Flying for the first time can be frightening, especially if you’re traveling by yourself. Making sure you feel comfortable and excited for your trip is really important. We’ve compiled a list of various ways to calm your nerves before you get on the plane so when you get to your destination, you’re ready to start exploring!
1. Arrive to the airport early so you don’t feel rushed
Give yourself some extra time before you’re scheduled to leave—you don’t want to miss your flight! Arriving at the airport early will give you some extra time to check your luggage and go through security without having to rush. We recommend arriving at least two hours in advance for domestic flights and three hours in advance for international flights. If you need to provide documentation for your destination, such as Covid tests or visas, allow extra time for your documents to be checked and verified.
By arriving early, you’ll have time to fix anything that doesn’t go according to plan without missing your flight. Plus you can grab some pretzels and water and chill at your gate for a bit before you have to board. There’s no reason to have to run across the airport like in Home Alone!
2. Prepare for motion sickness (just in case)
If you’re nervous about motion sickness, think about dropping by your local drugstore and picking up some travel motion sickness wristbands before your trip. These cloth bands are safe, reusable and work by applying pressure to an acupressure point on each wrist. They may also give you some peace of mind when you’re in the air just to know that you have them with you. If you need something a bit stronger, Dramamine works for many people—just make sure to take the non-drowsy version if you don’t want to be super sleepy for the rest of the day!
3. Only drink water before your flight
This means no alcoholic beverages or even sugary drinks like soda. Coffee is also a no-no. While you might assume they’ll help you calm down, these kinds of drinks might make you even more hyper and jittery before your flight. The best thing to do is stick to water so you stay hydrated. The air on airplanes can be quite dry, so it’s easy to get dehydrated, especially on long flights. If it is a long flight, you also want to stay hydrated without having to constantly be in the bathroom (airplane bathrooms are so tiny).
If you’re flying for the first time, you want to be completely yourself. That means no drinking in the airport bar beforehand and if you’re taking an international flight—where alcoholic drinks are usually free—don’t be tempted. You will feel much better on the plane and once you get off.
4. Pay attention to the safety instructions before takeoff
Once you get on the flight, find your seat and fasten your seat belt, take some time to review the safety brochures in front of you. This may set your mind at ease so you feel prepared in case something were to happen. If you are deathly afraid of flying, it might help you to know that you are far more likely to get struck by lightening or get attacked by a shark than you are to die in a plane crash. Even so, being prepared will help you feel a lot better. You should also listen to the flight attendants as they go over safety instructions as well.
5. Make yourself feel at home
This may sound difficult when you’re traveling thousands of feet in the air with only one carry-on and a seat to yourself. It’s much easier than you think! Make a packing list before you leave your house with all of the things that will make you feel more comfortable while you’re in the air. Some common things to bring are headphones, your favorite snacks, a neck pillow, a sweatshirt (planes are often very cold!) and a good book!
6. If possible, travel with a friend
Although you may not always be flying with someone, it may be a good idea to have someone with you the first time you fly. Whether it’s a friend or family member, you’ll feel comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. That way, you can also try and swap seats if you’re more comfortable with a window seat or an aisle seat. If you’re traveling solo, it’s usually pretty easy to make friends with someone sitting near you on the plane and you can always let the flight attendants know you’re a bit nervous to fly. Being able to rely on someone in the air will set your mind at ease.
7. Bring chewing gum
Sometimes when the plane’s landing, your ears can pop because of the change in air pressure. If you’re not used to this, it can be uncomfortable. A helpful tip when flying is to bring chewing gum. Being able to move your jaw releases the pressure from your ears. If you don’t have gum, you can try yawning or swallowing.
8. Pack ginger candy or ask for ginger ale
If you start to feel sick during the flight because of turbulence, feel free to call a flight attendant over and ask for some ginger ale. Ginger has a soothing effect on stomachs, so people tend to drink it when they’re feeling sick or if there is a lot of turbulence on the plane. You can also find ginger candies at your local store. They might even have them at a newsstand in the airport.
9. Sit near an exit to calm your nerves
If you’re very nervous about flying for the first time, it may calm your nerves to be close to an exit. It depends on which airline you’re flying on, but certain airlines allow you to pick your seat before boarding. See if you log on to the airline’s website with your reservation number and view a seat map to select your seat. Even being a couple rows back from the exit may help put your mind at ease. If the airline lets you pick your seat as you’re boarding, try sitting within a short distance of the emergency exit.
Traveling can be nerve-wracking at times, but if you take some deep breaths and picture yourself at your destination, you will feel way calmer. Before you know it, you’ll have landed and will be all set to explore. Flying for the first time can be scary, but with these tips you’ll hopefully feel a lot better as you embark on your journey!
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