Research shows that over 25% of people suffer from fear of flying to some degree. Unfortunately, I’m one of those people. I think I fall somewhere between just being nervous and having a phobia.
In the days leading up to a flight, I get a pit in my stomach just thinking about it. I postpone everything to do with the trip so I won’t have to think about it. And if I see a plane up in the sky I just think to myself I’m so happy I’m not on it.
The night before I’m so nervous it’s impossible for me to fall asleep early. I usually end up getting about 3-4 hours of sleep. And the day of goes something like this:
At the airport: Ehh… This is going to be great. I love to travel (At this point my hands start to get sweaty and my stomach starts making weird noises).
During take-off: Everything will be fine…. Everything will be fine…..
In the air: Wow this is going surprisingly well. I’m handling this so much better than I thought I would!
After one bump of turbulence: OMG, we’re going to diiiiiie! Why isn’t everyone else freaking out?!??!? I promise to never fly again just let me liiiiive!
Haha, can anyone relate?
I never liked to fly but I didn’t use to get scared like that. It was a dreadful 13-hour flight from Thailand to Norway eight years ago that made my anxiety so much worse. I had been awake for over 30 hours due to me not being able to fall asleep in any mode of transportation. We flew through a thunderstorm with lightning outside and so much turbulence that I had to hold on to my seat while the plane went from side to side. I get motion sickness from the tiniest little bump, so I was literally holding on to my seat for dear life while sweating profusely and trying to keep myself from vomiting. Sorry for the TMI, I just want to paint the exact picture. I’ll get to the tips shortly, I promise!
This went on for what seemed like hours. Then suddenly an oxygen mask fell out and I thought my time had come. I looked at the map on the monitor and saw that we were right over Afghanistan, so naturally, I started picturing the plane going down and me being the only survivor. Would I have to live in the mountains of Afghanistan? How would I survive up there, doesn’t it get extremely cold during winter? I’m only wearing a dress and sandals!
I’m not even kidding, that’s how my brain works when I’m terrified. It just automatically comes up with ten different worst-case scenarios. Super embarrassing and not to mention, annoying as hell!
So in light of this, you might wonder why the heck I decided to become a travel blogger. To be honest, sometimes I wonder that myself. Well lucky for me my desire to explore the world is that tiny bit greater than my fear of flying. I’ve made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let my fears get in the way of my dreams. My mission in life is to not regret anything I didn’t do. And I would definitely regret not exploring the world just because I was too scared to get on a plane. So I literally force myself to travel and having the pressure to create new content for my blog helps a lot.
I have read up on everything I can find on statistics, airplane facts, tips from pilots, tips from psychologists etc. But I still haven’t been able to cure my fear. I have also tried medication that was supposed to relax me, but instead, it made me feel trapped inside my body. I was freaking out on the inside while it felt like my body was sleeping. I could not open my eyes for more than a second at the time. Haha, a total disaster in other words.
So instead, I have learned to cope with my fear and some tricks that make flying that little bit less awful.
Here are my ten best tips for a better flying experience:
1. If possible, book your flight way in advance. If the trip is only a couple of days away I’m more likely to not book it at all. But if I don’t have to deal with the fact that I’m flying for a while I will book the trip without thinking twice. And when the time comes I don’t want to lose my money so I get on the plane despite being terrified.
2. Take control Even though I probably wouldn’t have a better chance of surviving a crash sitting near an emergency exit, it makes me feel more at ease. Most airlines and booking engines allow you to request a seat when you book your flight or straight after. For me sitting in an aisle seat is an absolute must, probably due to my claustrophobia. It creates a sense of space and allows for blissful ignorance of what’s going on outside. Some, however, prefers the window seat where you are able to lean against the wall for a better chance of falling asleep. Figure out which seat makes you feel the most comfortable and make sure you get it. I will gladly spend $10-30 dollars to get the seat I want!
3. Don’t rush! Get to the airport with time to spare so you don’t have to rush or be worried about time. Racing through the airport while thinking you’re going to miss your plane will only add to your anxiety.
4. Be comfortable When I first started traveling I used to get dressed up and care way too much about how I looked. Not surprisingly, tight jeans, jewelry and fancy shoes do not make for the most comfortable flight. At least not on long-haul journeys. So one day I decided to not give a crap anymore and go for comfort all the way. These days leggings/drawstring pants and a long cardigan/kimono are my best friends whenever I travel. Usually paired with a soft bralette, shoes that are easy to slip in and out of and my hair in a bun.
SHOP MY COMFORTABLE AIRPLANE STYLE 😀
5. Tell a member of the crew that you’re scared prior to take-off. Sometimes the captain will take time for a quick chat and answer any question you might have. Once up in the air, the flight attendants will also most likely come over to you from time to time to see if everything is ok. Just getting confirmation that the weird sound or sudden turbulence is normal usually calms me down quite a lot.
6. Bring healthy snacks & avoid caffeine
You know how good potato chips taste up in the air? For a while now I’ve been searching for a healthier alternative that doesn’t lack in flavor. So I was super happy when I discovered “Hi I’m skinny sticks“. How cool is the name by the way? Their tasty sticks are grain-based, vegan, gluten-free and contain chia seeds.
I always bring a couple of meal replacement bars. You know sometimes those airplane meals just don’t do it for me! And being hungry will only make your flight experience worse. My favorites are these peanut butter & caramel bars from Atkins, a meal and a treat all in one. Remember to avoid caffeine and energy drinks, as an overly alert state of mind can make you even more jittery. But drink lots of other liquids, as dehydration will not help you either.
7. Think positive thoughts & breathe Okay, I know that’s easier said than done. At first, when people told me to do this I got super annoyed. How could I possibly think positive thoughts while I think I’m going to die? But forcing myself to think about all the fun things I’m going to do on the trip really helps. Take a deep breath through your nose while counting to four, then slowly release like you’re blowing out a candle. That will trigger your parasympathetic nervous system, which will calm your anxiety.
8. Distract yourself Listen to calming music or watch a movie/series. If I have a long haul flight coming up I usually save some episodes of my favorite series and download them to my phone or tablet. Watching something you really like or find interesting makes the time go so much faster. Adult coloring books, sudoku and crossword puzzles can also take your mind off where you are and help you relax.
9. Wear earplugs or headphones at all times, especially during takeoff and landing. Sometimes I don’t even listen to anything I just wear my headphones to cancel out the noise. The less strange sounds I hear the less I get stressed out.
10. Bring everything you need to feel comfortable in the air. I always bring a bag with hand sanitizer, moisturizer, lip balm, deodorant, wet wipes, painkillers, chewing gum and hair ties which I put in the seat pocket in front of me. I know how annoying I find it to have chapped lips or dry hands on the plane. Or if I feel like I smell I will only worry about people around me noticing. So instead of having small things like that adding to my anxiety I always come prepared.
If everything else fails, you drink! No, I’m just kidding. Have one or two drinks to calm your nerves. On longer flights where drinks are free I always go for a vodka and pineapple juice. It tastes so good up in the air. Be sure not to drink too much, just enough to get that warm fuzzy feeling. Stay away from things that can make you feel the least bit bloated or nauseous. Take me for instance, I know I can’t drink cider or beer in the air without ending up looking like I’m six months pregnant. I don’t care about the look but sitting in the seat for hours pregnant with air is no joke! I know that all too well 😉
So there you go! My ten best tips for coping with your fear of flying. If you have any other great tips I would love for you to leave them below in the comments!