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What Really Worked To Get Over My Fear Of Flying

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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. 

  1. Did I want to pass on this irrational fear to my daughters?
  2. 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:

  1. Talk to a pilot and ask them questions.
  2. Really learn about planes and how they work.
  3. 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.

 

Do you have a fear of flying too?

Heather Reese
the authorHeather Reese
Heather Delaney Reese is the storyteller and photographer behind the lifestyle and family travel blog It's a Lovely Life®! In addition to traveling 150+ days a year, she also helps new bloggers build successful blogging businesses.

27 Comments

  • This is such a great post to read on thanks! I’ve only flown a few times but kinda scares me but lot of the things u mentioned will def try next time. Blanket is a must to the list…comfort and safety.

  • I think because my sisters and I had to travel so much and young kids (our parents were divorced), I never had to deal with having this fear. It was just something we did every summer.

  • I’m glad you were able to get over your fear of flying. It makes it difficult to travel when you’re confined to a car. I used to have a fear of flying myself, but once I finally conquered it, it opened an entirely new world.

  • Ah, it’s really cool that you were able to work through this. Someone close to me has a fear of flying and it would be nice to be able to provide some comfort and reassurance for them.

  • It’s really nice that you overcame your fear of flying so you can travel more with your family. That’s really the best reason to keep yourself motivated and not think about your fear of flying so much.

  • That’s really awesome. I think it’s nice that you talked to pilots about flying so that you’ll feel safer and more comfortable. Those earphones are really cool.

  • I really hate flying, only because it makes me sick. I do have a good set of noise cancelling headphones and that does help a bit. Also, I chew SeaBand gum and that really helps as well.

  • I guess I am just lucky that I do not have any problems commanding my body to sleep. When I am asleep, I have no anxiety. That is how I save myself my fear of flying – fall asleep during the flight.

  • I don’t have any fear of flying because we were flying to different destinations since we were kids. I guess we took it as just the same as riding a car. Thank you for your tips on how to overcome this anxiety. It will help a lot of people overcome their fear of flying too.

  • I love to fly by but my best friend is absolutely terrified . She takes the train from Chicago to Denver once a year and it takes the same amount of time to drive ! I’m sharing this with her thank you !

  • The noise canceling headphones are a godsend. They will let you relax anywhere you are especially on a plane.

  • To an extent, yes. I have flown on planes since I was younger but it’s not something I do regularly so it does still make me nervous. I do little things that can help though like not sitting by the window – which is fine because I’m usually with my sister and she loves the window seat (she flies for work and loves it). I like the idea of noise canceling headphones!

    -Lauren

  • Yay, you took action against your fear. Fears can be one of the most disabling thoughts. I fear many things and some I cannot get past. Bose noise canceling headphones are great for so many things plus flying!

  • I love flying but I have two friends and father-in-law that really hate flying. I have to share these tips with them to see if they might get some help from this post.

  • These are some fantastic suggestions! I developed an intense fear of flying after a very turbulent flight as a child and have only recently been able to fly without crippling anxiety. I think frequent travel definitely helps!

  • I’ve never had a fear of flying. One thing that I think helped that was always hearing the stats that it’s safer to fly than drive! And I have no worries about hopping in the car each day! That’s great that you were able to conquer your fear though!

    • That is so true! On a flight last month the pilot announced we had landed and that the most dangerous part of our travels was just about to start… driving in rush hour traffic!

  • I love eBay too! It’s the perfect place for hard to find items and new items at great prices. Those noise cancelling headphones look like something my niece would enjoy during our travels. I am glad you got over your fear and can now enjoy your flying.

  • My fear is mostly about the landing part. Never get worried about take off or being in the air… always the darn landing. Getting better but your tips are much appreciated as I now fly with kids.

  • If you love traveling you definitely don’t want to be scared to fly. My mom is scared to fly. She’s 70 now so I guess it’s not going to happen. It’d sure make it easier to get her here to visit if she’d fly. 🙂

  • It’s amazing how you managed to get over such a fear! I’ve never used noise canceling headphones before, but it makes sense that they would help so much. And we use them with our infant, so why not! Happy travels!

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