Preparing for a vacation can stir up a whirlwind of emotions, from excitement and anticipation to stress and panic. Taking a trip can be particularly daunting for anxious passengers who hate flying.
Whether you're an anxious passenger bracing for your next flight or a first-time traveller accompanying someone grappling with travel jitters, the very thought of air travel can unleash a surge of nerves.
Between the seemingly endless airport waits, occasional turbulence-induced heart palpitations, and the less-than-luxurious plane seats, it's hardly surprising that even the most seasoned travellers can feel intimidated.
To help you avoid an airport meltdown or an on-board breakdown, we've compiled a list of our favourite must-know travel tips for anxious passengers. From soothing techniques to carry-on essentials, this advice comes from former flight attendants, seasoned travellers and even nervous passengers themselves.
So, before you fasten your seatbelt, tuck away your carry-on, and check out the in-flight menu, get clued up on these essential travel tips for anxious passengers. With the help of a couple of deep breaths, distraction techniques and all of your favourite comfort items, you'll be ready to navigate the skies with all the confidence and composure of even the most relaxed flyer.
Arrive at the airport early
If you're somebody who feels uncomfortable or anxious in the airport, spending any longer than necessary there can seem counterproductive. However, arriving early can actually make the experience feel less stressful, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time.
Rushing can exacerbate feelings of stress and anxiety, so aim to arrive at the airport at least two hours before your departure time for domestic flights and three hours in advance of international flights.
Although it sounds like a lot of time, this buffer will enable you to navigate through security and settle into your pre-flight routine without the additional pressure of rushing or feeling like you're going to be late.
Spend any leftover time at the airport doing things you enjoy – grabbing a hot drink, browsing for a new book or indulging in something delicious. You could also try an airport lounge if you really want to escape the traditional airport experience.
Be organized and prepared
One of the primary triggers of travel anxiety is the fear of the unknown. To help combat this worry, take the time to familiarize yourself with the entire travel process before your trip.
Do some research to understand what to expect during security checks, immigration, and customs. Knowledge is a powerful ally in reducing anxiety, and the more you know about the airport experience, the aircraft, and the journey, the more at ease you're likely to feel.
Some anxious passengers find it helpful to create a step-by-step schedule, breaking down the journey into manageable increments. Others prefer having a comprehensive travel itinerary, allowing them to stay focused on the final destination.
It also may help to have hard copies of all your important documents to alleviate concerns about misplacing anything. Additionally, ensure all your electronic devices are fully charged to avoid any unexpected disruptions.
When it comes to attire, opt for loose, comfortable clothing with multiple layers to adapt to various temperatures throughout your journey. Clothing with spacious pockets can be particularly handy if you're worried about losing items between the airport and the plane.
Many seasoned travellers recommend carrying essential items such as a portable charging bank, wet wipes, face masks, and hand sanitizer, providing peace of mind in handling unexpected situations.
Don't forget to pack a few snacks as well, as hunger can exacerbate feelings of anxiety. Healthy options like granola bars, nuts, or fruit will help maintain your energy levels and keep your stomach content. And remember to stay hydrated, as dehydration can intensify nervousness.
Choose the right seat
When it comes to coping with turbulence-induced anxiety, choosing the right seat can make all the difference.
If you're someone who's uneasy during bumpy flights, consider opting for a seat at the front of the plane or over the wings, as flight attendants say these seats are generally less affected by the rocking and swaying motions caused by turbulence.
You could also consider a window seat, as having a view outside can help you gauge the severity of any turbulence and reassure you that everything is under control.
Keep in mind that individual preferences and aircraft configurations may vary, so it's a good idea to check seat maps when booking your flight.
Plan your distractions
One of the best things about flying, particularly long haul, is having several hours of uninterrupted "you time" that you may not usually get to enjoy on a day-to-day basis.
Bring along a selection of your favourite distractions, like books, podcasts, pre-downloaded movies and TV shows, and consider choosing options or genres that make you feel calm and safe.
You could also compile playlists to will help you to focus on something other than your anxious thoughts, featuring reassuring sounds like your old favourites, familiar artists or meditative music.
Noise-cancelling headphones can also be a game-changer for reducing anxiety in noisy environments, whether you're in a bustling airport terminal or on a crowded flight.
Try not to overthink
Overthinking is a common companion to anxiety, especially for those who find themselves feeling uneasy when travelling.
When you're about to take off, it can be easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of "what-ifs" and hypothetical scenarios. However, it's essential to remember that overthinking rarely leads positive outcomes. In fact, it often amplifies anxiety and makes the situation feel more scary than it actually is.
To combat overthinking, try to stay present in the moment. Focus on the steps you need to take right now, like checking your passport, making sure you have your essentials or by doing gentle exercises during the flight.
Other nervous passengers recommend focusing on facts. For example, fatalities caused by turbulence are exceedingly uncommon, and remember that planes want to fly.
Learn about turbulence
For many travellers, in-flight turbulence can really induce panic and anxiety, and it's not hard to understand why. It can be scary! However, try to remember that it is a completely natural occurrence during flights.
It's important to understand that turbulence is not an indication that something is going wrong; rather, it's an ordinary aspect of air travel caused by factors like atmospheric conditions and air currents.
Travel blogger Helene Sula likened turbulence to being in Jell-O; even when an object moves within it, it remains stable in the Jell-O.
Another helpful comparison is to picture turbulence as a ship peacefully resting on a body of water; it moves up and down as the water's surface fluctuates.
Trust the professionals
One of the most effective ways to alleviate anxiety while flying is to remember that you're not alone on that aircraft — in fact, there's an entire team of skilled professionals looking after your safety. This includes the pilot, co-pilot, and the cabin crew, who are all trained to handle a wide range of situations, including turbulence.
When you start to feel anxious during a bumpy patch of turbulence, try to remind yourself that it's their job to worry about the plane, not yours. Pilots undergo rigorous training, and they're well-versed in navigating through turbulence safely. They have access to things like weather reports, radar systems, and constant communication with air traffic control, all of which help them make informed decisions to ensure a smooth flight.
Likewise, the cabin crew are experienced in dealing with nervous passengers. They know how to provide reassurance and support when needed. If you ever feel uneasy, don't hesitate to reach out to them.
Take deep breaths
Anxiety often leads to shallow breathing, which will only fuel feelings of panic or unease.
Practice deep breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques to stay calm during your journey. Some travellers suggest inhaling for a count of four, holding for four, and exhaling for four. Repeat as needed.
Lean on the people around you
If you're feeling anxious while travelling, remember that you're not alone. Whether you reach for your travel companion, a fellow passenger, or a flight attendant, leaning on the people around you can make the journey feel easier.
Chatting with fellow passengers can provide distraction, while a travel companion can offer emotional support and practical help. Also, don't hesitate to ask airline staff for assistance; they're there to make your flight comfortable after all.
Remember, when anxiety creeps in, know that you have a support network right there with you to ease your worries.
Bon voyage — you've got this!