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One of the most common anxieties is in-flight nervousness. Whether you can’t stop running horrific crash scenarios through your mind or you fear in-flight turbulence, it’s perfectly normal to feel nervous when you’re about to fly on an airplane.

Though air travel is incredibly safe, it’s still hard to combat nervousness, especially on longer flights. Here are some tips for distracting a nervous flyer so you can fly with ease and confidence!

How to Distract a Nervous Flyer

Learn the Facts

One of the easiest ways to combat in-flight nervousness is by simply learning the facts. Despite what you might have seen in action and horror movies, flying in an airplane is very safe. The risk of incident is incredibly small.

The odds of actually being in a plane crash at one in 11 million, so probability is on your side every time you step into an airplane. You’re much more likely to get into a car accident on the way to the airport than you are to actually experience an issue on the plane!

Think of just how many flights there are around the world each day, and how few problems there have ever been. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning!

Stay Away From Alcohol

While it might make sense to have a drink before a flight if you’re feeling anxious, this actually can exacerbate the problem.

Drinking while traveling is a recipe for disaster, and you can easily become more panicked or anxious in an already stressful situation.

Navigating a crowded airport while under the influence of alcohol can be impossible, and you’ll want to be on your A-game to prevent attracting the attention of petty thieves.

Caffeine from coffee can similarly increase your jittery tendencies before a flight, so you should skip the coffee too.

Prepare Yourself with Distractions

The best way to avoid nervousness on a flight is to have a plan. Bring along things that distract you from your nervous feelings, like a movie on your iPad or a good book.

A lot of the time you can even use Gogo In-Flight to get Wi-Fi access on the plane! In this modern age, there are so many ways to stay busy on your flight so you don’t have to focus on your anxiety.

Keep in mind how long your flight will be to make sure you have more than enough distractions to last the entire journey.

Wearing these headphones creates your own aural space

Sleep Through the Flight

If you know you won’t be able to relax, it might just be better to prepare to sleep through the entire flight. If you’re asleep, you can’t be nervous.

Try taking a natural sleep supplement like melatonin an hour before your flight to help lure your body to sleep without harsh side effects.

Dramamine or another anti-anxiety medication might also help your body relax and avoid motion sickness while also promoting sleep. Don’t forget an eye mask and earplugs if you’re a light sleeper.

Don’t Fly Alone

Flying alone can sometimes be enough to bring on a panic attack in itself for those who already fear flying. Flying with a friend is a great way to keep yourself grounded and distracted during a flight.

A trusted friend can help remind you why flying is in fact safe, and can suggest new ways for you to distract yourself. Don’t have a friend to fly with? Strike up a conversation with the person you’re seated next to.

You’d be surprised how many people get nervous during a flight, especially during takeoff and landing. You might make a friend in the process!

This post has some fabulous insight on how you can save in 2017, making sure you’re always getting the best airfare!

Fly With Confidence by Planning Your Flight!

The best way to protect yourself against in-flight nervousness is to be prepared. Arrive early to the airport and have everything ready to keep your stress levels down throughout the day.

Remind yourself that things happen, especially during busy travel times, so you should anticipate delays. Remember to rationalize the facts when it comes to flying in planes.

It’s much safer than you think! As long as you bring distractions and have a plan for when anxiety strikes, you’ll have no problem!

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

If you enjoy getting social, you can follow their journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.

    24 Comments

  1. Those statistics have improved dramatically in the last three decades (the last time I was involved in a crash).

    My ex- was a nervous Nellie. The first time we flew together, I was certain I’d need surgery for my crushed fingers and arm. But, as she flew more (I used to travel 250K miles a year and she traveled with me about 1/5 the time), she grew out of her fear. Books and music didn’t help, either.

    • Sorry to hear you’ve been involved in a crash Roy – though it sounds like you came out of it OK – hopefully nothing too serious. Yes, the stats are pretty low these days, the safety regulations around flying and construction of planes are so tight.

      I think experience is definitely one of the best things to conquering a fear of flying, glad to hear your ex overcame hers!

      Happy (& safe) travels!

  2. These are some good tips for reducing anxiety around flying. I only get anxious when there’s turbulence. Not because I think the plane is going to crash, but the nausea in my stomach just kills me and makes my heart race too. I unfortunately can’t sleep on planes at all but I do my best to distract myself like you suggested. Having numerous books and access to TV/movies is always a godsend.

    • Thanks Kate – I get a little anxious when there’s bad turbulence too – like being on a rollercoaster almost! I think it’s natural 🙂

      Oh no! Sorry to hear you can’t sleep on planes – I’ve never used sleeping pills, but maybe if you chatted to your local GP and they could recommend something safe, that might help on a long haul for catching some shut eye. But agree – books and TV entertainment always helps the time fly.

      Happy travels!

