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It is always hard to believe that someone who travels over 150 days a year could actually have a fear of flying. But it is true! I am a lot better than I used to be, and this is why.
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Friends and family that have known me since I was a teen know that flying on planes has never been high on my list of things to do. I haven’t kept it a secret, yet this is something that shocks and surprises people all the time… probably because a HUGE part of my job requires me to fly… often!
When I first started adding travel to our blog years ago, we only covered locations within driving distance. Then we had the opportunity to showcase a resort in the Caribbean. Of course, there was no way we could drive there. I had to make a really tough choice that day, one Pete helped me make by asking me two very important questions.
- Did I want to pass on this irrational fear to my daughters?
- Did I want to live my life in fear and miss out on showing our daughters the world?
My answers to these two questions were what I needed to hear to finally take steps to get over my fear of flying.
The first step to learn how to get over my fear of flying was to acknowledge that it was both irrational and something that I couldn’t just get on a plane and ignore. I knew I needed a plan and I wrote it out and then worked my way down the list of things I could do to change the way that I reacted to flying.
My list looked like this:
- Talk to a pilot and ask them questions.
- Really learn about planes and how they work.
- Bring tools with me on the plane to make flying less scary and a better experience.
I knew I was off to a good start with my list so I set off to talk to a pilot.
Thankfully I have a lot of friends who have relatives that are pilots and they were able to connect me to them. It really helped to see the people flying the plane as the humans they are. When I am getting on the plane I always try to catch a glimpse of who is flying the plane too and remember they are just like the people I spoke to. I remind myself that they are highly trained with years and years of experience and that their number one job is to safely take their passengers to their destinations. This alone really helps to center me and my thoughts when I am boarding and helps keep me positive throughout the flight.
The next step was to really learn how planes work, the safety behind them, and the overlapping protocols that make flying so much safer than all other forms of transportation.
The resource that taught me the most was CITY IN THE SKY. It is a three-part DVD set that really explores and explains everything from what happens before you board a plane, when you are in the sky, and then also what happens when you land. I was floored with all the information and it was almost an overload for me. I broke up watching the videos over a week so that I could mentally process it all.
Once I felt that I mentally understood how planes fly and why they are so safe to be in, it was time to tackle the emotional aspect of being scared to fly.
This turned out to be a lot easier to handle than I thought.
I started by really thinking about situations that I feel most comfortable in. I’m the type that likes a plan and likes to know what is coming next. I also do best with a set system in place. Since I can’t fly a plane, I did the next best thing and looked for ways that I can control what happens. For me, this means that I can book seats where I will feel the most comfortable. So I pick an isle for myself and Pete and put the girls across from me or next to me, depending on availability. I also make sure to pack a travel blanket and I take the same one with me on all flights. That way I know I won’t be cold. It sounds silly, but it gives me the comfort of knowing that I will take it out as soon as we are in our seats and that if it gets cold on the plane, and I won’t feel cold.
Another thing that really helps with flying is upgraded seats. I know this isn’t something that everyone can do, but if you can for at least your first flight, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it. We have flexibility when we fly as far as dates and times normally, so I look for flights where first-class or business class is reasonably priced. This helps with before-flight jitters too because you normally have lounge access and that is a whole lot less stressful than waiting in the terminal to board. Even premium economy can be a great choice because it normally comes with earlier boarding and will give you more time to settle in and get comfortable.
I also avoid caffeine before and on flights, and the same goes for alcohol. Although alcohol can sometimes calm your nerves, it can also have the opposite effect on a flight and it is dehydrating. Caffeine can raise your anxiety so that is a no-no. Drinking plenty of water helps you stay hydrated and feeling your best.
The last thing I do is to always bring noise-canceling headphones. This one was Pete’s idea. He bought me these headphones on eBay and they have provided so much help for me when I am flying. Planes are loud and the sound is a strange one, for lack of a better term. It can be crippling to be surrounded by it for hours on end. These headphones allow me to focus on other things so I’m not constantly thinking about every sound the plane makes. I’ve also noticed that I am way more relaxed on the plane and when we exit after the flight has landed.
The best advice I can offer if you too have a fear of flying is to work through the steps and tips above and add to them. Identify what exactly you are worried about and then find a solution to help you work through each of the issues.
Getting over my fear of flying didn’t happen overnight, in fact, I still am working through it on each flight, but I am no longer in full panic mode. Knowing that I am on my way to see and learn about a new destination makes it all worthwhile too.