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JOHN WAYNE AIRPORT : Sound Advice for Easier Air Travel

September 04, 1990|DAN LOGAN | Dan Logan is a free-lance writer based in Cambria.

Jet-setting isn't easy.

Travelers feel anxious about flying, frustrated over packing, worried about protecting valuables and stiff from sitting too long in uncomfortable airline seats.

To prevent this, all they really need is sound advice.

Easing Flying Fears

If you have a fear of flying, you're not alone. A Gallup poll found that 48% of airline passengers are at least occasionally afraid while in the air, even though flying is roughly 35 times safer than driving in a car.

People who have little flying experience or have claustrophobic reactions are candidates for flying anxiety, says Jerry Kasdorf, director of the PhobiaCare Treatment Center in Tustin. "Preparing for your flight as you would an important meeting can help you get a grip on your worst fears," says Kasdorf. If you're unfamiliar with flying, he recommends a visit to the airport, maybe even talking to a pilot. Familiarize yourself with the flight routine. (Kasdorf has his clients view a videotape that shows them what to expect).

Anxiety intensifies if you think you won't be able to contain your panic. "Most people panic when the door closes," Kasdorf says. "They start thinking they're going to lose their mind or start screaming."

You can't control the airplane, but you can concentrate on controlling your reactions. Accept the fact that planes encounter air turbulence about 10% of the time and your best bet is to wear a seat belt at all times and stay as comfortable as you can.

Distract yourself before and during the flight by listening to relaxation tapes, performing simple exercises, reading or talking with the person seated next to you. Planning how you will spend your time in the air will give you a feeling of control.

Often, Kasdorf says, people attribute their anxiety solely to the thought of flying, when other anxiety-producing factors may be contributing. "Anxiety is an accumulation of stress factors," he says.

Minimize departure-day stress by packing early and allowing yourself plenty of time to arrive at the airport.

The day before your trip, eat nutritious foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and avoid stimulants, such as alcohol, caffeine and sugar.

One of the major sources of anxiety is caused by separation, Kasdorf says. If at all possible, travel with a companion.

Finally, realize that you won't allay all your fears in one flight. Set a goal to improve each time you fly.

Packing It All

There's an art to reducing your travel kit to the smallest possible package. The key is to make each item do the work of three or four.

Kitty Leslie, fashion director of the Fashion Island stores in Newport Beach, has to be well-dressed, "but I hate to take luggage." She developed a system for trimming her traveling wardrobe to a manageable size.

Before the trip, Leslie hangs her initial choices on a rolling rack and begins to weed out unrealistic items.

Comfort comes before style, especially with shoes. For outfits, she considers the wrinkle factor. Polyester may have a bad reputation, but it travels well, as does silk and lightweight wool.

"Minimum shoes," Leslie says, "only one handbag, if possible, and neutral hosiery. One blouse works with two or three outfits. Resist the temptation to throw in another top at the last minute."

Stack everything that goes with an outfit together and separate the layers with clear-plastic cleaning bags to prevent wrinkles. Pack shoes around the perimeter of the bag to keep clothes from shifting. Roll up belts and tuck them in the shoes. Reduce your travel gear to a single carry-on.

Protecting Valuables

While John Wayne Airport is no hotbed of crime, theft is reported every week. The most common crimes are "distraction thefts" of carry-on luggage, says Lt. Ken Lohrey of the Sheriff's Department's Airport Bureau.

"Thieves use diversionary tactics such as asking for change or directions, or dropping coins on the floor, and when you play Mr. Nice Guy and help them, they split with your briefcase," Lohrey says.

It's difficult to pick out thieves in the controlled chaos of the airport, Lohrey says, because they wear business attire to blend in with the crowds. Security agents look for people who are hanging around but who don't seem to be doing anything. Thieves step to the back of the line or hang around the snack bar and are overly observant of people's bags.

If you put your carry-on on the floor, hold it between your feet so you'll know if someone tries to move it and don't ask anybody to watch it for you, Lohrey suggests.

Occasionally luggage is stolen from the baggage carousel, but the thefts go mostly unreported because travelers think the airline lost it. Lohrey recommends picking up bags as soon as you get off the plane and checking ID tags so you don't accidently take off with look-alike luggage.

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