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.
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!
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.
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!
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?