Flying can certainly evoke a lot of different emotions. Some people may feel excited when flying – it means they are going some place new and exciting. Others can feel quite the opposite. Flying can make them feel scared, nervous, and anxious. Studies show that nearly a one third of travelers experience some form of fear before and during a flight – so if that’s you, know that you’re not alone! But fear of flying can keep them from traveling to their dream destinations and Girls Who Travel exists to help you make your travel dreams come true. So we are dedicating this post to help our readers learn to manage and reduce their anxiety from flying and staying calm throughout the flight.
This post contains affiliate links. This means we earn a commission at no cost to you if you click through and make a purchase. All prices listed are accurate at time of publication.
Tips For Nervous Flyers
1. Educate Yourself About Aircraft Technology & Safety
Knowledge is power, especially if you are scared of flying! The more you know about how an aircraft operates, how many and which safety features are part of it, and how they work to prevent accidents, the safer you will feel. Make sure to add statistics to your reading material. You will learn that flying is much safer than other modes of transportation. Familiarize yourself with safety procedures pre flight. That way you don’t have to stress about remembering every single word of the safety demonstration provided by the flight attendants, because you’ve heard it all before. If you are a nervous flyer, arm yourself with knowledge to counteract anxiety.
2. Educate yourself about turbulence
Turbulence occurs on almost every flight. Bumpy flights are absolutely normal. It’s like hitting a pothole on the road. Take some time to read up on why turbulence occurs, how planes are designed to handle a whole bunch of turbulence, what pilots do when turbulence hits, and you will feel a lot less anxious when it happens on your flight. You can lean back, relax and think to yourself: ‘Ah, this is just a gust of wind, no need to worry!’
3. Study plane crash history
Admittedly this sounds rather counterintuitive. Yet we are regularly confronted with statistics of car traffic accidents and deaths. Pull up Google and look at the history and the statistics of plane crashes . While a plane crash is often deadly, it happens so rarely that there’s no comparison: planes are a much safer mode of transportation than cars are, and don’t you drive your car every day? Rationalizing the things that little voice in the back of your head is telling you will help loads with your fear of flying.
4. Take a flying lesson
Taking a flying lesson is one of the best tips for nervous flyers. If you want to go all out, find a flight school near you and get up close and personal with your fear of flying. Here you are again arming yourself with knowledge. While flying a plane isn’t easy, it’s also not rocket science. A professional pilot can explain to you how exactly everything works in the cockpit, how safe it is, and how every part of flying comes together in the pilot’s hands. You will also see that pilots are very capable and competent, so while you won’t be in control on your actual flight, you can trust that the person in charge is well-trained.
5. Expose yourself to your fear one tiny bit at a time
This doesn’t mean to hop on a commuter flight every weekend, but there are simple things you can do which are great tips for nervous flyers. If you live close to an airport, go plane watching. See how many planes per hour start and land without the least bit of trouble. This will be very comforting to know. If that’s not an option, watch videos of planes taking of and landing, and, as a next step, videos of planes flying in the air. Maybe you can even find videos of in-air turbulence. This will expose you to your fear of flying while comfortable sitting at home on your couch.
6. Talk to Your Doctor or Therapist
Anxiety is a serious condition, and it can get to the point where it is paralyzing. Traveling with anxiety provides you with extra challenges. A medical doctor can prescribe medicine to lessen the anxiety, while a therapist can help you overcome the fear, and, in the short term, provide you with coping mechanisms to use when your flight anxiety hits.
7. Take a fear of flying course
There are courses and classes specifically designed to help a nervous flyer out. Taking one of these courses is one of the best tips for nervous flyers we have. While your mental health professional can go in-depth about your anxiety, the people running these classes are specialists in their field. They know everything there is to know about flight anxiety, which parts of flying cause the most anxiety, and they have the best travel tips for the nervous flyer. And the best part is, in this day and age you can do it all online! No matter where you live, these courses are accessible to you, as long as you have a decent internet connection.
If you are interested to hear from an expert in the field of conquering the fear of flying, listen to the Away She Goes podcast episode with Captain Tom!
8. Avoid alcohol and caffeine before flying
The goal is to stay calm on your long haul flight. if you are scared of flying, you should avoid anything that will make you jittery and potentially increase your stress level. Both caffeine and alcohol are on top of the list to avoid when dealing with flight anxiety. The same is true for foods that are high in sodium. Opt for juice or herbal tea instead.