  3. Hey Meg! This is a really helpful post. I especially liked that you mentioned distractions! It made me think of the things my mom packed for us when were kids so we could stay distracted throughout the flight. Why not pack some adult distractions haha! Don’t you think alcohol during the flight would help nervous fliers to calm down and sleep?

    • Thanks Maram! Re alcohol, I would personally recommend a nervous flyer to avoid it, but you should assess how you personally react after a few drinks. If it does actually calm your nerves, and you can moderate yourself, go for it, but I believe it’s risky as the more intoxicated you become, it can make you more panicked or anxious and exacerbate the problem.

      Everyone’s relationship with alcohol is different though, so it’s a personal choice in that situation 🙂

  4. I have a phobia of flying though I’ve been a frequent flyer since a baby. It started one time when my plane got a severe turbulence after one of the wings got strike by a lightning. In the end I had to experience an emergency landing. Since then, I often get panic attach even during the slightest turbulence. I’ve tried to do yoga and seeing a psychologist to cure my phobia. It’s now a bit better. I usually distract myself by playing with my camera thus a window seat is a must for me. Thanks for the tips, I’ll try them on my upcoming flight 😀

    • Oh crap! Sorry to hear you went through that Debbie. But I’m glad that you were OK, and that you’re getting better at handling the anxiety.

      Hope these tips help for your upcoming travels. Safe flight XXX

  5. I’ve always been a little nervous on planes, but the fact that it’s safer than other forms of travel is a great relief. I also try to sleep on flights, but that’s more so I won’t be jetlagged when I get to my destination. I find putting on a Harry Potter movie makes me fall asleep immediately. Bringing a travel pillow is a must.

    • Haha I’m obsessed with Harry Potter movies so that would keep me awake 😀 But yes, planes are a lot safer than many other forms of transport, and the safety regulations are incredibly strict these days.

      Agree that having a comfortable pillow is a must for falling asleep!

  6. Ya. Well, put. My sister is a nervous traveler and she even takes a few pills before long flights. Helps her calm down I guess. Guess we need to prepare her better!

    • If pills work for her that’s great 🙂 But definitely see if she might be open to trying a couple of non medicative approaches on an upcoming flight – might help without having to take anything 🙂

  7. I have known people who are scared to fly in a plane. Good suggestions though I am doubtful if one would get sleep while being scared. I am scared during landings and take off, fearing more about the bird hits. Once technical awareness is there flight becomes easier.

    • I think you’re right, I think technical awareness and experience are two of the biggest things which allow people to overcome their fear. Turbulence, take off, and landing are some of the most anxious times for a lot of people.

      Despite it being very safe it’s probably a psychological thing, because after-all we weren’t naturally meant to fly!

      Agree that it’s difficult to get to sleep when scared – so anything that helps relax you can be a great resource during a flight 🙂

  8. My mom used to be terrified of planes, then I used a couple of these things with her and she’s definitely feeling more comfortable now. You’re absolutely right that distractions help you a lot, like for example we downloaded lots of stuff from Netflix on her tablet, as not always we find Italian movies on board and she doesn’t speak a very good English! And of course not flying alone is a must: it really helps to just have a chat in stead than obsessing about the take off!

    • Glad to hear you’ve helped your mum overcome her anxiety with planes Dany 🙂 Yes on the distractions, and having someone you know to comfort you, they’re both huge aids.

      Happy travels!

  9. I love that statistic ‘the odds of actually being in a plane crash at one in 11 million’, I am going to remember that! I fly a lot I still get anxious, but I think that is part of travelling. I found on my last long haul flight, listening to my favourite podcasts made the time go quickly and made me more relaxed.

    • It’s a pretty good stat right!! I agree with you, I think that some level of anxiety is a normal part of traveling. So I always welcome new ideas for distractions which help the time fly!

  10. I’m not sure the best way to help my nervousness is to think about the accidents I could have on the way to the airport 😀 I usually am fine once we’re up, it’s the take off and landing that is the worst for me, I can usually just sleep the rest of the way. I also had no clue that you could get wifi now – will check that out!

    • Bahaha lol yes knowing my luck I would probably jinx it and be in a car crash on the way to my next flight after having written this 😀 Take off and landing can be horrible, so I feel you there – I agree, once you’re in the air it’s usually smooth sailing.

      I had inflight WiFi on my recent domestic flights within Japan – it was amazing! I want Australia to catch up 😀

  11. nice post friend, Thank you for sharing with us, and hope you will continue to update or post other articles

    • Glad you enjoyed the post – happy travels 🙂

  12. Nice advices! I know only one person who is afraid to fly, and she do not fly at all. Maybe one day she will feel strong enough, than I will show her your post:)

    • Thanks Ollie – glad it was helpful for you! We have a family member who can’t fly too – different people have different levels of anxiety, and for some it’s very severe. Like you, hoping that one day they might be strong enough to overcome their fear 🙂

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