I’m scared of flying.
A single lousy voyage destroyed my confidence in planes. Destroyed it. I was on a transatlantic flight to Rome, and out of nowhere, heavy turbulence struck us. I’m talking overhead compartments springing open. Wine spilling. Screaming. Everything.
Now I need to mentally prepare myself before boarding any flight – especially overnight, over water flights. It sucks. Big time.
However, it’s super important not to let unfounded fears control your life. A fear of flying is a common phobia. Very common. Therefore, a ton of information exists to help sufferers conquer their anxieties about soaring through the skies.
Before Your Trip.
1. Take charge of your seat.
Don’t ever, ever, ever let the airline choose your seat for you. Ever. Unless you’re gonna pay an arm and a leg (ugh, why airlines charge simply for selecting your seat, I’ll never know) for booking in advance, then reserve your seat online well before your departure date.
2. Take charge of your plane.
Not a fan of riding inside a single aisle plane across the Atlantic Ocean? I’m not either even though I logically know smaller planes can handle the ride. If you live close to more than one airport, then aim to book your flights on the largest available aircraft. The extra room will make you feel better.
3. Reread reassuring statistics.
I get statistics won’t cure a fear of flying. Anxiety isn’t logical. However, it’s still a good idea to refresh your memory. Numbers prove flying is the safest way to travel. Trust me. It’s more dangerous on the highway. Go to AirSafe.com to find specific details about airlines, airplanes, and more.
4. Check out FlightAware for accurate flight times.
Sometimes the flight times on your tickets aren’t always accurate. I’ve found the journey’s length from the United States to Europe generally takes an hour less than what’s printed on my boarding pass. Go to FlightAware for precise times.
5. Go to turbulence forecast (at your own risk).
This step might backfire, sorry. The turbulence forecast was bad for my Iceland trip. So I freaked out in Newark Liberty. Yikes. BUT, if you can handle it, go to turbulence forecast for a general idea about your flight’s potential bumpiness.
6. Talk to friends and family prior to departure.
I’m guessing your friends and family know you’re scared of flying, right? Talk to them. Don’t feel embarrassed. They’ll wanna help you even if they tease you.
7. Discuss your fears with your doctor.
It’s probably a good idea to talk to your doctor if your anxiety is out of control when it comes to flying. A medical professional can not only prescribe medicine, but also offer suggestions on controlling your anxiety. You don’t want a panic attack in the air.
8. Take any new medication the previous night.
Test any new prescription in the comfort of your own home. While it’s unlikely you’ll have side-effects, a flight 30,000 feet in the air isn’t an ideal place to try out any new medicine.
9. Download silly movies, television shows, and other entertainment.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not in the mood for heavy drama on a flight. My brain craves fluff. My entertainment ranges from Romeo + Juliet to Aqua Teen Hunger Force to BBC’s Pride and Prejudice. Pick something familiar. Something calming. You’ll thank yourself later.
10. But avoid any movie or show featuring a plane crash.
Do I need to elaborate on this? No.
11. Think pleasant thoughts if anticipatory anxiety strikes.
The worst case scenario isn’t going to happen. Repeat: the worst case scenario isn’t going to happen. The moment a negative thought creeps into your brain, immediately shift to something awesome and fun instead – like all the gorgeous people you’ll meet at your hostel or all the delicious food you’ll taste at a funky foodtruck.
12. Remember: pack a portable charger.
If you’re watching movies on your ipad or phone instead of using the aircraft’s entertainment system, you want a portable charger. Movies dying = more time to focus on engine noises. Be ready.
At the Airport.
13. Be “security ready.”
Okay, you’re already nervous. You don’t need to add to your nerves by bringing too many liquids or carrying $1000 of change in your pocket. Be ready to go through security without a hitch! You don’t want TSA (or the equivalent) stopping you.
14. Arrive to the airport on time.
Again, you’re already nervous. Don’t make it worse by showing up to the airport late. Arrive at least 2-3 hours early, and allow just as much time to make connecting flights. Running through the terminal sucks. Trust me, I speak from experience.
15. Splurge for the lounge.
If you’re feeling super crappy, then it might be worth spending money for an airline’s lounge. Free food, drinks, plenty of outlets, fast wifi. Remove yourself from the airport’s hustle and bustle for an hour or two, and feel better.
16. Go shopping!
Nothing like a little duty free fun to soothe those nerves, am I right?
17. Eat something plain and substantial.
My stomach feels like a mess whenever I’m dreading a flight. Nonetheless, I force myself to eat. For food, I’d recommend something bulky – like a plain bagel – to keep the butterflies and growls at bay. Save the spicy food for later.
18. Text family and friends. They’re your cheerleaders!
Reach out to friends and family. There’s nothing quite like receiving a reassuring text as you’re waiting around in the terminal for your flight to be called. I do this before every single trip. My mom’s texts always cheer me up!
19. Take any medication prior to boarding.
Make sure you take your medicine before going on the plane itself. I personally don’t like take-off. So, once priority boarding is announced, I take what I need so I’m prepared to go. Every person is different, however.
