Around a week ago, I boarded a big plane headed east to Atlanta, en route to Asheville. After I sat down in my window seat, a young woman – 19 years old perhaps – sat down next to me. It didn’t take long to notice that she was crying. She was trying to be discreet, but obviously, she was terrified. She explained that she had a serious fear of flying. Her father was sitting in the row behind us, and the man next to him kindly suggested he switch seats. Almost all the people in the rows around this poor, sad, panicking girl were very empathic, as we all murmured words of comfort and offered support. It warmed my heart to see so many people figuratively wrap themselves around a stranger with a serious case of fear of flying.
Now, even people with severe fear of flying know that air travel is statistically safer than traveling by car – but fear of flying is an emotional, rather than intellectual, response. Knowing statistics won’t help. There are tips and suggestions, though, to help people stay calmer on an airplane when they fear flying. In fact, there are a lot of tips out there for dealing with anxiety regarding airplane travel, many of which are very good (some, not so much). I’ve researched them, and created The Vacation Gals’ top 5 tips for helping reduce anxiety related to fear of flying.
5 Tips for Dealing with Fear of Flying
- Before your trip, know what to expect and, if possible, choose an aisle seat. Seat Guru is a useful site for selecting airplane seats before your travel date. Other booking sites do so as well, including each airline’s website. The aisle seat will help if part of your flying fear is the feeling of being closed in physically.
- Think positive. It sounds corny, but it’s true; trying to focus on the great vacation activities, or reuniting with your family, will put you in a better place emotionally than obsessing about the flight. Visualizing your relaxing vacation is a great technique for easing the tension in your mind and body, as well.
- Leave plenty of time to get to the airport and past security. Sure, there’s a chance your flight will be delayed anyway – this is the airline industry we’re talking about – but the heart-pounding anxiety of rushing to the airport at the last minute will do you no favors. Once you have a lot of time to spare after getting to the airport, you can escape the maddening crowds by paying a little extra to hang out in your airline’s lounge, day passes are typically around $50. This is a hefty fee, yes, but may be worth it in term of the reduced stress level.
- Pack an MP3 player and a great book. The distraction of music and a novel that’s a real page-turner can do wonders. Of course, there’s always an in-flight movie on long flights, but there’s no guarantee you’ll like it. If you have one, consider packing your portable DVD player and a set of headphones.
- If your fear of flying is completely overwhelming, normal distraction and visualization techniques may not suffice. Consider talking to a professional, and/or getting a prescription for anti-anxiety medication.
I’m not sure what the frightened young lady did to cope with her fear of flying, outside of listening to her iPod for most of the trip. However, the man who switched and sat next to me was in for a treat: He got to watch my embarrassing attempts at making a video for Starbucks VIA. I figured that a good laugh at my expense was the least he deserved for his kind act.