6 ways to get over your fear of flying

I’ve been on a lot of flights throughout my lifetime and although I love being up in the clouds now, I used to hate it — especially when I was younger. Since my past career involved travel between DC and district offices, and even trips for staff retreats, I started paying attention to my flight anxiety and how I could calm it. By the time we moved abroad to Scotland and decided to travel all over Europe on discount airlines, I had basically solved this issue. Well, until we flew on a creepy Ryanair flight to Dublin, but that’s another story.

Here are 6 ways to get over your fear of flying:

6 Ways to Get Over Your Fear of Flying


Take extra care when packing your carry-on suitcase and include things that you love. I always bring plenty of magazines, my Kindle with a couple of books already downloaded, a notepad and pen for jotting down random lists, and my husband brings his iPad and headphones so that he can listen to music during turbulence. If these items don’t work to distract us, we curl up with our travel pillows and take a nap. You should also pack snacks to enjoy en route because eating food is a great way to pass the time (and probably my favorite activity while onboard an airplane).


Since I’ve been dealing with anxiety for a while now, I’m pretty good at identify things that will exacerbate the problem — even when it comes to flying. I use the items listed above to keep myself from overthinking and overanalyzing things (because that always leads to a minor freak out), I avoid alcoholic beverages, sleep aids, and the biggest one, I do everything in my power to reduce any type of stress before the trip. This is different for everyone, so whether it’s cleaning your home from top to bottom before your vacation, finding the absolute best sitter for your pets, or getting to the airport extremely early, extra preparation can help travel go smoothly. Then you can focus on having lots of fun on vacation!


I love coffee but enjoying a caffeinated beverage before a flight isn’t the wisest plan of action since it elevates your heart rate and can make you jumpy. Instead of ordering a cup of joe before travel, I stick with caffeine-free tea. It’s soothing, plus it allows me to fall asleep on the plane.


I once booked a flight from DC back to the Midwest for a staff retreat, and as soon as a received the email confirmation and realized the plane from Washington Reagan to Newark was a turboprop, I got back on the phone with the travel agent and made other arrangements. I don’t do well on small planes because they’re cramped, bumpier, and noisier, so to avoid an anxiety-ridden two hours, I found a route that included a larger plane. Problem solved.

I’ve cancelled and rebooked a lot of flights, and Expedia, Kayak, and other travel websites are pretty lenient as long as you’re not doing it every day. My best piece of advice is to look at the type of plane before you hit the “confirm” button.


I like being able to watch the take-off and landing from the window so I don’t do well in middle or aisle seats — however, I know that some people like aisle seats because they can almost make themselves forget that they’re on a plane. Figure out which type of seat works best for you and stick with it.


This can mean many different things so let’s go through a list of stuff that might help you:
– Research the airline’s safety record before you book a ticket
– Figure out the size of the plane before hitting purchase
– Find the route with the least travel time
– Surf websites and forums created for people with flight anxiety (specifically ones in which pilots and former pilots answer reader questions… always helpful)
– Remember that turbulence isn’t a big deal and that driving a car is more dangerous (huzzah!)


Download a turbulence tracker app on your smartphone so that you know what to expect before a flight. I promise it helps!

Are you afraid of flying? What do you do to calm your nerves?


Filed Under: Anxiety, Travel24 Comments
  • http://theglittercollective.com/ Alyssa Marie | TGC

    These are some awesome tips! I used to be afraid of flying, myself. I’ve used some of these tips to help me get over my fear! I find a good distraction and a pack of gum to chew on to work best for me :)

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Someone else mentioned a pack of gum, too. I’ll have to remember that!

  • http://www.freeborboleta.com/ Fran

    Awesome tips! I’m like you, I have to watch the takeoff and landing so I always go for a window seat – and I have to have some gum to chew during takeoff, not sure why but it helps to calm me haha

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      I’ll have to try the gum trick. :)

  • Mandi Kane

    Also helpful? Valium.

    As long as you don’t park in a emergency exit row.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Ha, I think my husband has taken Xanax before. It helped.

  • Ivy

    Oh this Post is so helpful!
    Next week i will fly for the very first time and i definitely try your Tips!

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      I hope they help!

  • Caroline

    I find landing is the hardest. Once the plane declines down to say 100 miles per hour on the runway, then I can relax and we’ve made it home! Nice post.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      I always love the landing the most – as long as I’m by a window! I feel such a sense of relief when we’re on the ground again.

  • http://www.gorjaeous.com/ Jae

    Take off and landing are what make me cringe during a flight. I am not a frequent flyer, so that may be the reason why I feel fearful during these times.

    If I may share, on our way back from our honeymoon in Thailand, my husband ordered a glass of red wine for both of us. Being the lightweight that I am, I ended up vomiting until we landed. I am never doing that again. Nope, not in this lifetime!

    Thanks for sharing these tips!


    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Oh my gosh. That is horrible! Talk about a miserable flight.

  • http://www.earthtojade.com/ Jade @ Earth to Jade

    I’m fine with taking off, landing & most of the flight, it’s just when we hit turbulence that I start freaking the heck out. Also, I am a rather statistical person and realize now that the odds of having something happen are getting larger every time I fly, which freaks me out even more! If I fly short haul, I’m usually pretty good but I’m starting to get a bit panicked about my trip home next month so I’ll be sure to keep these tips in mind! Thank you, Rachel!

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      I’m better on long haul flights… probably because they serve you food and keep you occupied with movies and such. Aaaand now I’m totally going to think about statistics when we fly to Peru this fall. Ahhh. ;)

      • http://www.earthtojade.com/ Jade @ Earth to Jade

        Oh no! I really didn’t mean for you to start thinking about that! Now I feel bad :(

        • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

          Oh no. Don’t feel bad! I’m just kidding. :)

  • http://brunchataudreys.blogspot.com/ Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

    I’ve never been anxious about flights, but ever since those four incidents, three of which occurred within a week, I’ve been getting super nervous! I actually just got off a 14hr flight four days ago, but I’ll be sure to utilize these tips on the flight back! -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Ugh, yeah. That makes flying a little creepy.

  • http://www.thegirlwholovedtowrite.com/ Chelsea

    Having a good book that I’m already into helps me immensely!

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Same! I always get distracted because of it.

  • http://www.felipepitta.com Felipe Pitta

    As a travel photographer this is definitely my main challenge :)
    Didn’t know about the turbulence app, will try that! Tks Rachel!

  • http://www.thepassportlifestyle.com/ Stephanie

    As much as I love to travel, flying freaks me out and when I’m on the plane, I swear for a few minutes this will be my last flight! I always research the airlines safety record and of course now even more important, their flight path. I find that simply alcohol calms me down as does getting zoned into an inflight movie. | http://www.thepassportlifestyle.com

  • Anna

    I never used to have a problem…I fly for the past 27 years! But on a trip from London to Athens we landed during a thunderstorm and it was kind of terrifying! Since then I don’t like turbulence. It’s not that I fear that the plane will fall, it’s that I lose years of my life until it comes back to normal flight. I traveled from Europe to Boston (where I live now) and although I knew that transatlantic flights don’t have turbulence (I’ve done the trip 3 times before) I was so anxious of getting any! I must find a way to combat this because I love travelling so much. I’d like to try the turbulence app, but I fear that it might be worse for me! Thanks for sharing your tips!

  • http://www.fearofflyng.com CaptTomBunn

    Good tips. About the turbulence tracker: the free app at http://www.fearofflying.com/app measures turbulence as you fly and proves the plane can handle it fine. Another good tip is to get a copy of my book, “SOAR: The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying,” chosen “Amazon Editors’ 2014 Favorite Book.”