Monday, May 18, 2015

Flight tips - General & For Anxiety

If you would like to see all my travel posts, including recaps, tips & recommendations and packing guides, please visit my travel page.

I went on my first flight when I was 19 or so, and it was from Sydney to Melbourne which was like an hour. It was fun. I was with my then boyfriend and it was exciting. I barely had time to worry or be scared because it was so short.

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.

Flying tips - general & for anxiety!

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.

Be prepared
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.

Don't drink
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.

Be prepared
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?


  1. Amazing tips girl! Having been on countless flights myself, I always aim to look put together yet as comfortable as possible. And I hate eating junk before flying too, it just makes me feel gross. I'm also not a fan of alcohol before or during flights as it dehydrates you. I'm drinking all the water too :-D

  2. Great tips!

    I fear that I'm going to have to rely on a kindle traveling overseas and that I will not be able to get into the book like I can get into a normal book. I've been thinking about how to do this. LOL.

    I hate eating crap on the plane or not having enough water with me. I avoid booze due to dehydration too.

  3. Wow, some great tips here! You have been very thorough, I don't have anything to add — but I absolutely agree that eating as clean as possible really helps me minimize jet-lag and feel my best, and of course I travel with a full Kindle :-)

  4. Harry Potter is my go-to comfort reading, too! I also can't believe that some airlines book such short layovers. On the way home from our honeymoon we had a 52 minute layover in Amsterdam in which we were supposed to completely check in again. Of course we missed our flight and it extended our travel time 26 more hours. Then we got routed through Atlanta to Minneapolis and had to run to make that flight. But hey, at least we got a free night in Amsterdam! I'm so excited to hear about your Europe trip!!

  5. Thank you for posting this! My sister use to be deathly afraid of flying but she is much better. She hardly ever gets up on flights, we are still working on that. These are such helpful tips, thank you!!

  6. I've been on some 500+++ flights (regional, domestic and international), and my biggest tip is hard to obtain but it makes the BIGGEST BIGGEST difference in flying: get status with your airline. If you're a preferred/gold/elite customer, you get first class upgrades, free checked bags with priority tags so they come out of the claim first, you get to use the first class lane for checking bags, free (alcoholic!) drinks, if you don't get the upgrade, you at least sit at the front of the plane... And on and on. We have status with Delta and Southwest. Delta hooks us UP with upgrades (there's special lounges called Sky Lounge where we get free drinks and snacks and don't have to sit in the smelly nasty airport) and while Southwest doesn't have a "first class" we board first and get this: I never have to buy a ticket. I fly for free (as long as hubs is flying too.) FREE. And we're A List Preferred so we scootch ahead of y'all waiting in line at security. Boom-shaka-laka!

    Seriously, flying with status makes flying fun. Get your airline's credit card and pay all your bills with it, then pay off your card every month. Always fly the same airline, even if the flight is $50 more than another carrier, so that you get those miles and points. And if you buy the flight with the card, you get the miles and the dollar miles you spend on the flight, so it's like double points!

    K. I'm done now.

  7. Great post! I don't have anxiety about flying (as in, the fact that we're in the air) but I DO have anxiety about traveling in general. I just worry we'll be late or something will go wrong or or or.

  8. What great tips! Luckily I'm not too bad with flying but know many people who are. Going to have to send them this post!

  9. My anxiety has only increased as I've gotten older as well - I'm not sure why that is!!! I love all your tips!! I actually love flying solo for some reason, but then on the flip side love when my friends or Gary tag along! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

  10. I totally agree on staying hydrated it keeps me from getting jet lag for the most part. I love to bring music, books, or just sleep so the time goes by quickly.

  11. Side note before I comment on this post: I bought the Maybelline stuff yesterday and forgot to use it while doing my makeup this morning! Hopefully I'll remember tomorrow! These are excellent tips and I especially love the one about "be nice." I don't really have a lot of anxiety about air travel, but I do get irritable if I can't get up and move fairly often. Even short flights I use the bathroom 1-2 times even if I don't need to go just to get up and stretch. I'm sure people wonder why I go so much but I don't care. It keeps me sane!

  12. This was very helpful. I have never been on a large plane before (just my dad's friend's small one), but if my husband's job causes us to move to another area of the USA, I will have to take some flights in order to visit my parents.

  13. I have been flying since before I can even remember and have been on soooooooooooooooooooo many flights it's not even funny. However, I am a fearful flier and I work hard to manage that each time I'm in the air. These are good tips. Most importantly you just need to find what works for you!

