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How To Survive Travel When You’re Afraid Of Flying

I’ve been flying since I was 10 months old. That was the age my mother decided that I was calm enough to take on an airplane. For someone who relentlessly travels now and who has been flying since before she even understood what an airplane was, you’d think I’d have flying with ease in the bag.

I don’t. Truth is, I’m actually terrified of flying. Just the thought of going on a plane gives me a painful amount of anxiety. And what’s funny is that no one believes me when I tell them.

I’m always hearing, “but you’ve flown so much?” or “with how much you travel, how are you still scared?” Those questions disappear the minute I’m on a flight with someone else and I start breathing or shaking uncontrollably in front of them. Funnily enough, I’m a big fan of airports. I think there’s something so interesting about people coming together in one particular place to then go off to a hundred different places, some you may never even encounter yourself.



My fear starts the minute the queue starts up at the boarding gate. I’m still not sure what the reason behind my nervousness is. I suppose my fear of flying comes from a fear of not knowing. The fact that you’re putting your trust in the hands of another human being who (with a lot of hard work and hours) has managed the incredible ability to safely fly an 100-ton, aluminum vessel from one destination to another. When you think about it in that perspective, it’s still incredible, yet daunting. Since flying will undeniably be a part of my life until I decide to stop traveling, which let’s face it, won’t be any time soon, I’ve since tried to come up with a list of ways to make flying experiences a little more bearable, especially if you’re not as big of a fan like I’m not.

  1. Sleep.

This one hardly works for me naturally since there is too much anticipation before I fly. But for some of my friends, the minute they get into their seat and fasten their seatbelt, they put on their headphones, face mask and knock out. It’s impressive. Sleeping pills and teas are also quick and easy remedies, so if you want to forget everything, make sure to take your dose at least an hour before your scheduled flight. I’ve also been told to do anything to make yourself as tired as possible, even if it means not sleeping the entire night or day before your flight. If you’ve got the willpower to do this, go for it. Read all night long, watch tons of YouTube videos, find an activity so boring that you’ll have no other obligation but to sleep once on board. By the time you’re up, you’ll (hopefully) be landing. And by then, fear will naturally turn into excitement.

  1.  Make a friend.

On my first long-haul flight (which was a whopping 7 hours to London), I was as nervous as nervous could be. I was feeling a mix of emotions leaving home for the first time to study abroad. Plus, I was completely alone in my adventure. So having to ride solo was another pretty terrifying feat. Half way into the flight, my seat partner somehow noticed my nervousness (probably easy to tell with my constant fidgeting), and started to ask me if this was my first trip to London. I told him it was actually my first trip abroad! We easily got into conversation, and when I mentioned my fear of flying, he kindly told me that if I needed anything, he’d be happy to help. Not only did I feel comforted, but having conversation made the flight over feel much faster. It’s great to have a seat neighbor who is willing to help you out rather than sleep on your shoulder.

  1. Immerse yourself in a different world.

This one is very easy for long-haul flights, especially if you have a television show or movie series you want to start/finish. I always opt for my favourite film series, Harry Potter, because it takes me out from where I am and, as silly as this sounds, transports me to the magical world of Hogwarts. I always try to watch two to three of the films because they are still my favorites, I never get bored of them and time goes by so quickly while watching, seeing that the films run two and half hours each. Make sure you do this with a film or program that really interests you so that you don’t shut it off after half an hour. My other remedy to take myself out of my situation is, of course, music. Listening to lengthy podcasts, Spotify playlists or your favorite new album on repeat is another trick. I simply close my eyes and let the music take me…anywhere other than my seat.

  1. Drink.

Pretty self explanatory – most long-haul flights offer complimentary, unlimited beverages, so for our wine connoisseurs or beer enthusiasts out there, this one’s for you. I’ve personally never been drunk on a flight, but I hear it’s probably the funnest experience while onboard. You suddenly forget everything and it makes falling asleep after much easier. Just don’t go all Kristen Wiig ‘Bridesmaids’ status and get yourself kicked off for being too much of a doozy.

  1. Meditate.

Mediation is difficult for me when I’m on the ground, let alone in the air. However, I’ve been recommended some mediation apps that can easily be downloaded prior to a flight, like Calm and Room to Breathe (that I’ve yet to check out), that make the experience a little calmer. Focusing on your breathing and taking in certain smells, i.e lavender or mint, are also a big help, decreasing anxiety levels because of their natural sedative effects upon inhalation.

  1. Convince yourself it’s temporary.

Whether you realize it or not, flying is temporary, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. Those hours onboard will dwindle down and you’ll safely touch down at your destination completely fine. It’s been proven by tons of statistics and findings that flying is still much safer than driving. I also heard from a friend of a friend, who is too a nervous flyer, that reading “logic lists” makes her feel reassured. Aviation has been studied and investigated more than any other form of transportation. And despite what is constantly being told on the news, we don’t have anything to worry about. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the idea of flying, but reading a ton and doing my research gives me some solace. But even still, despite my fears, my love of traveling will always surpass my fear of flying. I don’t think I can ever give up that energy, drive and passion I have to discover somewhere new and take in another culture just because the ‘getting there’ part isn’t my favourite. Because once I land, all my inhibitions disappear. Travel is truly my holy grail remedy for flying and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Did I miss anything? What are your secrets to calming down before a flight when you’re nervous?

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Diana Figueroa

Diana Figueroa is a New York City native and gradute of Fordham University, where she graduated with a degree in Communications, concentrating in journalism and creative writing. She is currently pursuing freelance writing projects and has recently launched her own website, nativevagabonds.co, dedicated to her passion for travel and her life in the Big Apple. She is off to pursue her Master's degree in Berlin, Germany at the end of this year. You can find her on route to the next music festival or curing her wanderlust as she plans her next adventure abroad.


3 comments

  1. Great, great tips!! My husband has pretty severe flight anxiety, and it really is no fun at all. Sleeping is most definitely his go-to, he will purposely stay up the entire night before a flight so that he is tired enough to sleep on the plane. Thanks for sharing!! <3

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