My next flight was from Sydney to London. Obviously, this was a lot longer. I was with my Nana, I was about 20 and I had all 7 of the Harry Potter books ready for me - the 7th had just been published. I barely registered the flights because I was in my HP world.
Anyway, fast forward 8 years and lots of Sydney to Kentucky and back again flights smooshed in there, another trip to England, a few US trips - I have easily been on over 100 flights - I tried to count and got like 108 and gave up. Anyway, somewhere along the line flying started to scare me. It seems to get worse with every single flight.
I don't intend to stop flying anytime soon so I knew I had to manage it. I had been researching flying tips for quite some time now, and I was able to test a few of them when we went to Australia, when we went to NYC and when I went to DC. I have learned more with each flight though, so hopefully our flights to Europe will just be fine and dandy with zero anxiety.
Enough babbling - here are the tips and tricks I have learned and tested - hopefully some of them will help you.
General Flying Tips
Make yourself really tired the night before
KC doesn't like this one, but it works for me. Whenever we fly somewhere, I never plan on doing anything the first night. If I had to do something special this most likely wouldn't work. Anyway, what I do is I stay up late, make sure I exercise, and I get up early so I'm tired. I don't sleep well on planes unless I am really tired, so.. I mean, it's pretty self explanatory.
Don't do less than an hour layover if you can help it
It's the worst when you only have 30 minutes to get through LAX - trust me, it's not gonna happen. Running around, not having enough time to eat or go to the bathroom or just be on actual ground - it's no fun. When I first started flying, I never checked layovers because I assumed however it was generated was smarter than me - wrong. I try and aim for an hour and a half to 3 hours, depending on where we are.
Drink all of the water
All of it. Then some more. I normally buy a big bottle of water after security. I'd love to bring an empty reusable one but I have had security tell me to throw it away twice, and that kind of annoys me.
Eat as well as you can.
Look, I love to eat junk as much (or more) than the next person, but I have learned that flying is not the time to do it. If I'm eating junk whilst walking around Disney or a new city, I don't feel as bad (physically or mentally) but if I'm just sitting on a plane it makes me feel so sick.
Bring lots of distractions
Books, movies, music, a person - whatever works for you to make that time fly by (pun intended).
Dress as comfy as possible
This seems pretty obvious but it really helps. Skinny jeans might be comfy to wear all day or even for a short flight but you'll most likely regret it on a 10 hour flight. At least, I know I have. Wearing leggings, a tshirt and a comfy cardigan is where it's at - for me.
Pack lightly / have a smaller purse
On my first flight to London, I brought 7 books (probably overkill) in my 'overnight bag' that was my carry-on. I couldn't fit that thing under the seat and it was such a hassle getting it in and out of the overhead bin. I always pack with just a carry-on which cuts down on time drastically - checking in, waiting for your bags, waiting for your bags some more when they lose them... Anyway, that bag goes in the overhead and I have just my necessities in a smaller purse - kindle, phone, snacks, chapstick, tissues, documents etc.
Turns out those years in the girl guides stuck with me. I am always prepared - I have all the documents together, in order and ready to go. I have anything we could possibly need - bandaids, tissues, snacks etc etc and everything has it's own place in my bag. Fumbling around or having to buy things can be stressful and annoying.
Calm down and be nice
I know people are rude and annoying. I know that kid is crying, and the other one is kicking your seat. I know that you've been waiting for your bag for 30 minutes and that guy just stood in front of you because apparently his bag is more important than yours. Believe me, I know. Getting angry, being rude or disrespectful to people (including staff!) is not going to make any of those things stop, or make the time pass any faster. Your day - including your flights - will be much more enjoyable if you don't let the annoying things get to you.
Anxiety Flying Tips
Now, I know plenty of other people who really don't fly well, and my 'anxiety' might be laughable compared to yours, but either way I don't enjoy flying and these things have really helped me. I hope they help you.
If you have had alcohol in the past and it works for you - good for you. I'm jealous. It doesn't help me sleep, makes me feel lousy and unable to function or think clearly. I don't like that. I want a clear head and the ability to sleep naturally. It has also, in the past, made my anxiety worse. I don't drink coffee, but when I used to drink soda it always made me feel ill, so I stick with water or juice.
I know I mentioned this above, but this time I am talking about day of and the night before. I love to pack early (like months early) because it gives me one less thing to worry about. Even if I am in and out of that bag every day, I don't mind. But I always make sure I am 100% ready before I go to sleep the day before my flight. Every. Little. Thing. That way I don't have to worry about anything, I can get up and be on my way.
Know your facts
Arming myself with knowledge helps me in almost all aspects of my life. I like to know things because I want to plan things. I have zero control when I fly, so this worries me. I recently read about plane crash statistics and facts, and statistically speaking crashes are extremely rare. That made me feel so much better, even though I already 'knew' it (thanks Superman) it helped to really learn about it. Turbulence is what normally makes me cry, so I read this article and it really helped me last time I flew and we hit some turbulence. When I get nervous, my what if's and what is happening's have answers.
Get comfortable immediately
When I first started to get nervous with flying, I would get on the plane last which meant I had to stand in line for a really long time, it took ages to get to my seat, and I'd still have to sit down for quite some time. I would just sit there, trying to calm myself down until the seatbelt light was turned off. So silly. Now, I get on the plane as soon as I can, I sit down in my seat, I watch the baggage people loading the bags, I grab a drink and some snacks, open my book and relax. I don't pay attention to any of the people on the plane, I just sit in my bubble and read my book.
