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Overcoming the Fear of Flying

Symptoms & remedies

Let’s face it: we’re all afraid of something. And the easiest remedy is typically to avoid whatever you’re afraid of. But that’s not such an easy feat when flying is your fear. A train won’t land you on that Caribbean island you’ve been meaning to visit, and a bus is a painfully long mode of transportation to get you across the country for a mandatory conference.

According to USA Today, the Valk Foundation estimates that nearly 40 percent of adults suffer from a phobia or fear of flying – also known as aerophobia. We here at Cheapflights are here to help that group of nervous nellies – one flight at a time.

1. Don’t avoid flying; take baby steps

Symptom: Your fear of flying is most likely directly related to some other fear you have. Maybe you’re claustrophobic (afraid of closed spaces) or acrophobic (afraid of heights) or agoraphobic (afraid of having a panic attack in a place that’s hard to get out of) and that fear is keeping you from going anywhere near an airplane.

Remedy: There’s a fix for this, but it requires a lot of bravery on your part. You have to get on a plane. Face your fear head on; that’s the only way you’ll truly conquer it. But start small with short-haul flights. Take an hour flight from Boston to New York or one just like it. Eventually work your way up to long-haul international flights to destinations worth see on the other side of the globe (like Bangkok, Beijing or Brisbane, for starters).

Insider tip: If you know the root of your fear of flying, try to pick a seat to alleviate that fear as much as possible. If height is the problem, then don’t choose a window seat; if you’re afraid of tight spaces, choose an aisle seat; if you’re afraid of not being able to get out, go for an aisle seat as close to the front of the plane as possible.

2. Focus on the destination, forget about the journey

Symptom: Sometimes turbulence is what shakes up fliers – quite literally. When the plane hits turbulence, there’s nothing you can do, and having no control can be quite terrifying.

Remedy: Relax and find ways to keep yourself distracted: chit-chat with the cabin crew, listen to music, read a magazine, watch a movie – whatever you have to do to take your mind off where you are. Think, instead, about your upcoming vacation. You’ll be lying on the beach or sipping a strawberry daiquiri poolside in no time at all. Relaxation is what you’re going for, so why not try to get as much relaxation out of it as you possibly can?

Insider tip: If you know the turbulence is what’s keeping you grounded, try to choose a seat over the wings – there’s more stability and things will go more smoothly should there be any turbulence.

3. Make your body your priority

Symptom: The air on airplanes is dry, leaving your skin dry and body dehydrated. There’s also the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) if you’re sitting still for too long.

Remedy: There are steps you can take to fix all of these problems and – what’s better – giving your body the attention it deserves onboard will distract you from what you’re actually doing (flying). Lotion remedies dry skin and water cures the dehydration. Grab a few bottles of water once you’ve cleared security and remember to take advantage of drinks offered onboard. As far as the DVT goes: you can significantly decrease your chances of having a run-in by moving around the cabin when the seatbelt sign is off. Now, that might be a little easier said than done but, like we said, baby steps.

Insider tip: If you’re afraid of getting sick on the plane, be proactive about it. While you’re waiting at the airport, do some walking around and make sure to keep hydrated.

If all else fails, there are a number of self-help books, tapes and CDs that can lend a helping hand, as well as classes that could potentially help you get over your fear of flying. Bon voyage!

Melisse Hinkle
A New England native but explorer at heart, Melisse has lived in four U.S. cities, spent a summer in Hawaii, made her way through wine-producing regions in Australia and New Zealand, and traveled around Europe while studying abroad in London. She is the Content Manager for the U.S. and Canada at Cheapflights.