Fear of Flying – Tips for Easier Air Travel

Around a week ago, I boarded a big plane headed east to Atlanta, en route to Asheville. After I sat down in Tips to help Overcome Fear of Flyingmy 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Relax on a Plane for Air Travel (Jennifer Miner)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.

19 Comments on "Fear of Flying – Tips for Easier Air Travel"

  1. My first solo flight I sat next to a woman whose knee I grabbed when we were taking off. I was sure if I were a man she would have slapped me. I don’t know why I grabbed her knee…. Part of me wonders if I was faking.

  2. I have an abnormal fear of take-off and turbulence when I’m flying without my family. Don’t have the fear when all four of us are on the plane. I figure if we go down, we all go down together.

    Great tips!

  3. Few people have a story that tops mine, stopping a 737 on the tarmac in New Delhi to get off and then making them bring the luggage crew out to get my backpack! I keep my Inderal handy when I fly to help for bad trips. There is always the wine, one girlfriend saves up free drink coupons to give me when we fly together, some for me to deal with her, some for her to deal with me. Bill Cosby on the MP3 player helps also.

  4. flying, to me, is a necessary evil. i get so nauseous when i fly that i don’t have any energy to be scared. tried medicine, passed out on the plane, doctors called. try suffering through it, miserable. i am not sure that any other transportation means would be better,though!

    excellent tips. thank you!

  5. If possible, choose not only an aisle seat but one near an exit row. (Not on the exit row please – we need calm, capable people to open the doors in the event of an emergency). Count the number of rows between you and the exit and pay special attention to the briefing video. Know that in the unlikely event of something going wrong, something like nine out of ten crashes have survivors. Picture yourself quickly and calmly following the safety instructions – getting and fitting your lifejacket and getting to the exit as soon as possible. Know that you will be one of the survivors, no matter what.

  6. Great post on a topic that I understand first-hand. I always say that I go through the first four stages of grief every time I fly, without ever reaching acceptance.

    I second the suggestion about the aisle seat. I’m very claustrophobic and have found this to be helpful, especially on turbulent flights. I refuse to let an irrational fear get in the way of traveling, but sometimes it’s tough.

    • I have been reading your blog for a few motnhs, and recently I have started my own too!

  7. My flights to Asheville were on small planes. I hate small planes; every bit of turbulence feels like it will take you down. It is easier if I’m with my family. My girls love the bumps, they say it makes their tummies giggle.

  8. I can’t walk across the Golden Gate Bridge due to a heights fear, so I can understand a fear of flying.

    I look at it this way;if I die when I fly, I’m either coming or going from a wonderful destination & I’ve had a great life. I don’t love flying, but i do love travelling to new destinations.
    What a Trip!

  9. http://www.takingflight.us

    Great, friendly fear of flying website…

  10. Even though I’m a frequent flier, I’ve always been a white knuckled, sweaty palmed passenger. When looking into how to combat it, I came across the SOAR library online.

    http://www.fearofflying.com/wordpress/

    It’s a bit long winded, but goes into some detail on the psychological and physical fear responses some people have to flying and how to potentially overcome it through visualization exercises and preparation. It also spells out how flying a plane works and reinforces the concept of the numerous redundant safety systems.

    One thing that really stuck with me was a description of how the air thickens into the consistency of jello when the plane is traveling at hundreds of miles an hour. Now whenever I hit a patch of turbulence, I’m comforted by the visual of a plane flying immobilized in grape jello… Whatever it takes to get to the next vacation destination, hey?

  11. Fear of Flying Solution | April 3, 2010 at 3:19 am | Reply

    Great tips.

    I used to have the same phobia till I found some reading on the net like the probability of plane crash, etc. Then a friend of mine recommended me a great book of Dealing with flying naturally and It does help me heaps.

  12. Dealing with flying naturally | April 3, 2010 at 3:29 am | Reply

    Btw There’s a special deal for this book on http://www.fearflyingsolution.com. They offer a great deal on it

  13. Cheap flights to Atlanta | December 13, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Reply

    I’m a frequent flier, and lately it seems my little fears have blown out of control and just make me insane on every flight I have to take.I never had a problem before, and now it is crippling. Why does flying increase this? Shouldn’t the practice of flying and landing safely HELP the problem?

  14. I am terrified to death of flying. I moved 5000 miles away from home with my fiance to go to work and I’ve only been home 2 in 10 years because the only way to go home is by flying and both times I flew home I took a pack of gravols. I don’t even know how I got from one destination to the next. All I know is that the stewardess looked out for me. When I arrived home and my daughter picked me up at the airport I had no idea how I got there. When I flew back home it was the same thing I took a pack of gravols when I got home I slept for 3 days. I am 50 and I haven’t been anywhere because I am scared to death of flying. I wish to god that I could find someway to get over this fear but I’ve been afraid all my live that it’s to late now.

    • Donna- wow, I was Exactly like you for roughly 10 years….. Tried so many ways and all failed until I ran into the ‘Brave Flyer’ approach. Amazing, but I flew 11 times this year alone, and planning more for next year. My fears are gone, period!

      Good luck!!!!

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