I feel the warmth creeping up my spine towards my head, tiny prickles of heat race across my scalp, stinging and biting. I am sweating from every pore. But I'm cold, so cold. My teeth are chattering together with a life of their own and I just can't stop shivering. I pull my jumper tighter around myself and feel a small bead of sweat run down the back of my neck. My stomach is cramping, it's like a hand has reached inside me, grabbed hold of my intestines and decided to clench them in a fist and twist. I feel sick. The line starts to move and before I know it I'm at the door. With a shaky breath, I climb aboard.
No. I'm not sick. Or having some kind of dodgy drug-induced trip. Actually, having the flu would probably be preferable to what I'm putting myself through. I'm boarding a flight. And I'm scared to death.
I hate flying. I know it sounds dumb, a travel blogger that hates to fly?? Does that even exist? Well, apparently so, and here I am! No matter how many flights I put myself through, it doesn't seem to get any better, if anything, I might be getting worse!
Some flights are better than others. Some days I will hardly register the fear and will get through the flight with minimal nerves. Other times I am a mess. A sobbing, shaking, hysterical mess. And the worst part is I don't even know which one I'm going to be until it happens!!
Two years ago BFF and I were flying from Boston to Orlando and we had to change flights in Fort Lauderdale. Simple enough, right? Yeah...nobody told me that the plane I would be boarding in Fort Lauderdale was one of those teeny planes that only carries about 30 people and has FREAKING PROPELLOR engines. I HATE those planes. I can't wrap my head around them and they just make me nervous. Long story short: this plane, a thunderstorm and a 45 minute flight meant that I cried the entire way to Orlando. Like a baby. I don't know why, maybe it was something to do with the fact it was different to what I was expecting so I didn't have a chance to adjust or whatever but it was awful for me and for BFF who had booked the flight and felt guilty for the rest of the trip!
So, this year, for whatever reason, I have decided to undertake my biggest personal challenge yet. I am flying, alone, from London to Sydney. Yup. That is a long ass flight. So I figured it would be a good idea to research some tips to help calm my nerves as being a quivering wreck for 28 hours straight doesn't sound exactly appealing.
Here is what I have uncovered:
Tip 1: Mentally Prepare Yourself
I think the reason I freaked out so much on that flight to Orlando was because I hadn't had a chance to mentally prepare myself. Usually on flights I have done some research on the type of plane I'm going to be on, where the exits are, what the weather will be like when we fly, how long the flight should last etc. But on this occassion I was totally caught out and it led to a minor meltdown...Ok, not so minor but whatever.
I find covering your bases to be really comforting when flying. If I have seen that several people have stated that there is a bumpy patch halfway through the flight from point A to point B, I will be expecting it and therefore less likely to be anxious if the plane encounters turbulence. Likewise, if I know it is going to be a stormy day, I can prepare myself for a rough take off and landing and remind myself that once we are up through the cloud bank it should be smoother sailing (or flying).
Do your research and it should help keep your nerves in check.
Tip 2: Make Sure You Have Distractions
I find longer flights easier to cope with than shorter flights (I know, I don't get it either). I think it has something to do with the fact that on long flights I can give myself a list of things to do to help me pass the time. For example, I will usually check out the on-board movies as soon as I am in my seat and decide what ones I want to watch and in what order. By the time I have worked my way through two films the flight is over halfway done! I also make sure to have my ipod with all my favourite tracks on it, a good book that I can really get sucked into, my adult colouring book (yeah, I am one of those people - sorry) and my ipad with some games loaded on and some extra films in case the on-board ones suck.
With so many different things to do to keep me occupied, it is much easier for me to forget that I am 38,000 feet in the air in a tin can hurtling through space at 500mph. Mostly.
Tip 3: Download an App
There are so many people that have some kind of fear of flying that it is no surprise that there are now apps to help us cope with it. I personally haven't tried any of these yet but have considered downloading one for the big flight to Australia.
SOAR is the app I am most convinced to download. It shows you that the plane can withstand the GForces of turbulence as well as providing you with a turbulence forecast for your flight. It is always reassuring to know it might get bumpy rather than just being caught by surprise.
Have you used this app? Is it any good?
Tip 4: Think Positive
Ok I know this sounds lame, but it really does help! Rather than focussing on the plane and the flight and the fear, I try and remind myself of all the exciting things I'm looking forward to when I get there. The things that inspired me to book the trip in the first place!
By focussing on what happens when you get there and all the good feelings associated with that, it helps squash down the negative thoughts and reminds you that the flight is simply a means of you getting to your destination and doing all those things you are looking forward to!
It also helps to remember than panic doesn't last. Yeah, it can be scary as hell, but if you find yourself in a panic try and calm yourself down by thinking that it won't solve anything and that the flight won't last forever. Even turbulance passes so if the bumps get you all shook up remember it is only temporary.
Tip 5: Watch The Cabin Crew
A good tip when you're nervous is to keep an eye on the cabin crew. These people fly on planes all day every day. It's their job. So if anybody is going to know if something is a little out of the ordinary or unsafe, it's them.
All the little noises the plane makes that make you worry have reasonable explanantions. The crew will know a lot more about the flight and the state of the plane than we do so watching their reactions really helps.
I did this on a flight back from Barbados a few years ago. We were sat at the front of our section, opposite the crew jump seats and had a great chat with the steward. He was super nice and reassured me the whole time. He even made sure to come check on me when we went through a rough patch. It was actually him that gave me this tip! He said "If we look concerned, you have a reason to worry. Otherwise relax and enjoy the flight".
The irony of this was that we had a very rough landing back at Gatwick and the plane skidded across some ice on the runway, the back of the plane swung out and lurched to one side, all the plates and cutlery in First Class fell off the shelves and smashed on the ground and the steward's face definitely looked concerned!! We were completely fine though and we parked with no other issue and the steward and I had a good laugh about it until we parted ways.
Tip 6: The Last Resort
If none of these seem to work for you, it is time to try the last resort. I am in no way saying that this is a legitimate technique, it is just something that I know works for some other nervous flyers on long-haul flights. It is not recommended as a coping mechanism but if you just want the flight over with try a sleeping pill and a glass of wine and sleep it off! You will be at the gate before you know it! (I haven't needed to use this yet but I feel that London to Sydney might be a first!)
Good luck fellow flyers! I hope these tips work for you, let me know in the comments below if they do!! Likewise, if you have any tips of your own I would love to hear them! I need all the help I can get!!