  14. Great tips girl! I don't really get anxious or nervous flying. Probably since I went on my first flight when I was just a few weeks old and went on my first transatlantic flight when I was in 5th grade. Although I will say, I prefer flying back then compared to now. All the rules make it such a pain and I swear the seats were bigger haha! Although I do get anxiety getting to the airport... weird I know. I always worry I forgot something or there's going to be bad traffic and we'll be late or some other really random, weird thing. Any tips for that besides pre-drink before leaving?! Haha!

  15. That's so weird that it didn't used to bother you and then it started to. That really sucks, because your brain should know better since you've done it so many times and not died. I always schedule at least an hour layover. Given a choice between 55 minutes and 2 hours, I'll pick 2 hours, because I don't want that stressed feeling of, "What if my flight is delayed? What if the other gate is on the other side of the airport? What if, what if, what if?" Travel is one of the reasons I love my Kindle. It's so much lighter than carrying a bunch of books! Although, I had one plane trip where I talked to my seatmate the entire flight and the only reason that conversation happened is because he saw what book I was reading. So I suppose you do miss out on some opportunities.

  16. These are so great!! As I told you before my anxiety is more getting on the plane rather than flying, but a good playlist and a good book is a must!

    <3 Shannon
    Upbeat Soles

  17. Great tips, lady! I'm a nervous flier and I know it's silly but I can't help it. I usually can just hold my husbands hand and be fine in turbulence but when it's bad on take off I start to loose it. I cried on my last flight because it was so bad. Not looking forward to my flight this month :(!

    I'm also, MISS prepared. I hate not having chapstick, lotion, eye drops, an eye mask, snacks and water. I go nuts when i can't find em on the plane, I hate dry hands and lips the most. I tend to enjoy a glass of wine when I fly because it makes me relax just a lil bit.

  18. Unfortunately, no tips here. I don't get anxious about flying; instead, I get motion sick. On longer flights, I just take the drugs (which usually make me sleep). For the shorter ones (when I don't want to be a zombie for a while after landing), get lots of sleep the night before, drink a TON of water, keep pretzels in the stomach, pray you're not stuck near someone with strong smelling perfume/cologne, and don't even think about reading/watching anything. And in case all that fails (which it can...easily), keep the plastic bags handy. Wanna trade? :P

    Also, I tend to board the plane last, but I sit in the waiting area until the line shrinks down to the last five or six. No need to stand in line, then stand in the plane while people stow their bags, right?

  19. Oh YEAH, I've been on many long haul flights! I don't get much anxiety, but recently I did when I flew the day after that plane crashed in the alps, and I flew over the alps. Ahh!

    My best friend does get anxiety and she basically downs red wine, which works for her. My only tip is to have a travel partner if possible. I try to distract her as much as possible when I'm on the flight with her...and if she's traveling alone, she makes friends with those sitting around her!

  20. You know I needed this! Not that I've been on even a fraction of the flights you have, but flying in the morning is definitely my biggest tip (since I hate flying when it's dark but I have to be tired too, and I'm most likely to be tired super early in the morning). Thank you thank you thank you for sharing that turbulence article! I will probably be reading it several times in between now and August :)

  21. YES I so needed this! We just bought tickets to South Africa for new years and when I realized how long that flight is going to be I started panicking. I'm bookmarking this post!

  22. Great tips, girl! Especially the one about drinking a lot of water. I learned that the hard way! A terrible 6 hours flight taught me that lesson well. I felt so dehydrated and sluggish when I got off the plane, I needed the rest of the day to reboot.
    Does flying in the morning really help? I wonder why.
    My tip is to keep your skin hydrated and wear as little makeup as possible. I don't know why but my makeup always feel much heavier and caked on my face during and after a flight. And my skin much drier if I don't take care to moisturize well. So I'll just wear concealer, mascara and lipstick, and I'm sure to use a deep moisturizing mask/product the night before.

  23. As someone who has flown a lot I have to agree with all of these. Especially the tell yourself no one! I have been on several long flights - Asia, Europe, oz and I guarantee bringing distractions is one of the best pieces of advice there ... I mean there's only so many movies you can watch!

    I also agree with get yourself sleepy I need to try that actually because I never do and then I'm a zombie on the plane while everyone else sleeps ha!

