a woman sitting in the aisle seat of a plane with her feet propped up on her bag and sunglasses on

Flying With Flighty Legs

Last updated: March 2022

I recently had to travel to renew my international passport. I had done everything within my power to make sure it didn’t come to that, but COVID-19 had other plans. Alas, I had to travel to the city where my country’s High Commission was situated in order to get it done.

I hate long-distance travel

Anyone who knows me knows how much I detest any form of long-distance travel, especially on airplanes. Add my fear of heights and my restless legs syndrome (RLS) to that equation, and you have a really big recipe for disaster.

Needless to say, I had no choice as I had an emergency that required me to renew my existing passport.

RLS travel tips and tricks

So here are a few tricks and tips that helped me travel and make it back in one piece.

Eat bananas

I know someone in the Facebook community says this often, so I decided to try it out. I’m not sure if it actually did anything, but I like to think it helped. So thank you so much for the tip.

Choose the aisle seat

I can’t stress this enough. Firstly, if you have a fear of heights, it only makes logical sense to avoid the windows so you’re not tempted to look out when you’re that high up in the sky. This could, in turn, cause you anxiety and panic all the way to your destination – not a good experience.

That said, for people with RLS, seating in the aisle can afford you more leg and wiggle room without bothering your row mates so much. You can easily get up and stretch your legs if you need to, without others having to stand up or make room for you to pass every other minute.

Bonus: when others need to get up, you can use that opportunity to stretch your legs without others wondering why you’re standing and moving so much (not that what others think should matter to you). So win-win.

Drink less

Personally, a full bladder and RLS do not mix! So when flying I avoid drinking too much liquid.

Use your bag or backpack to elevate your feet

I personally find that stuffing my carry-on or hand luggage full and using it as a leg stool helps me immensely. When my legs are elevated, my RLS symptoms lessen for some time. I discovered this on my recent travel and it’s a pretty neat hack. It also helped me sleep at one point.

Wear compression socks

On a normal day, I absolutely detest having anything on my feet. However, whilst packing for this flight, I randomly saw the compression socks I was given for Christmas and I decided to throw them into my bag. And boy, did it make a difference!

Maybe it had something to do with being that high up in the sky, but they really helped temper my symptoms. I actually tried using them afterward at home and still can’t stand it, so it’s apparently an "airplane only" thing for me.

Do not feel bad

Sometimes we feel like we are bothering or inconveniencing others, but do not carry that guilt. It’s not your fault you have RLS. And as long as you’re being respectful and considerate of others when you need to move or wiggle or stretch your legs, you are doing great.

That said, I still don’t like flying, but I find that I’m slightly less traumatized than in previous times.

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