…from one nervy flyer to another.
I’ve been lucky enough to fly more thanks to what I do at the age of almost 30, than I ever thought I would in a lifetime. I never flew till I was a teenager and I’ve never been the biggest fan. I’ve inherited the ‘nervy flyer’ gene from my Mum and that combined with my ultimate fear of being in the vicinity of people being physically sick – SHOUTOUT FELLOW EMETOPHOBES!! – it’s never something that I particularly look forward to. I give Usain Bolt a run for this money when I see someone chundering in public, so the idea of it happening in the seat next me is basically my idea of hell. But in the past 10 years I’ve done it all; short flights, long flights, big planes, small planes, trips with friends and family and taking a six-flight round trip to the other side of the world on my own, heck someone even has vomited in a one metre radius from me and you know what? It was all *fine*.
The more I fly, I wouldn’t say that it gets any better, but I do feel like I have a routine and coping strategy down that works for me and means that I don’t have sleepless nights for a week before a holiday. So today I thought I’d share my top 10 tips that might help to ease your nerves before your next departure…
Know Your Best Routine. The more flights I take, I wouldn’t say that it helps to make me less freaked out about the whole thing, but it does mean that I’ve learnt the routines and key puzzle pieces that fit together to make me feel a tad calmer. For me that’s getting to the airport with plenty of time, making sure I buy a bottle of water or have the chance to fill up my reusable bottle before boarding, getting a few sweet treats and snacks because plane food is hell and making sure I have all the entertainment I can possibly carry (see below). Stick to the steps that you know help to make you feel more settled and test out different things so you can find what works for you.
Get Distracted. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH ENTERTAINMENT FOR A FLIGHT. The end. Think you’ve downloaded enough off Netflix? Never. Going to rely on the in-flight entertainment? Good for you, not for me. Got just one book with you? I like to lug around at least two unless I’m fully into what I’m reading. Keeping myself entertained is the best way to make time fly – quite literally – so I go overboard and make sure that I have enough podcasts downloaded, playlists saved, Youtube videos ready to stream for both the way there, the way back and enough to fill the gaps for any possible delays.
Set A Playlist. I always listen to music during take-off and landing. It’s a good way to block out what’s going around you (and any possible vomming soundtrack!), and what I find helps even more is to pre-prepare a playlist that will get you in the mood for your destination. For California I made a chilled-out track-list featuring my favourite L.A-based bands, for Ibiza some island-vibes with a couple of party tracks thrown in – you get the gist. It keeps my attention better than the music that I listen to everyday and it’s also multi-use so you can throw it on when you arrive, creating a nice little music memory for your trip.
Get Into a Good Book. Reading is the ULTIMATE distraction. Films end, the in-flight entertainment only ever features 10 or so episodes of Friends and your battery starts to wain as you’re on your fourth hour of downloaded YouTube videos, but a book? Well, unless you get to the end, it can see you through a whole journey from start to finish. One time I read a ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara – an almost 800 page brick of a book – on the way to and from Vietnam and I barely even registered that I was on a flight. I didn’t even watch one film, or have a snooze (or a freak out – YAY!). My advice would be to get into a book a few days before you fly, so you’re already into it and you’re excited to dig back in.
Pre-Book Your Seat. It might cost an extra £5-£10 each way to pre-book your seat, but it’s something that I always do where possible. Although you can usually still sit with your travel companions if you check-in early or online, I don’t like to risk it as I know that I feel much calmer when I have my friends and family around me. I’ve left it to the airport before and we’ve ended up being dotted about all over, which isn’t the end of the world, but it doesn’t do much to help the ol’ nerves. It’s money well spent in my book. I love myself a window seat towards the front of the plane, or over the wing as over the years I’ve convinced myself that it’s always a bumpier ride on the back (plus, it’s quicker to get out at the other end!).
Save Your Points & Upgrade. Speaking of which, if there’s an option to book a spot that has a little extra legroom then I am all for it, especially if it’s a long flight. For shorter haul options I just pre-book my seat, but for flights eight hours or over, I’ll always try to scrape together the pennies for a premium seat that has a little more space as the feeling claustrophobic ain’t the best when you’re already not at ease. Always make sure you sign up for the airlines loyalty scheme, as points mean prizes (and upgrades!). Definitely not a necessary step and it does make me sound like Mariah Carey, but having a slightly bigger seat that you can stretch out in a wee bit really helps with the whole relaxation vibes that I’m going for.
Get Cosy. If a flight is particularly rocky or long, then I make myself a cocoon. A hoodie is a must. Pop that up, throw your headphones underneath (see below!), and you’ll be zen before you know it. I always pack an extra layer incase it’s chilly and some kind of scarf that can be fashioned into a blanket or rolled up to create extra lumbar padding. Then I love my Memory Foam Travel Pillow*, which I either use for it’s intended purpose, or rolled up into a pillow to lean on. Basically I try to create all the padding and cosiness I can out of a 32 inch seat pitch.
Noise-Cancelling Headphones Are LIFE. If you are a nervy flyer, then the Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones* will be the best purchase you will ever make in your life. No, they are not 100% noise snuffling, but they do an incredible job. A guy was sick in the seat behind me and I didn’t even know. I didn’t hear a peep from a baby who apparently cried the whole way between London and New York. On my latest flight my friend remarked that the engine seemed particularly loud and I could just hear a light hum. They are a delight and since I purchased a pair around six years ago (I upgraded to the wireless ones three years ago), I’ve never flown without them.
Get Up Your Seat &
Jump Walk Around. I’m a weirdo who actually quite enjoys an airplane toilet. It’s the only place you can get a bit of privacy on an aircraft, so I quite enjoy a moment to myself. LOLZ, that is perhaps the weirdest thing I’ve confessed to on the blog – is anyone else with me? But if there is a smooth moment happening on board then I actually quite like to get up and have a wander, stretch my legs and make a bathroom stop. It helps to break the journey up and has the double deal of physical and mental benefits. Take your own anti-bac hand gel and you’re alllllll good.
Visualise Your Destination. Ultimately, this is what gets me through any type of travel that involves a flight. Most of the time it’s just not feasible to complete your journey without having to sit in a tin can in the sky for decent length of time, so whenever the turbulence kicks in, or I’m feeling particularly nervy; closing my eyes, putting on some tunes and thinking of the end goal of the whole thing is an obvious distraction technique, but one that usually works. Seeing as I love our bed so much, I just spend the whole time on the return journey thinking out that. BEEEEDDDDDDD.
Photos by me, taken on a Olympus Mju II*