Travel

8 Tips for Airplane Anxiety

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As a world traveler, I have a fatal flaw: I’m anxious to fly. Everything about the process used to be scary for me: getting to the airport on time, getting to the gate (what if I was at the wrong one?!), missing my flight (which had never happened), and worst of all, being in the air. I once had a panic attack when flying from Amsterdam to Istanbul, hyperventilation and all.

But I love traveling, and if you want to travel internationally, you have to fly! Over the years I’ve worked out tips to help me stay calm at the airport and through the flight. I’ve now gotten to the point where I actually enjoy flying, and look forward to those hours in the air! Today, I’m sharing my top tips with you — because traveling is so fun, and flying should be too!

1. Prepare beforehand

Pack your bags, check in to your flight, and print your ticket the day before you fly. Make sure that the only thing you have to do in the hours leading up to the flight is get yourself on the plane. Preparing these things beforehand will help minimize stress and stay calm in the hours before your flight.

Nervous to fly? A world traveler gives her top 8 tips for anxious flyers. Save the pin, then click through to read!One of my favorite shots from my year abroad in Oxford, England.

2. Consider a fanny pack (?!?) or a travel jacket

Yes, really. I used to have a tendency to fear that I’ve left my passport or ticket behind. Wearing a fanny pack or a travel scarf (with a zipper compartment) may ease your mind, because you know that your important documents are in a safe, zipped place, on your body. It also means that you don’t need to unmount your enormous backpack every twelve minutes to make sure you really have everything. A recent Lickstarter campaign also launched an incredible-looking travel jacket; check it out here.

3. Share your fears with someone

Confide in a friend or family member before your flight. Tell them that you’re having some anxiety and would like to talk it out. Most likely, they will be kind and understanding, and will be quick to offer some reassuring words. Those words may help you on your flight!

Nervous to fly? A world traveler gives her top 8 tips for anxious flyers. Save the pin, then click through to read!A gorgeous shot of the Old City of Jerusalem from my summer in Israel.

4. Indulge

I find that one of the best ways to handle my anxiety at the airport is to make the experience as enjoyable as possible. I am trying to cut back on sugary coffees (goodbye, Starbucks), but I make an exception for when I travel. Once you get through airport security, browse a bookstore, buy yourself a nice lunch, or enjoy some coffee or sweets (or a nice glass of wine, my mother suggests).

5. Listen to calming music

I love music, and I know from experience that it can have a huge influence on my mood. Whether it’s Enya or Metallica that makes you feel safe, listen to music on your laptop or personal music player when at the airport and in the plane. I prefer cheerful, upbeat music that makes me feel like I’m about to embark on an adventure.

Nervous to fly? A world traveler gives her top 8 tips for anxious flyers. Save the pin, then click through to read!A cheerful photo of one of my many trips to the Netherlands!

6. Get comfortable

Make sure that you make the plane ride as comfortable as possible for yourself. Wear a favorite cozy outfit (sweatpants are a-okay) or bring a pillow or comforting object into the plane. If you can afford it, consider splurging on some extra legroom for an overnight flight!

7. Deep breathing

Belly breathing is one of the best ways to combat anxiety. Breathing deeply from your diaphragm may be new for you; many people tend to take faster, shallow breaths, which can worsen any feelings of stress or panic. The scariest moment of any flight for me is taking off, so I make sure to focus on breathing deeply during that time, and at any other moments of the flight when I might feel panicked. Here’s a great tutorial from Anxiety Coach if it’s new to you!

Nervous to fly? A world traveler gives her top 8 tips for anxious flyers. Save the pin, then click through to read!A photo of the famous clocktower in Prague, the Czech Republic!

8. Prayer or meditation

Not everyone is religious, and not everyone who is finds use or comfort in prayer. However, if you do, prayer can be very helpful in feeling safe, staying calm, and maintaining perspective. For those of you who don’t pray, meditation can do something similar. If you are new to either this or the deep breathing above, consider downloading some audio files or free YouTube videos that can guide you through meditation, prayer, or deep breathing.

I love these tips, and they’ve made all the difference for me in my travels. What are your top tips for flying?

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9 Comments

  • Reply Brittany Bergman February 19, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    Great tips! Like you, I love to travel and hate to fly! I always treat myself to “airport coffee” before boarding my flight. It feels like a fun treat and gives me something to look forward to about the airport/flying leg of the trip. Happy travels!

  • Reply Claudia February 19, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    I’m a travel agent and I have a fear of flying! I get very nervous and last time I was on a plane, we were circling above because of a big storm and I started getting all teary. I find that music or a good magazine can help to get me out of my own head and a pre-flight cocktail doesn’t hurt either. xx

  • Reply Austen Tosone February 19, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    I love traveling by my best friend is terrified of flying! I’ll definitely be sharing this with her! Glad you’ve come up with some ways to overcome that fear!
    keepcalmandchiffon.com

    • Reply Sara Laughed February 20, 2015 at 8:34 am

      Thank you, Austen! I hope they help her!

  • Reply Joanna February 20, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Thanks for the tips! My husband struggles with flying and it is hard to know what to do for him. I will have to try the fanny pack! Ha!

  • Reply Danielle February 21, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    Sara, I am exactly the same way. When I was younger, I actually took sedatives before getting on the plane because it freaked me out that much. My boyfriend and I live 300 miles apart, so I’ve had to get comfortable with planes. These tips are so helpful and YES to the wine 🙂

  • Reply Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi October 31, 2015 at 2:18 am

    These are great tips – I second your Mum!

  • Reply CaptTomBunn February 11, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Great tips. But a word of caution. Breathing exercises do not work.

    More help at my Psychology Today Blog https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/conquer-fear-flying/201405/how-anxious-flier-can-recognize-and-avoid-junk-psychology-8

  • Reply Alex @ Life Well Wandered November 15, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    These are great tips! I have panic attacks and lots of anxiety when I fly but my prescription for my medicine ran out and I fly home for Thanksgiving. Definitely will be giving these tips a try!

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