  24. I've been flying since I'm a toddler and it seems like the fear of flying has only recently set in for me as I get older. Honestly a glass of wine helps to calm me down so I would advise otherwise. lol

  25. These are awesome tips! I wish doing yoga moves were more acceptable during a flight. Haha. I get SO anxious during a flight, but I feel like take-off and landing are the worst for me. And knowing that I'm flying over an abyss that is the ocean no...okay deep breaths. lol

  26. great tips! i dont mind flying but my sister-in-law and grandma hate it!! and i want both of them to visit me so i need to pass along this post ;) xo jillian - cornflake dreams

  27. I don't really mind flying (minus having to use the bathrooms on the plane and in airports!) but I feel like I would totally splurge (if possible) and save up for first class the next time I fly internationally. Lord, that was a long ass trip to Italy stuck in the middle of like a 7 person row haha. Love these tips!

  28. Wow this is super thorough! I love it. I'm not a very nervous flyer, most of my anxiety is just about things waiting to start - if that makes sense. Being excited anxious and on top of organizing myself for travel etc. These tips are great though, and can certainly be helpful for someone like me who gets very physically uncomfortable on a plane. I don't remember when you go to Europe but I hope you are getting excited, because I want to say it was soonish. :) We found out we are going to Alaska for work. Awesome... but hella long flight. Sometimes KC and I take travel sized board games. Not many. Just one usually Blokus. We get really competitive. But it all snaps together and closes up compactly. It's a nice change from other plane activities sometimes. XO -Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  29. You are soooo thorough!! I'm a nervous flyer, I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it a bunch of times on the blog. I use to have to fly a lot for work, but they were mostly quick flights 1-3 hours. Unlike you, I totally let my fear dictate my travels :( so sad. We are supposed to go to Europe this year and I just can't wrap my mind around that long flight (even though I've done it before). I'm sad about it, i need to get over it and just plan the trip and go. I'm going to read these articles and hope they help me too! Thanks for all the tips!

  30. I am not a nervous flier.... But I am a nervous traveler, if that makes sense. I'm that person who likes getting to the airport a bajillion hours early. It just makes me feel better. I don't know how many flights I've been on. I'm sure you beat me, but I'd have a really hard time even counting!

  31. These are great tips! I'm like you where I can't sleep on the plane (that would make things so much easier). I do like talking to people every once in a while though. I sat next to a really interesting guy on my flight back to Dallas from Boston, and we ended up talking the entire three hours. I totally forgot I was flying. I also love keeping track of the flight. It's nice to see that little plane moving towards its destination. :)

  32. I am the WORST flyer... I hate it... I have to take distractions. I tend to take coloring pages & markers .. coloring calms me the best. I cant concentrate on a book.

  33. All great tips! I don't have near the experience as you but I do have experience in long flights. I'm a worrier so I will worry myself to death with layovers and having enough time. When we flew to Rwanda last year, I packed a backpack as my carry on and a bag as my personal item and they were both slam full to have more room in my suitcase for supplies. I had to lug both of those bags, on my shoulders, through three airports. Never again! I will get a rolling carry on and only keep things I need access to in a bag under my seat!

  34. Ew, way to go Bloglovin for just showing me this post today. Anyway. I am not a frequent flier, but I'm also not a very good flier, so that's a good thing. I don't really get nervous about the airplane part, but I hate airports and airport security and packing makeup and liquids and stuff and I refuse to check a bag if that's at all possible (it has been so far). So while actually flying doesn't bother me, preparing for a plane trip stresses me out hardcore. Partly also because that means I won't have a car wherever I'm going, and I hate that. I'm such a fan of road trips but unfortunately I can't drive a car across the Atlantic Ocean so I'll probably have to fly again, huh? Oh and also I can never, ever sleep on planes. Which suuuuuucks.

  35. That article is the best thing I've ever read on airplane turbulence. I am such a nervous flyer (but like you have no plans to stop). Although, I choose to partake in heavy alcohol before flying.

  36. i cannot sleep on flights at all, no matter how long the dang thing is. yes, yes to all of these. I was on vacation for a week so I am slowly getting caught up with everyone! Elle Sees

  37. I have been on countless countless flights and I agree with most of these! I totally have a playlist entitled 'plane' haha says a lot! I'd also add 'dont take a ryanair plane as your first flight ever' elderly man once sat next to me on a flight Paris/Edinburgh and it was his first flight and he was terrified, for good reasons!


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