Fly first thing in the morning
After Tracy's advice, I always book morning flights if I can help it. But sometimes I can't help it, like when we fly to Australia or Europe. Some airports have a curfew (some don't!) so you can't arrive between midnight and 6am or something like that, which of course affects what time you leave your city. I also really prefer when I can see out the window, when it's all black it kind of freaks me out.
Oh, if only it were that easy. My best flights are the ones I have slept on, and I can count those on one hand.. Sleep does not come easy to me at home in my bed, let alone a few thousand feet in the air on a plane. I have tried medication (over the counter and prescribed) but I am apparently really great at pushing through those and not sleeping even when I want to. So, instead of just sitting there and hoping to sleep, I read or watch movies. But if you can sleep - highly recommend.
Make friends (or don't)
Depending on what works for you, of course. Sometimes talking to the people next to me, especially if they have babies, helps me to focus on something else. Other times, I don't want anyone to talk to me, look at me or bother me. So, whatever works.
Use your imagination
When I go to the dentist, I play Pride & Prejudice in my head. That sounds odd, I know. But focusing on the story (the book) and playing it out in my head forces me to focus on it, it makes me happy and I can kind of ignore the dentist. When I fly, I visualise landing safely, and I visualise the destination. I focus on all the fun things I am going to do when I get to wherever we are going. When I'm on the way home, I think about my cats, relaxing, putting my stuff away etc. It normally makes me excited and less nervous.
Make a playlist
I'm not big on music, I prefer to read, but on one of my worst flights I luckily had a great playlist on my phone with 2 songs that calmed me down drastically. I prefer classical or instrumentals so that I can still read. Did you know that most airlines have music in their entertainment, so if you don't have a playlist or your own ipod, they might have something that works for you.
Bring lots of distractions
I know I mentioned distractions above, but this is what saves me. You remember that scene in Gilmore Girls where Rory can't fit all her books in her bag, but she has to bring them all because she might not be in the mood for this or that? That's me. I bring all the distractions. As much as it pains me, I only bring my kindle (but it has hundreds of books on it), I bring music, I bring my husband and make him bring his laptop so I can watch movies - bring all the distractions so you always have something to do.
Learn how to calm yourself
When I was younger (and a bit odd) every time I wanted to eat, I would snap a rubber band on my wrist. It hurt. I started associating eating with pain. Obviously, I don't do this anymore, but just wearing the rubber band and snapping it a couple of times when I get nervous helps me. I'm not trying to trick myself like I was when I was younger, I'm just giving myself something to do and it calms me down. Other things - I like to hold things when I don't feel well (in the head or physically). It calms me down to hold a water bottle, or tissues, or chapstick. I really like to hold someone's hand, which is awkward when I fly alone.
Rationalise and remind yourself
I spoke about statistics and all that above, but when I start to get nervous, I talk to myself (not aloud) and remind myself that rationally and logically - I am fine, we are fine, everything is fine. It's just a bit of turbulence. If the flight attendants have to sit down, it's because they might spill something on a customer and get sued. It's not because it's dangerous. Everything is fine. The likelihood of something happening is so slim. The plane is making a lot of noise - should I be worried? No, it's just the seat back tray tables or the carry on luggage shifting. It's fine. Everything is fine.
Read or watch something that reminds you of home
I never start a new book on a plane, unless I finish the one I'd already brought. When I sit down and open the book I was in the middle of at home, it makes me feel more settled and at home. Same with TV shows and stuff - I don't watch modern family and all that, but watching them on a plane helps me forget I'm on a plane. I also love to watch movies I've already seen - sometimes. Sometimes I only want to watch new movies. But if they have Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid or Pride & Prejudice you better believe I'll be watching them all.
Tell someone (including the flight attendants)
KC knows when we hit turbulence, he'll grab my hand. He's mastered the art of reading with one hand. He will pat my knee throughout the flight. In the past, when I flew alone I would always try and make friends with the flight attendants, and if they seemed nice I would tell them that I get a bit nervous. They were always extra friendly to me when they found that out. Once, I even saw someone move up to first class because she was having a full on anxiety attack. I've never been that bad, but it's nice to know.
Tell yourself no
Whenever I think bad thoughts or when I think about what could happen in the air, I shake my head and tell myself no or stop. I make myself think of something else. It helps me 90% of the time.
Focus and calm your breathing
I used to think this was a bunch of hooey, but if I am nervous or anxious (on a plane or not), I close my eyes and focus on my breathing. In, out. Long breaths. Deep breaths. In, out.
Keep track of the flight
When I would fly from Sydney to LA (or LA to Sydney) I loved checking the flight tracker. But tip: don't leave it on. Turn it off, read a book or watch a movie, talk to someone, try to have a little nap or listen to some music. Then check it again. It's so fun to see how far it's moved. Kind of like when I jump on the treadmill and I cover the information with a towel. It's like a surprise. I also try not to check the flight tracker for as long as possible, it's really discouraging being closer to Sydney than LA, but it's fun when it's halfway or more.
Get up, move around, stretch (or don't)
I don't like to get up. I have gone 13+ hours without moving, that works for me. KC can't even go 13 minutes (just kidding). But if I can, I prefer to sit down. I don't like to stand up and feel the plane moving, or see hundreds of other people sleeping when I can't. But normally nature calls at least once, so I make the most of it, walk up and down, stretch from side to side, touch my toes. When I get back to my seat, I feel refreshed.
So there you have it, they are my tips on how to fly as comfortably and anxiety free as possible. Do you have any tips?