being a goof.
    We don’t fly as a family often but I could imagine how much fun we might have on a plane – you know, all our 7 (8 soon!) kids and us.

  2. I’ve shared snacks (including a loaf of pumpkin bread intended for my hosts when I arrived) and try to keep a smile on my face.

    One strategy I love to do is find that one or two kids in the terminal while waiting for that delayed flight that are facinated with the airport and look as if they could wait several more enthralling months before boarding a plane and would be just as happy. That child-like awe at the ability to fly always helps me take a deep breath.

  3. Cubby Culbertson says:

    K & J,

    Ask the pilot to do a split-s or immelman. That will shake EVERYONE out of adultitis (or make them expell their lunch). You could also see if the airliner can hover because to fly is heavenly, to hover is divine.

    “i are helicopter pilot good”

  4. No doubt the state of air travel today makes you long for the golden days of 30 or 40 years ago, when it was an event actually worth looking forward to – if the ads of the time are any indication. Then again, just a very few could afford it, in comparison.

    Now I’ve flown mostly international routes, which are still spared from some of the restraints of domestic flying. However I have adopted some habits and gadgets over time that allow me to stay sane on the air; light clothing, cargo pants with no belts, slip-on shoes, a fully charged iPod, noise canceling headphones, my drawing pad, and a book (I always have a book waiting to be read, and flying time is a golden chance to do so). In fact I rarely get to watch in-flight movies.

    I miraculously haven’t had my share of toddler seat kicking (guess I should fly more often), so this advice comes in handy in case I ever get mine. Which will happen sometime, I’m sure :D

  5. Hi Kim:

    Some good, fun tips here. I don’t know if I do anything special when traveling except that I bring my patience. Sounds simple but so necessary. I remember a cross-country train trip I took more than 10 years ago. I must have logged close to 8,000 miles. It wasn’t always perfect…I had two instances where the engine blew in the train that I was on…so this meant delays, frequent delays. While it did drive me crazy at times…I chose to just focus on being positive instead of complaining. When you think about it…it really takes a small miracle for everything (bus, trains or planes) to get pulled off on time. The only time I’d break my no-complaining rule is if I were stuck in a plane on the tarmac for several hours.

  6. Being a mama who travels with my two kidos frequently from the age they were 9 months (currently 6 and 4) I packs tons of insteresting things for their entertainment as well as mine. Some ideas for you parents trying to keep your kido from kicking the back of the seat :) I pack each a roll of masking take (tons can be done with this and it comes off easily, and you can make sculptures, tape together paper for multiple different uses, hands together and see what things you can pick up off the tray, tons of fun!) Playdough (you may think this crazy but two little containers each is easy to contain and with help from mom is total fun and not messy) I pack seperate little snack bags with different little things such as plastic frogs, or other dollar bin finds. When they get squirly I just pull a new little bag out for each and we have at least 20 minutes of fun. Also can make snacks bags with snacks (animal crackers and gummy worms) which are always fun, but if you put them in little bags you don’t have a big bag they are begging for but you just hand little snack bag and when its done its done. Of course the paper and crayons are a must. Draw an animal or some creature and take turns making up a story. Really the ideas are endless….the most important part is the kids not seeing what is in your suprize bag until it is time :) Happy traveling!
    Oh and if you are going with another adult make a suprise bag for them, you would be amazing how kid like adults get when they get fun little things to keep them busy :)

  7. I seriously may never fly again without a supply of little umbrellas for everyone’s drinks! What a fun article. LOVE this, and I totally LOVE fun (yet so not obnoxious) people on planes.


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