20. Only board once you’ve been given permission.
I hate flying, but never use my anxiety as a way to cut in front of people or delay the entire flight. Talk about rude. Only board when your zone is called. Of course “cattle call,” like what Southwest does, doesn’t apply here.
21. Greet the flight attendants.
I always smile and greet the flight attendants, but for years, I also let them know I was a nervous flyer. The cabin crew is equipped to deal with these issues, and they will keep a closer eye on you. Don’t worry about being honest. They hear it all the time.
22. Close your eyes and relax your muscles once you find your seat.
Once you sit down, try to relax all your muscles and get comfortable. Your seat is your new home for the next couple of hours, so you might as well make the best of it.
23. Greet your seat mates.
Similar to tip 21. First, assess whether or not your seatmates are sociable people. Not everyone wants to make friends – especially on a plane ride.
24. Familiarize yourself with the noises associated with take-off.
Take-off means lots of engine groans and landing gear squeaks and other delightful sounds that make you think a crash is inevitable. Read about all these noises ahead of time. I swear, I think I have take-off memorized at this point. Yet, if research still isn’t enough to calm you, then listen to music and entirely block out the sounds.
In the Sky.
25. Take a walk.
Don’t sit for the entire flight. ‘Cause blood clots. Health risks aside, though, you’ll feel less claustrophobic if you walk around the plane. Even a quick trip to the bathroom and back is better than nothing.
26. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
Take a deeeeeeeeeeep breath if you feel that anxiety coming on. Learn some breathing exercises ahead of time and use them!
27. Don’t abuse the GPS.
Newer planes have GPS screens in the back of the seats. Don’t check the darn map every five seconds. It’s tempting. I know. But time will craaaaaaaaaaaaaaawl if you do this.
28. Drink plenty of water.
I know you’re nervous but dehydration isn’t a good look. Drink water. Lots of it.
29. And lay off the caffeine.
I know caffeine makes me jittery and super sensitive to everything. I love caffeine when I’m teaching. However, I don’t love caffeine when I’m flying, because my hyper awareness puts me on edge and makes me feel like complete garbage.
30. But have an alcoholic drink if you must.
A glass of wine will relax your nerves. Worth it. Just don’t overdo it. A flight attendant on my journey to Dublin told me that she’s lost count of how many passengers have gotten sick from treating the plane like their local neighborhood bar.
31. But only if you’re not using medication.
Do not – I repeat – do not mix medicine and alcohol. Seriously. This combination could kill you. You’re better off anxious than dead.
32. Talk to the people around you.
Having a friendly chat with your seatmates can provide a pleasant distraction. Bonus points if you get helpful advice from a local to whatever destination you’re traveling to.
33. Familiarize yourself with landing.
See tip 24. The landing gear coming out doesn’t mean you’re going to die in a fiery blaze of glory.
34. Chew gum or suck on peppermint candy.
Gum will prevent your ears from popping. And peppermint naturally calms you. Pick one to make landing easier on you.
35. Don’t rush to deplane.
Okay, I want to leave the plane as soon as possible too. No one wants to stay on that “tube of doom.” No one. But, guys, it’s not cute knocking other people out of the way. My advice is to pick a seat toward the front of the plane, so you’re one of the first passengers off and on your way.
36. Thank the pilots and cabin crew.
Hey, it makes me feel better, especially if the cabin crew was comforting me for seven bloody hours.
What to Do Anytime
37. Find the root of your fears.
Everyone’s fear is different. Which means everyone’s solution is different. For example, I’m not claustrophobic, but I worry a lot about catastrophic mechanic failures and a resulting plane crash. And turbulence. Once you know the root of your problem, then you can address the fear better.
38. Ask for a referral to a qualified psychiatrist/therapist.
If your family doctor can’t do enough to help, then it’s time to ask for a referral and receive more in-depth assistance at addressing your anxiety. I’m debating on cognitive behavioral therapy myself
39. Take a fear of flying course.
40. Make friends with a pilot or flight attendant.
Perhaps you know someone who’s a pilot or flight attendant, or maybe your friends have a friend or family member who works in the industry. Ask for his/her contact information, and have a heart-to-heart chat about your anxiety on board aircrafts. Remember: these people wouldn’t do their jobs if a high chance of death was part of the employment contract.
41. Join an online support group.
Tons of anxiety support groups exist on the internet. Go to reddit, anxietyzone, google, and find a group that suits you and your exact needs. Don’t settle for a place lackluster or unsupportive. As for me, discussing my fears with like minded people helps me feel much less isolated.
42. Join TSA Pre-Check, Global Re-Entry, and similar programs.
Honestly, if you’re not a fan of airports or flying, the less time you spend in the security area, the better. Apply for a clearance program to move through security and fast! You’ll have more time to enjoy duty-free shopping or to text your parents for reassurance.
43. Remember you’re not alone!
Flying fears are common. You’re not crazy, you’re not a coward, you’re not a lesser traveler, and you’re not stupid. You are awesome. Keep traveling, and keep kicking flight anxiety’s butt.
Want More Help? Check out these posts!
Don’t let a fear of flying keep you grounded! My blog has tons of information to help you.
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