When I was still drinking, I bought into the lie that alcohol and bars were glamorous.

I believed they were full of adventure and mystery, places where anything could happen. There was no space that I bought into this lie more than at airports. I used to love arriving early, settling in the bar and paying $9 a glass for a bottle of wine that cost $7 at the grocery store. Not only is that bad math, it’s delusional. I believed that glass of wine bought me a seat at an event where royalty, barons, investment bankers, eligible bachelors and other fabulous men were just waiting to meet someone as amazing as I am.

You know who I did meet? Married pilots. Um, yay? I also met men who I never would have talked to at home. Men who knew that most women seated at a bar are too polite to switch seats if they start talking, so they know you’re a sitting duck (I don’t sit at bars now but I always switch seats or disengage from conversations I don’t actively want to be a part of). But I couldn’t quit airport bars just as I couldn’t quit drinking. I couldn’t keep from buying tickets to a lottery that had no actual prize.

Now, I know better. I do not sit at airport bars, unless they are empty and well lit and have plugs so I can work while drinking my favorite mocktail: club soda with a splash of pineapple juice and an orange slice.

But there’s so much more to do at an airport when you’re sober and in need of entertainment. Here are my favorite things to do sober when flying:

10) If you have a few hours, get a massage. Forty bucks may sound like a lot, but I don’t know about you, but I used to drink that in an hour, so I can certainly spend it on feeling good.

9) Check out the airport map. Some airports have meditation or prayer rooms. Orlando airport has a prayer room in Terminal A. Sixteen of the USA’s top 20 airports have chapels. JFK’s is in Terminal 4. Tip: To find them, include the word “chapel” in your search.

8) Buy postcards. Write notes to friends you haven’t talked to in a while. This works whether you’re leaving for your trip or coming back. (It helps if you carry your own stamps.)

7) Start your vacation early and go try a food or dish you’ve never had before. In my hometown airport, I tend toward Cuban food, which I don’t eat a lot of every day.

6) Check out the tacky souvenirs. I love searching out the oddest, tackiest items for sale at an airport. Then I snap a pic and send it to my boyfriend or a friend who would appreciate all the tacky splendor. (Feel free to send me your pics!!! I love, love tacky souvenirs.)

sober flying fun airport sobriety


5) If the airport has Wifi, download a new podcast. Or, if it’s a Delta Flight, I make sure I have the app on my phone to watch whatever programs they air on the plane. Or I download something off Netflix.

4) Rock out! If you’re in Charlotte, NC, Seattle, WA, or Jacksonville, FL, you can pass some time in rocking chairs.

3) Yoga! If you’re shy, you can usually find a quiet gate where you can sit in pigeon or child’s pose unnoticed.

2) Eavesdrop. Sometimes I like to listen to a conversation in another language. I have no idea what they’re saying, but it always reminds me how big the world is, and yet so small that so many folks from all over are coursing through whichever airport I’m in.

1) Call someone you love. Call someone and ask how they are and truly listen. You’ve got time to be of service and could truly make someone’s day.

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