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:
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).
IDENTIFY YOUR ANXIETY TRIGGERS
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!
SPEAKING OF TRIGGERS… CAFFEINE
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.
FLY ON BIG PLANES
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.
AISLE OR WINDOW SEAT
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, Travel