9. Wear comfortable clothes
There’s nothing worse than hopping on a long haul flight, facing potential flight anxiety, and having these super cute jeans pinch you in all the wrong places. The goal on any flight should be to be as comfortable as possible. Choose stretchy pants of leggings instead of jeans. Bring a sweater or hoodie, the temperature is generally on the low side. You don’t want to be cold and scared of flying!
10. Bring a comfort item
Do you have an item that’ll soothe you pre-flight and in flight? How about a small teddy a good friend gave you? Or a cozy blanket that’ll keep you warm and reminds you of comfortable evenings on your couch? Anything that will make you feel better is fair game (as long as it meets rules and regulations).
11. Fly first or business class
If you can afford business or first class, I can guarantee it’ll be very helpful for those scared of flying. It’s a much more delightful experience than flying coach. The seats are more comfortable, it’s often more quiet, and the flight attendants have more time to devote to each passenger. It’s one of the best travel tips for nervous flyers.
12. Choose your seat wisely
Take some time to determine what causes your fear of flying. Are you afraid of heights? Then you’ll be better off choosing an aisle seat and avoiding that look out the window. Window seats are good if you want to keep tabs on what’s going on outside. They can also provide a distraction if you are flying across interesting landscapes.
13. Stay hydrated
The humidity on planes is very low, which can lead to dehydration. Stay hydrated to avoid headaches, fatigue, and a bad mood. Pro tip: bring an empty reusable water bottle and refill it after you have passed through security. That way you don’t have to pay for expensive bottled water at the airport, and you’ll have plenty of fluids, no matter if you are boarding a long haul flight or just doing a hop, skip, and a jump within the United States. It’s one of my favorite travel tips, not just for the nervous flyer!
14. Keep yourself busy during the flight
Distraction is key! I’ll start with my one of my favorite travel tips for nervous flyers: invest in noise cancelling headphones. They will help lower your stress level by tuning out the constant airplane noise, which in turn helps with flight anxiety if you are a nervous flyer. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on the fancy Bose noise cancelling headphones. While they are fantastic and definitely worth the expense, there are cheaper options that will do just fine. If you don’t like the clunky variety, get in-ear noise cancelling headphones instead, either Bose or the cheaper option.
Bring along a captivating book. Girls Who Travel has great recommendations for the 25 best books for travel lovers. Or, choose a book about your specific destination. Reading a book and thus remembering that there is something to look forward to, such as a brand new place to explore, is one of the most helpful tips for nervous flyers.
Ensure your comfort throughout your long haul flight by bringing along a neck pillow. You can choose a simple one, or decide to invest in a memory foam neck pillow instead.
If you have a travel companion, consider bringing along games such as Yahtzee, Cribbage, or Uno.
15. Ask for assistance
At this point, I want to tell you a little anecdote. Once upon a time, I boarded a flight. I sat in the middle seat, the window seat was occupied by a young woman in a tank top. I noticed she was shivering, and offered her my jacket. She shared with me that she wasn’t cold, but had serious flight anxiety. We chatted during takeoff, and that seemed to help. When we are starting the descent, she got very nervous again. I asked if she would like to hold my hand, and she accepted. We held hands until we landed, and she was grateful for the support.
So – if you are scared of flying, don’t be shy to ask for support! If your neighbor seems like a nice person, you can initiate a chat when you are scared. Don’t be shy to talk to the flight assistants either. They are trained in all safety aspects, and may even be trained in mental health first aid. Therefore they will be able assure you about the parts of flying that make you most nervous.
16. Meditate or practice breathing exercises
Both meditation and certain breathing techniques can be extremely helpful for the nervous flyer. They allow you to solely focus on what you are doing in the moment, and remove you from a stressful situation. They tend to calm your nervous system, which is already on overload due to your fear of flying. Don’t go overboard, just choose and practice very simple techniques to calm yourself.
17. Focus on the things that you can control
You came on board the plane as best prepared as you could. You can make your space as comfortable as possible, and use your knowledge and techniques to control your small environment. You have control only over yourself, and you choose to make the best of this flight. One of the best tips for nervous flyers is to try and not worry about the things you can’t control.
18. Try to sleep
There is simply no better way to pass the time, and thus taking a nap is one of the best tips for nervous flyers. Bring along a sleep mask. Plus, you’ll arrive refreshed at your destination and are ready to hit the beach, the mountains, or anything else that is fun and exciting!
Jenny grew up in Germany. All she ever wanted out of life was to leave and have adventures. Jenny always traveled as much as the budget would allow, and when she met her husband traveling became a full-time thing. You can follow Jenny on her blog and Facebook.